AI: A Powerful Tool for Nonprofit Accounting Needs

By | Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments
person using a tablet in front of an open laptop computer. tech overlay

The introduction of ChatGPT, Bing’s artificial intelligence (AI) powered search engine assistant, set the world abuzz last November. Since then, countless articles, talk shows, and more have discussed, dissected, and analyzed the use of AI in the business world.

AI isn’t new. You’ve probably encountered it before and assumed it was part of a website. Have you ever used a website’s chatbot function to answer a simple question? If so, you’ve likely used AI. Or perhaps you’ve tapped the “design help” function in PowerPoint to help spruce up your presentation. That’s also a great example of AI in action.

AI can assist the average nonprofit in many ways. One way in which AI offers powerful time-saving features is in the accounting department. Here, we’ll unpack why and how AI is a powerful tool for nonprofit accounting needs. Then, if you’re interested in exploring this topic further, reach out to us and we can discuss how AI can be used to automate and improve processes in your nonprofit accounting team.

Why Use AI for Process Automation?

Consider how much time is spent on routine tasks each week: emailing reminders to employees to enter their hours or submitting expense reports, for example, or emailing common forms and paperwork to constituents. Even something as simple as sending a participant quiz to those who have taken a webinar with your organization can take over an hour, depending on how much or little it is automated.

AI is an excellent tool for repetitive, rule-bound tasks. You can automate tasks, workflows, reports, and reminders using AI in your accounting department. A quick estimate of the time saved through automating these tasks is eye-opening. With that time saved, you can focus on more pressing needs requiring creativity and expertise. Let the AI batch and send expense report reminders while you strategize with the program team on their accounting needs; it is time well saved and better spent with your teams.

Improved Data, Analytics, and Forecasting

Another area in which AI greatly helps with accounting and financial needs is in data, analytics, and forecasting. Because AI can analyze vast amounts of data rapidly, it can provide insights into constituents’ needs, program demands, and operational performance. With rapid information at your fingertips, you can make better decisions.

Not All AI Is Created Equal

Now comes the hard part. How do you select the right platforms that have AI enhancements without choosing something that will be obsolete tomorrow?

The key is finding the right consultant to assist you in the process. You need someone well-versed in accounting and financial needs for nonprofits who also understands the software world.

Choose from among vendors with time-tested platforms. Sage Intacct, for example, is used worldwide by over 11,000 for-profit and nonprofit companies. It is a well-known accounting and finance platform that includes many time-saving automations. MIP Fund Accounting is another platform that can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud that offers many time-saving automation for payroll, HR, accounting, and more.

Ultimately, the choice of the right nonprofit accounting and finance software is a decision that may take some time. Most software companies include AI-powered automation in their products, especially as consumer interest and acceptance of using the tool to save time has grown. There is no better use of AI than to automate manual processes, thus freeing up accounting professionals for more creative and challenging tasks.

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 us for more information.

Reduce Spreadsheet Use and Improve Productivity with the Right Accounting Software

By | Accounting, Accounting Software, Nonprofit | No Comments
person in office at desk with laptop, calculator, and phone with clipboard in hand.

Despite the apparent drawbacks, many organizations continue to rely on spreadsheets for their accounting needs. Spreadsheets are cumbersome to interlink, for example, making it necessary to manually rekey data to produce graphs, charts, and reports using data from two or more spreadsheet-based sources. One error accidentally introduced into a single formula can throw off the entire total and give a false picture of the data. And let’s not forget the time it takes for data entry, formula lookup, and formula entry.

It’s easy to understand why many organizations still use spreadsheets. They’re familiar and bundled into office productivity suites, so the cost is minimal. Also, they can be used by anyone with rudimentary computer skills.

However, given the numerous drawbacks of continuing with spreadsheets and the many benefits of shifting accounting into a modern, computerized system, it makes sense to move to accounting and financial management software for your organization’s accounting needs.

Five Benefits of Moving from Spreadsheets to Software

Every organization can reap enormous benefits from moving away from spreadsheet use and tapping into the power of cloud-based accounting and finance platforms. Five benefits almost all companies experience include:

  1. Greater efficiencies: Every accounting function is easier in an accounting software system. Accounting software enables you to enter checks efficiently and quickly into a digital check register, confirm payment receipts and expenses, and track them against specific accounts. Reports can be run with the click of a button: balance sheet, cash flow statement, unpaid receivables, income statements, and more. Additionally, some software comes with the ability to generate charts and graphs. What used to take you hours will take mere minutes with the right software. Additionally, advances in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) enable workflow automation that saves additional time.
  2. Improved clarity: Spreadsheets make viewing progress towards goals across multiple programs or funding lines difficult. With an accounting program, you can access numerous metrics and track them more easily against Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and other goals.
  3. Faster and easier reconciliation: If it takes forever to reconcile banking and credit card statements at the end of each period, you’ll find it much easier and faster to do so in a computer program. Both processes are more efficient and make it easy to spot discrepancies in the reconciliation.
  4. Enhanced forecasting: Manual forecasting that relies upon spreadsheets is time-consuming and error prone. Using accounting and financial management software enables more accurate forecasting. It also makes it possible to extend forecasting timelines, which is nearly impossible with spreadsheets.
  5. Time saved: Software enables you to complete tasks in minutes what used to take hours. Reducing spreadsheet reliance immediately saves hours per week that can be spent on other tasks such as budgeting, consulting with program managers on their financial and accounting needs, and more.

Accounting and Financial Software for Modern Nonprofits

Many accounting and financial software packages are on the market today, some explicitly geared to nonprofits. It is recommended that nonprofits avoid “off the shelf” business accounting software packages. Many of these lack the functionality nonprofits need to track revenue and expenses against program lines, for example.

Sage Intacct is a cloud-based accounting and financial software package created specifically for nonprofit organizations. Over 11,000 for-profit and nonprofit companies worldwide use it. It enables fast, accurate accounting, enhanced visibility into KPIs and forecasting, and excellent reporting. Perhaps most importantly, it automates workflows, making it a time saver for a busy accounting department.

There are many more accounting software choices available, and it can be confusing to review and compare them. Working with a consultant who understands nonprofit organizations’ unique needs and challenges is the best way to select the right accounting and financial software package for your needs.

Moving from spreadsheets to software is essential for nonprofits. While it may be tempting to continue using spreadsheets to save money, the time saved by transitioning to an accounting and financial software system is priceless. It’s time saved that can be put towards achieving your mission—and isn’t that worth 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 us for more information.

Choosing the Right Nonprofit Accountant

By | Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

Why hire an accountant who specializes in nonprofit accounting? Why not keep managing the books on your own or hire your third cousin, who was once a small business bookkeeper, to manage your accounts?

If you’re looking to cut corners and save budget—don’t do it when hiring an accountant, especially a nonprofit accountant. Choosing the right nonprofit accountant is one of the most important decisions when managing your organization. Here’s why you need a great nonprofit accountant and where to start your search.

Why Look for an Accountant with Nonprofit Experience?

Nonprofit accounting is different from for-profit accounting. Okay, this may be an obvious statement, but it’s often surprising that some organizations fail to recognize this critical fact. Nonprofits must comply with extensive regulations and requirements to maintain their tax-exempt status. Failing to do so can be catastrophic to an organization.

Many corporate or small business accountants do not have the experience or knowledge of nonprofit accounting to manage some of the issues facing nonprofit compliance. An experienced nonprofit accountant knows what to look for and where to go for more information and can confidently steer your organization’s finances.

The Right Nonprofit Accountant Helps Improve Efficiency

If you’re the CEO or president of your organization, and you’re the one still managing the accounting function, think of the time you could save if you had an experienced, trustworthy, and knowledgeable accountant handling it instead.

How many hours do you spend daily, weekly, or monthly completing routine accounting tasks? What about advanced accounting and financial needs such as forecasting, budgeting, analysis, and planning?

A nonprofit account will bring with them many years of experience. They will know the steps to take and the systems to put into place to streamline your organization’s accounting processes.

Another area in which a nonprofit accountant plays a pivotal role is selecting software to improve efficiency. This may mean accounting software, but it could also be in choosing the best grant and donor management software, data and analytics processing software, or other types of software that can improve sales, marketing, and operations efficiency.

Having a true accounting leader on your team will free up considerable time, ensuring that the financial items are handled appropriately, quickly, and confidently. It will greatly improve efficiency both for you and your entire team.

Improved Protection Against Fraud

It’s a sad fact that fraud continues to plague the nonprofit realm. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) 2020 Global Study on Occupational Fraud and Abuse, 35% of nonprofits lack internal controls. Internal controls are systems and processes that prevent common types of fraud, such as stealing cash, padding expenses, etc.

In over 17% of the cases cited in the study, audits or internal management spotted the fraud. In many cases, nonprofit management received a tip that fraud was occurring.

With the right nonprofit accountant on board, not only can you put strong internal controls into place to guard against fraud, but you’ll also have a leader available who others can trust with information about possible fraudulent activity. Thieves often act impulsively, taking advantage of opportunities (such as an unlocked petty cash box). Having someone experienced in nonprofit accounting leading the efforts against fraud and theft within the organization can make a significant impact.

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 us for more information.

More than Numbers: The Changing Role of the CFO

By | Accounting, Corporate Culture, Nonprofit | No Comments
person standing in office space to represent CFO

The role of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) has been evolving for many years, and it is changing at the speed of light. Gone are the days when the CFO was solely responsible for the company’s financial health. Today’s CFO, while most likely holding an advanced degree in accounting or finance, must also be equally savvy in information technology. This role now interacts equally with IT, Sales, Marketing, and Operations, adding a valuable perspective to other areas within an organization.

Here, we look at the changing role of the CFO and what it might mean to your nonprofit.

The Modern CFO: Where Technology and Finance Meet

Throughout the accounting profession, technology has become an ever-present companion to the routine of credits, debits, invoices, payments, and payroll.

Smart accountants keep up to date with the latest tools and technologies available to enhance their productivity:

  • Cloud-based accounting programs that provide robust yet cost-effective financial management
  • Data and analytics programs that provide additional insight into forecasting, analytics, and financial health
  • Grant and donor management software which enables organizations to manage financial outreach activities more effectively and track activities to income
  • SMS and text messaging platforms that can be linked with donor management programs for immediate financial outreach
  • Artificial intelligence as incorporated into existing financial tools to pinpoint errors and speed lookup of important information
  • Developments in blockchain, cryptocurrency, and related fields
  • Cybersecurity, so as to protect critical information in the finance department from theft, hacking, and extortion
  • Best practices from the for-profit world in sales, marketing, and operations, which may be adapted to the nonprofit world

As you can see from the list above, the CFO, as leader of the organization’s financial team, needs to stay abreast not just of the typical regulatory compliance issues but the realm of software and technology.

CFO and CIO: Collaboration to Achieve the Same Goals

Although the daily tasks of the CFO and CIO may differ, there are many areas of overlap between their roles today. Shared goals among the C-suite leaders of an organization mean that the two roles must work in tandem to achieve positive outcomes.

The CFO should be included in any major software selection processes. Many become the Executive Sponsor of a software project, providing teams with a valuable link to the leadership team to represent their work. Their unique insights into how a particular platform or software will impact efficiency, productivity, financial health, etc. are invaluable.

Other areas where the CFO may be concerned with technology include protecting critical data. The finance or accounting team may process donations, membership fees, and other financial transactions that contain personally identifiable information. Such information is a tempting target for thieves. The CFO must know the basics of cybersecurity and work closely with the CTO or CIO to ensure data is kept secure. This includes customer information, donor information, credit card information, and sensitive organizational financial data.

Because the CFO understands all areas of the organization, they should be an essential voice in any decision involving technology. But don’t limit your CFO to money and tech. They also play a vital role in marketing, sales, and operations, sharing their experience and a keen eye for efficiency and cost savings with the team.

The changing role of the CFO has opened exciting vistas for this once-strictly financial position. Variety is the spice of life, and for those interested in finance and accounting, embarking on a career that leads to the CFO chair means an ever-changing field of growing opportunities.

‌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 us for more information.