10 Questions to Ask Before Deciding on Cloud or On-Premises Software

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The cloud – haven’t we heard enough about cloud-based accounting software? Since the first appearance of cloud software, it seems as if every company, every business, every advertisement urges nonprofits to move their business software to the cloud.

Sure, the benefits are there. But does every nonprofit really need to switch their accounting software to the cloud?

Nonprofit Accounting Software: Cloud or On-Premises?

Perhaps you’re dedicated to on-premises software. Cloud software scares you. What if the system goes down or you can’t access the internet? Perhaps it’s less expensive or a donor is willing to give you brand-new on-premises software, no strings attached. Should you accept it or hold out for the cloud?

To make your decision, we’ve put together these 10 questions. The answers will help you choose between cloud-based solutions and on-premises software.

  1. Do you really need to replace your existing software? Often nonprofits think they should have the latest and greatest software to stay competitive, but if your current on-premises package suits your needs, there’s no reason to rush into a cloud solution.
  2. How fast and reliable is your internet service? Cloud solutions depend on fast, steady internet service, which is great if your office is in a major city and has access to high speed internet. If you’re located in a rural or remote area and rely on satellite or dial up, you may find that cloud software is frustratingly slow or unreliable.
  3. What does the new software package recommend? Look for the requirements for the new fund accounting system under consideration and compare it to your current hardware. Do you have enough power to run it on-premises?
  4. Do you have telecommuting workers or different office locations that need access to the same software? On-premises software must be used solely at one location while cloud-based software may be used anywhere employees have internet access. You may be fine with on-premises software if everyone works from one location.
  5. How much secure data do you store? All data should be kept safe, but some data, such as social security numbers, credit card information and other sensitive data can be compromised. Are you prepared to provide security for this data when you use on-premises software? Cloud-service providers typically add layers of security and update it frequently.
  6. Do you use separate systems for financial and accounting needs, online sales, warehouse needs, donor and grant management, etc.? If you use different software packages, do you find it annoying or a hindrance that they cannot communicate with each other? If you would prefer one package and software that sends data easily among the different functional areas such as finance, accounting, operations, and marketing, then a cloud-based fund accounting system might be the right answer. If, on the other hand, you are doing just fine with only accounting software and see no need to move just yet from spreadsheets to computerized tracking of grant data (to name just one area), then on-premises might be just fine.
  7. How easy is it to customize the system? Some organizations prefer to customize dashboards based on roles, functions, or user preferences. Out of the box on-premises software rarely affords this type of customization, but cloud-based fund accounting does.
  8. Does your system do what you need to do – or are you always looking for a patch, a fix, or some way to rig it to do what you want? If it feels like you’re patching together your current system with scotch tape and bubble gum, chances are good that it’s time for a cloud system or at minimal, an upgrade to the on-premises package. What you have now no longer serves your needs.
  9. Do you find yourself scrambling for critical data for a grant application or other time-sensitive needs and can never find the information you seek? Nothing is more frustrating than needing important information in a hurry and being unable to find it. On-premises systems may not be updated until each office, unit, or person updates their information, and then it takes time to update the main database. Cloud systems, on the other hand, update almost simultaneously so that if someone adds a donor record in one part of the system, it appears in another. You have instant, up to the minute information.
  10. Is migrating to the cloud worth the cost? In the end, the opportunities or problems solved must be worth the cost of cloud-based software. You’ll need to sit with your team and add up the pros and cons of moving from your current package to cloud fund accounting.

Migrating to the cloud or moving to a cloud fund accounting system should be a thoughtful and considered decision. With the right questions, and your team’s input, you’ll be able to decide what is best for your organization.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for practical solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Can Nonprofits Work with For-Profit Ventures? NPX Says Yes

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Nearly every nonprofit faces the challenge of access to capital. How do you find new programs? What if donor support cannot cover a new endeavor completely? A new for-profit company, NPX, claims it has the answer by encouraging pledges to projects along with traditional investments.

NPX works like this: a nonprofit announces a project, and NPX utilizes Impact Security to channel funds to a project. If the project succeeds, and specific impact measures are met, the funds are released to the project. If they’re not achieved, funds deploy to a new project.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because several fund companies have already formed funds to apply your capital to nonprofit projects. Vanguard Charitable, for example, offers donor-advised funds with a similar model. However, NPX’s model aligns more closely with Social Impact Bonds (SIB), but Impact Security is funded by private investment capital rather than through government-backed bonds. It is considered a debt-security “issued by a nonprofit organization, government or supranational entity, featuring variable returns that are contingent on the achievement of pre-determined impact metric.”

Investor-Defined Support for Nonprofits

In the NPX model, three parties are involved: the nonprofit organization, donors, and investors.

  • Nonprofit organizations establish projects with clearly-defined metrics and milestones. These metrics provide a yardstick against which the success or failure, and ultimately the payout, of the project derives.
  • Donors make impact-based donations to the nonprofit.
  • Investors provide seed capital to the nonprofit project upfront to get it started. They may lose their capital or achieve a return on investment if the project succeeds.

NPX offers a case study on their website of The Last Mile, a program for incarcerated individuals that teaches computer coding and website building skills. Inmates learn coding and programming, then use their newly developed skills to build websites and computer apps while they remain in prison. Upon the completion of their sentence, they now have a useful skillset in great demand in the world and can find work more easily.

That’s a clear win for inmates. But what about investors? The Last Mile raised $900,000 in donations and $800,000 in investment capital. The fund repays investors over a four-year period once the program meets the stated impact goal of “inmate hours worked.”  The fund deploys the money only when and if the impact goal is met.

What if the goals aren’t met? Then the donor fund’s managers re-deploy the funds to another nonprofit. Investors may lose their money. It’s a gamble for them, but one that if it works out, does good in the world while ensuring they make a profit.

Alternative Funding for Nonprofit Projects

Such programs, as NPX, offers nonprofits the support of a steady funding stream, but at a risk: if the nonprofit doesn’t meet its goals, funds deploy elsewhere. Unlike a grant, which offers a set amount of money to be applied to a nonprofit, funds may or may not be released in the Impact Security model.

For nonprofits considering the Impact Security model, it’s essential to identify a project with clear, measurable metrics. In the case of The Last Mile, the measurement is the number of hours prisoners work. It does not measure something intangible, such as attitudes of inmates, or something difficult to align with the project itself, such as recidivism rates.

Nonprofits love this new model for many reasons. Mostly, it frees them from having to spend hours dreaming up new funding models on their own. There’s less of a need for many events during the year. Time can be spent on their programs instead of holding auctions and other events to raise money. And the funding stream, if released, offers a known metric, unlike an auction or dinner dance which may raise an unpredictable amount of money.

As time goes on, expect to see more creative funding methods for nonprofits. The nonprofit financial world continues to evolve, allowing nonprofits to make a great impact and provide the social benefits the world needs.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for practical solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

The Washington State Paid Family and Medical Leave Act: What You Need to Know

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On July 5, 2017, Governor Inslee signed the Washington Family and Medical Leave Act to help Washington state families. Effective on January 1, 2019, employers must comply with the act and ensure that employees have paid time off for family and medical leave. This makes Washington the fifth state to have such an act: California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York already have a similar law.

Under the new law, employers with 50 more employees are required to pay the premium for the coverage. If you have fewer than 50 employees, you are not required to pay for the coverage. And, if you have more than 150 employees, there are grants you can apply for to offset the cost of wages for an employee on leave.

Want to opt out? You can, but only if you have a comparable plan in place and pay an additional $250 to the state.

What the Law Covers

The law protects an employee’s job should they need to leave for a specified period due to pregnancy, childcare, or family healthcare needs. Both employers and employees pay into the system, which is administered and maintained by the state. The premium is 0.4 percent of the employee’s wages. The benefit amount itself varies according to whether or not the employee earns more or less than the state’s average weekly wage.

How the Law May Impact Your Nonprofit Organization

The Family and Medical Leave Act covers all employees, from both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, so it’s vital for nonprofits to take note and follow the law. If your employee worked 820 or more hours during the qualifying period, they’re covered.

What exactly is covered? Benefits guaranteed under this law include:

  • 12 weeks of family or medical leave.
  • 14 weeks of family or medical leave if the employee experiences a pregnancy-related serious health condition that results in incapacity.
  • 16 weeks of combined family and medical leave.
  • 18 weeks of combined family and medical leave if the employee experiences a pregnancy-related serious health condition that results in incapacity.

Premium withholding began on January 1, 2019. If you haven’t collected premiums yet, you can start at any time, but guess what? You’ll be on the hook for them. Employees can receive up to 90% of their salary if they take advantage of the leave, but the amount varies according to whether or not they are paid more or less than the state’s average wage for a week.

So how does a nonprofit prepare for the act? First, take a moment to read the booklet prepared by Washington State for employers. It’s easy to understand and walks you through how you should calculate and collect the premiums.

You will need to report the following information quarterly. The reporting periods are aligned with Unemployment Insurance reporting to make it easier.

  • UBI number
  • Business name
  • Total premiums collected from employees
  • Name of the report preparer
  • First and last name of the employee
  • Social security or ITIN number
  • Wages paid
  • Associated hours

This information is kept on file to help the state track eligible employees. When an employee takes advantage of the leave, they are paid by Washington State, not by your nonprofit.

Washington, along with the other four states who already have similar laws, is taking steps to offset any hardships caused by family situations that may disrupt employment for its citizens. As an employer, it’s up to you to follow the simple guidelines for reporting and record keeping. Together, the state and its employers can help protect citizens from undue financial hardship during life-changing events.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Automate Nonprofit Processes with Excel 2019

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Excel has come a long way since its introduction into the business world in 1985. The 2019 edition includes 12 updates that transform it from a simple spreadsheet tool into a robust office software capable of 3D rendering and more. Here, we present the highlights of the latest version of Excel.

Five Exciting Highlights of the New Excel 2019

  1. Automated workflow: The new version of Excel connects through Microsoft Flow, which enables data to be retrieved from other applications and stored and manipulated in Excel. Data can be programmed to send to others as well, via third-party applications. Flow can gather data from any third party application including ERP systems, CRM systems, weather forecasts, and more, so the potential for its use is enormous.
  2. 3D images: This new feature is hard to put into words, so you might want to check it out for yourself. Excel now enables you to incorporate pictures from their database into your spreadsheets and rotate them to form 3D images. There’s a video of this available from the Journal of Accountancy that shows you just this new feature in action.
  3. Build custom functions: If you know JavaScript, you can now build custom functions into Excel. Excel already lets users create functions with Visual Basic, but now Microsoft has enabled JavaScript programming. It’s more widely available and commonly used than Visual Basic, and offers a great deal of flexibility in Excel.
  4. Map and chart improvements: Map improvements allow you to display maps in many ways, including flat or curved displays. Chart improvements include color-coded heat maps, the ability to control axis information on funnel charts, and more.
  5. Form improvements: If you use Excel to prepare forms, you’re in luck! Form improvements in the 2019 edition include the ability to produce surveys, polls, and quizzes. You can use Excel similarly to other popular form tools and integrate the responses into spreadsheets for easier use. To apply the new form improvements, visit Microsoft online New Form.

Other improvements to Excel include co-authoring, which enables people collaborating on documents to include their names, 500 new built-in icons to create dashboards and infographics, and full SVG support, which means that graphics won’t pixelate as they once did. It’s bringing Microsoft Excel up to data in many ways.

Excel for Nonprofit Organizations

Microsoft Excel continues to be a popular software choice for nonprofit organizations. It’s inexpensive, plays well with other Microsoft software, and provides a standard format for sharing information with colleagues, consultants, and others who may require access to your data.

Although it is limited compared with specialized systems for nonprofits, the enhancements to the 2019 version of Excel make it an excellent tool for many standard functions in the nonprofit office environment.

  1. Basic reports: When used in conjunction with an accounting program, Excel can be used to create charts, graphs, and other reports that make data easy to understand.
  2. Grant tracking: Use Excel spreadsheets to track grant applications, progress towards completion of grant applications, and other vital metrics.
  3. Mailing lists: Mailing lists can be tracked on spreadsheets too. Name, address, and other information merges smoothly with label-printing functions in Microsoft Word to enable you to generate your mailing labels and get news sent out promptly.

Microsoft Excel has definitely come a long way since its early days. It’s much more than spreadsheets. It’s an office productivity tool that helps you organize, work with, and share data of all types.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.