Category

Technology

How to Choose a Good Technology Partner

By | Nonprofit, Technology | No Comments

One of the most time-consuming decisions nonprofits make is finding the right technology partner for their needs. Such partners include resellers (like Welter Consulting) who provide both consulting and software sales. Resellers help nonprofits choose the best software solution, such as a fund accounting or grant management solution, and help them address problems using specific software applications.

To make finding the right technology partner easier, we’ve put together a 7-point checklist to use when interviewing potential vendors. You can use this checklist in addition to the RFP process to help you narrow down your choice of vendors.

7 Point Vendor Review Checklist

  1. Does the provider listen to you? It should be a given that any potential consultant or vendor listens carefully to your needs and concerns, but not all do. Consider how well the potential vendor listens to you and responds to your concerns.
  2. How does the vendor respond to questions? Some vendors respond promptly and thoroughly. Others evade or act as if questions are an annoyance to them. Be sure that the vendor under consideration answers your questions courteously and professionally.
  3. Does the vendor understand nonprofit finance and accounting? Many vendors who serve the for-profit mark think they understand the nonprofit world, but you may find them a poor fit unless they work with nonprofits. They rarely understand the nuances and challenges of fund accounting, audit preparation, and other situations that nonprofits routinely encounter. Find a vendor who works with nonprofit organizations regularly.
  4. Have a salesperson you can work with? You’ll likely work with a team on the vendor side, but make sure that the primary point of contact is someone with whom you click. Yes, they can leave the company, or you may work with someone else, but at least at the beginning of the engagement, you’ll spend a lot of time working together to set up the system, complete training, and work out any snags in the migration to the new software. It’s important to feel you have a rapport with the vendor’s team, especially your primary point of contact.
  5. Is the contract easy to understand? Contracts can be frustrating and difficult or plain enough for the average person to read and understand. It’s helpful to work with a vendor who has a short, simple contract. It shouldn’t take a law degree to understand what you are getting and how much you pay for it.
  6. When will training take place? Training is an important component of any software rollout but especially important with nonprofit finance and accounting software. During the training period, the vendor will teach you and your team how to work with the basic software. Additional training may be scheduled for “power users” or those who will use the system daily and in-depth. Make sure that you feel the training time allowed in the contract is enough. If not, what will it take to increase it? Is there a fee?
  7. Is the vendor available post-implementation for questions? Again, ask plenty of questions and read through the contract to understand what, if any, post-implementation time is allowed by the vendor for questions, fixes, and other needs. Most vendors answer quick calls or questions but may charge a fee for custom programming or additional data migration. Ask about fees for services you may need post-implementation and compare among various vendors.

Choose an Experienced Partner

Lastly, consider the vendor’s references. Before calling references, have a list of questions prepared. You may want two or more employees to call the same reference to see if they get the same answer in each call or if anything unusual comes up in the conversation.

Testimonials and endorsements from nonprofit agencies and organizations are also a sign of a good vendor. Although you can’t predict how a software rollout will go, conducting due diligence and asking plenty of questions before hiring a vendor goes a long way towards a successful nonprofit accounting software implementation.

Welter Consulting

Of course, we hope you’ll choose Welter Consulting for your needs. We believe we fulfill all the right boxes in this checklist to make us a great choice for the technology needs of nonprofits.

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.

Technology Trends to Make Outcomes Measurement Easier

By | Technology | No Comments

“For-profit organizations report income; nonprofits report outcomes.”

This quote, attributed to Peter Fortenbaugh, ED Boys and Girls Club of Peninsula, sums up a perfect response to the claim that nonprofits should act more like for-profits. By their very nature, nonprofits cannot act the same way. They must report on the outcomes of their work. Reporting profits doesn’t matter as much as what they’ve achieved. To do so, nonprofits need to measure and track results.

But how do you go about measuring outcomes and tracking dollars to outcomes?

New technology trends in the world of nonprofits are shaping both how nonprofits track their work and how they measure outcomes. Grantors, funders, and donors demand greater transparency and accountability from the nonprofits with which they work. Tracking and sharing data is one step towards transparency; measuring outcomes is a step towards accountability.

What Is Outcome Measurement?

Outcome measurement in the nonprofit environment measures the effect a specific program has on the participants in that program. It is an approach that measures the social impact of a nonprofit’s work. Unlike for profits which judge progress by profits, nonprofits judge their progress by the impact of their work. Nonprofits may seek to have a positive margin at the end of their fiscal year but margin isn’t the goal of their work. Rather, doing good with the money they have, no matter how they define good, is the goal. Outcomes measurement takes into account this unique difference and focuses on the effect of the nonprofit’s work.

Technology Trends that Support Nonprofit Work and Outcomes Measurement

Several technology trends are likely to help nonprofits track dollars to outcomes. These include:

  1. Unified systems: When systems are unified or integrated, the data each contains may be shared among them. By having a unified system in place, nonprofits can more easily apportion funding towards specific programs and outcomes. They can ensure that budgets apportioned for special projects are spent on that project. More importantly, unified systems make it easy to run reports for donors, grant organizations, and other stakeholders. It takes just seconds to click on a report in a unified system and requires no manual data entry to run the appropriate reports to showcase program outcomes.
  2. Measuring infrastructure costs: By measuring the true cost of infrastructure, the costs can be deducted from program costs, thus aligning the true program costs with outcome measurement. Systems and programs to manage infrastructure costs, tied to accounting and finance programs, help nonprofits measure costs and outcomes accurately.
  3. Donating technology: Technology companies, seeking to make a difference, are donating to nonprofits at unprecedented rates. Pro bono services and equipment donated to nonprofits, but especially to traditionally under-served communities, is a growing trend.

Building a Smart System to Measure Outcomes

As you consider outcome measurement, review your current technology uses and needs. Consider working with a nonprofit consultant to evaluate what your nonprofit might need to better measure outcomes.

There’s a noticeable link between transparency within nonprofits and their ability to generation donations and secure grants. A nonprofit that is able to provide clear, consistent data demonstrating success in achieving most or all of their goals and delineating how their funding was used, is much more likely to get grant funding renewed. Reports to the public that showcase results and money spent to achieve such results also encourage donation. By integrating and aligning software and systems, you’ll be able to gather a complete picture of your organization’s finances, achievements, and outcomes more easily, and provide them to a public hungry for honesty and transparency.

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.

The Changing Role of the Financial Professional Part III: Critical Skills for Accounting Leaders

By | Technology, Uncategorized | No Comments

 

Welcome back to our three-part series on the Changing Role of the Financial Profession. In Part I, we looked at what’s driving changes. In Part II, we looked at just one of those drivers, automation, and how it can be used to your advantage. In Part III, we’ll look at how the evolving role of technology is changing the critical skills needed for accountants and what skills organizations look for among its finance and accounting leadership.

Automation Changes Everything

As we’ve seen in Parts I and II, automation changes everything in both the for-profit and not for profit world. Automation enables organizations to save time, streamline processes, and access real-time data. Cloud-based finance and accounting systems, fundraising and donor management systems, and new grant management software enable organizations to simplify and automate many processes.

Organizations that once tracked grant applications using cumbersome spreadsheets, for example, can now use grant management systems to monitor applications, resources, deadlines, and status of grants. What was once a complicated process that involved plenty of cross-referencing links in multiple documents can now be accomplished easily through one central database.

The same goes for accounting and financial management software for nonprofits, such as Abila MIP Fund Accounting, which can track revenue, expenses, and margin to ensure that funding meets the demand for program services. With such automation at your fingertips, you can spend the time you used to take to manually update systems to work with program directors and others on their budget needs as well as other projects.

The Skills You Need to Succeed in Today’s Nonprofit Accounting World

Given that automation now takes over many of the tasks accounting and financial professionals once performed in the nonprofit workplace, what skills are now in high demand?

  • Data analysis: The ability to analyze data and offer insights offers many opportunities for accounting professionals to lead in the context of nonprofit decision making. Not everyone can review financial data and understand the ramifications of specific decisions, for example. An accounting and financial professional can offer invaluable advice and insight into data found in the financial systems and guide others based on that information.
  • Communications: In addition to the ability to review and interpret crucial financial information, accounting leaders must be able to articulate their findings to non-financial professionals, especially in the context of nonprofit leadership. Financial information comes under scrutiny at board meetings, constituent meetings, and internal staff meetings which requires an accounting and finance professional who can explain to the average person exactly what the data means and its impact upon the organization.
  • People skills: “People skills” are often thought of as secondary ‘soft skills’ in the accounting and finance world. But emotional intelligence, cultural intelligence, and other people skills set leaders apart from the rest. They help professionals lead with compassion and empathy, and motivate and inspire others to achieve their best. Today’s nonprofit accounting and financial leaders must have strong people skills to achieve success with their teams.
  • Technical abilities: You may work for a large organization with a dedicated IT department or a small nonprofit where you are the IT department. In both cases, you’ll still need technical abilities to navigate new software, assist with software selection, and utilize your current systems to their fullest capacity. Nonprofit accounting and finance leaders must have at least passing familiarity with the current slate of software available to help manage all aspects of finance and accounting, including membership, donations, grants, and more.

The nonprofit world’s technology evolves alongside that of its for-profit business counterparts. With the ever-expanding array of technology available to nonprofit accounting and finance leaders, all skills – quantitative, qualitative, and management skills – will be needed to help organizations remain cutting-edge and relevant for years to come.

In case you missed it:

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.

The Changing Role of the Financial Professional Part II: Automation Experts

By | Technology, Uncategorized | No Comments

Welcome back to the second of our three-part series on the changing role of the financial professional. As new technology evolves, such as accounting and financial management software, fundraising and donor contact management systems, and more, financial professionals may wonder what the future holds.

In Part I of this series, we talked about what’s driving these changes: constituent demand, artificial intelligence, and improved automation. Today, we’ll take a look at one of these change drivers: automation. How is automation changing the way accounting professionals work? How can automation be used for added constituent and organizational value?

Automation, a Driver and Enabler of Change

It’s difficult to recall a time when automation wasn’t present in the workplace, but not too long ago, many automated processes we take for granted were once manual tasks. Bank tellers once tallied up a customer’s account by hand, manually adding sums as they made deposits and entering the amount with pen and ink into a portable ledger eventually known as a bank book. Now, the computer updates in seconds what took the teller minutes to do; and a receipt from the teller’s terminal provides us with the proof we’ve made a deposit and our current balance. We can look up our bank balances online, write checks and pay bills, and all with the touch of a button.

Automation now provides accountants with simple, push-button technology to update many critical systems at their nonprofit. For those still using spreadsheets to provide financial data, it’s time to rethink spreadsheets and manual data entry and consider automated accounting and financial management software for a nonprofit.

Such software not only saves time, as in our bank teller example but prevents mistakes. Consider how easy it was years ago for those old-fashioned bank tellers to make addition mistakes and end up accidentally shortchanging or perhaps crediting customers with too much. The same thing happens in a spreadsheet, only the spreadsheet perpetuates the mistake as it potentially carries the error over into multiple formulas, columns, charts, and graphs!

Automated systems take away much of the potential for error. They seamlessly gather data from different sources, updating in the background. Cloud-based systems offer the ability to connect websites with financial systems so that sales of membership materials, books or periodicals, or donations can be accepted online. The system automatically updates the ledger, providing you with immediate and timely updates on the financial status of the organization. That’s a compelling reason to embrace automation.

More Time to Add Value

Another area in which automation can help accounting leaders is by freeing up valuable time to attend to more critical duties in your organization.

An accountant who no longer has to add up every penny in the general ledger has the time to think critically about budgets, expenses, and program needs. They have the time to advise department managers on cost-saving measures, work with the marketing team on donor campaign data, and are generally more available to help all staff. The result is an accounting leader, not just a manager, but someone who has the time to advise, consult, and add significant value to the daily workings on the nonprofit organization.

AI and Machine Learning

As the world turns automates ever more, new software will use machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to remember and act upon common data needs as well as to retain and recall frequently required items. New systems offer voice-activated commands, simple remembered queries, and customized interfaces based on what the system ‘learns’ from its interaction with you and your team.

We’re at the beginning of a new era in the world of automation. As software evolves, the role of the accounting professional evolves alongside it. In Part III of this three-part series, we’re going to take a look at the skills that accountants need in this ever-changing world of technology. Check back soon for our new article.

 

 

 

In case you missed it:

The Changing Role of Finance Professionals in a Digital World: Part I

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.