Charities worldwide struggle to gain donors’ trust. In the United States, while 73% of donors say that it is essential to trust a nonprofit to which they donate, only 19% would give their charities a trust-score of 9 or 10 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Nonprofits must work harder than ever to build trust between their organizations and the public. The news media is quick to run stories of charities that waste money but rarely if ever, showcases responsible charities and the good work that they do. You must be your own best advocate and show the public exactly how their donations are being used, so there is no question about your organization’s integrity.
True Fund Accounting: A Trust Builder for Nonprofits
Which program(s) do you use to track your nonprofit finances and accounting? Many nonprofits rely on spreadsheets and off-the-shelf commercial accounting software programs to track expenses, income, and payroll.
While such methods may be acceptable during your startup and early growth phases, if you’re serious about shoring up trust between your organization and the public, it’s time to switch to true fund accounting.
What Is True Fund Accounting?
There are two main types of accounting software on the market: commercial and fund.
Commercial accounting packages assume that the business sells goods or provides services. It doesn’t have the flexibility needed to manage accounting by specific funds. Fund accounting software enables a nonprofit to track how funds are used. For example, if a donation of $10,000 is received with the specification that it is used only for a specific program, fund accounting enables you to track how those particular dollars are spent.
10 Reasons Why Your Nonprofit Needs True Fund Accounting
Many nonprofits begin their work using spreadsheets or commercial accounting packages. But as your organization grows, true fund accounting is the best way to manage the complex accounting needs of your nonprofit.
If you’re still deciding whether to switch from your current accounting software to true fund software, consider the following 10 reasons why your nonprofit may benefit from true fund accounting:
- You receive funds with restrictions: Large donations, grants, and other funds given to your organization with restrictions require sophisticated tracking and reporting. Only true fund accounting software offers the level of sophisticated tracking nonprofits need.
- Measuring the performance of a program or an activity is essential to you: Nonprofits who value measuring the performance of specific programs find that true fund accounting offers the detail-level tracking needed to understand the financial benefits of a specific program.
- You need to report for different periods or fiscal years: While your nonprofit may run on a specific fiscal year, that timeframe may not align with those of your grantors and foundations. They may require reports based on different time periods. True fund accounting provides a flexible approach to reporting that enables you to run reports on varying time periods rather than a set fiscal year.
- Does your organization need to record encumbered funds? If you must record receipt of gifts as encumbered, true fund accounting supports recording encumbered funds. Commercial accounting software does not.
- We need to record allocations of indirect costs by grantors. The allocation of elaborate indirect costs can be a headache in a commercial program, but true fund accounting enables you to enter it with ease.
- Reports must be generated and submitted to each funding source: Foundations, grantors, and private donors often require detailed reports to be submitted at agreed-upon milestones. True fund accounting makes it easier to run such reports based on milestones, time periods, or events.
- Nonprofit-specific accounting rules must be applied to your financials: Not only are you required to utilize nonprofit accounting rules for your organization, but when these rules are changed or updated, your software must update too. Cloud-based true fund accounting updates when changes are made so you continually use the latest software version.
- Your organization must manage and report multiple budgets: A typical business using commercial accounting software uses budgets for planning purposes. Nonprofits utilize budgets for compliance and monitoring.
- Transparency in how funds are used is vital to your organization: Processing multiple balance sheets within a nonprofit isn’t uncommon. Funds are often treated as separate entities with their own general ledger. Commercial software can be cumbersome to set up for this, but true fund accounting accommodates such setup easily.
- Your accounting software must work across multiple platforms: Nonprofits often set up private gateways or access points into their accounting for auditors and others to review their information. It’s essential that such software functions smoothly across multiple platforms and integrates other business applications.
Trust takes time to build and is earned with each interaction between an organization and the public. When you demonstrate thorough, clear, concise reports, applying nonprofit accounting rules and best practices to your financials, and share these clearly with donors, granting organizations, auditors, and others, you build trust. It’s time to embrace true fund accounting for the future of your organization.
Welter Consulting, Inc.
Welter Consulting, Inc is your bridge to technology solutions for nonprofit organizations. Welter Consulting offers software support, implementation, training, and audit preparation assistance for nonprofit organizations. We can help you select a true fund accounting program such as Abila MIP Cloud, our recommended package for many nonprofit organizations. Let’s talk about your needs – contact us at 206-605-3113.