The Nonprofit Finance Team Survival Guide
Trying to survive in a complex environment is hard.
Nonprofit finance teams operate in a more challenging environment than ever before.
Good financial stewardship plays a critical role in maintaining funding relationships and attracting new donors. Finance teams face pressure to provide full transparency for compliance and better visibility into both financial metrics and outcome metrics for the board, executives, donors, and government funders.
At the same time, the complexity around nonprofit accounting, multiple funding streams, and compliance is increasing, with a need for even small nonprofits to be able to account for funds, grants, projects, programs, and more. In today’s dynamic environment, many nonprofits are partnering, collaborating, or even merging with other nonprofits or working with other affiliates.
Key challenges for nonprofit finance teams
• Complexity of accounting and funding streams
• Reporting and visibility
• Managing funds and grants
• Cost allocations
• Internal controls and compliance
• Cash management
Basecamp: Your Chart of Accounts
The foundation for your organization’s accounting system is the chart of accounts.
Call it your basecamp for the trek to better financial management.
Your chart of accounts forms the framework for storing all your
financial information and transactions, with an impact on everything from data entry to financial reporting.
When you have an easy-to-understand and efficient chart of accounts structure, the information that flows from it will be more useful.
Why Chart of Accounts and Reporting is Hard to Manage for Nonprofits
In the nonprofit world, every dollar must get tracked and viewed by multiple dimensions such as fund, grant, program, project, and location.
At the same time, board of directors, executives, donors, grantors, and staff have differing needs and reporting priorities.
Surviving the traditional, linear-based chart of accounts
Many accounting software solutions utilize a hard-coded structure, causing the chart of accounts to be unnecessarily rigid and complicated. This can result in an unmanageable, confusing number of account code combinations.
Thriving with a logic-based chart of accounts
Sage Intacct lets you set up primary natural account codes—including assets, liabilities, net assets, revenues, and expenses—and then “tag” transactions with dimensional attributes such as location, fund, grant, ministry, program, or outcome.
By employing a logical, table-driven chart of accounts, Sage Intacct
minimizes complexity, reduces the number of account codes, and
saves the finance team time. Dimensions customize reporting around activities, facilitating both comparative (cross-tab) and hierarchical (drill-down) organization of key information with context.
Ascending to Excellence: Reporting and compliance with a view
To help your nonprofit reach higher levels of mission success, you need visibility.
For better visibility, you need better data—an easy-to-use reporting system that filters, slices, and dices data so the finance team can quickly provide specific data needed in the best format. The team also needs to be able to produce required compliance forms and reports with ease, using data from the same system.
Sage Intacct empowers nonprofit finance teams to increase visibility, simplify reporting at all organizational levels, account for funds and grants, account for allocations, and reduce financial complexity while improving internal controls.
Surviving with rear-view mirror reporting and manual compliance
The wrong financial reporting system can require too much manual data entry and even force you to transfer data into Excel for further manipulation. When your finance team is in survival mode, you just try to produce the basic reports that are needed today, this week, or this month. Everything happens in a crunch. With the wrong financial systems, data must be entered manually into different systems.
Many accounting systems are only capable of rear-view mirror
reporting—backward looking month-end financial packets that don’t provide any real-time insights. Today, nonprofits need access to more and better information than yesterday’s news. How can your team access the data required to gather insights, do strategic analysis, and make recommendations that support your mission?
Thriving with future-focused financials and automated compliance
Sage Intacct delivers real-time information at anytime and anywhere.
While other organizations glance in the rear-view mirror, you can look ahead with an eye to future success. Customizable reporting capabilities enable your finance team to present the right reports
to staff, executives, the board, and other stakeholders. Sage Intacct automatically creates GAAP financial statements, FASB compliance reports, and key Form 990 reports for compliance.
Dimensionality fundamentally improves reporting and makes it easier to provide fast answers. The Sage Intacct report writer provides a guided experience to help you filter, group, and organize data by the dimensions you want and build reports quickly in the format desired.
Navigation Tools: Dashboards for Stakeholders
When your finance team reaches altitude, you have mastered survival and are looking for the next mountain to climb.
Up in the cloud, nonprofit finance teams unlock a new, strategic layer of functionality with real-time dashboards and automated performance metrics that present financial information visually and even go beyond financials to demonstrate operational metrics, outcomes, and impact to executives, donors, and funders.
Think of a dashboard as a blank map where you can add components to create a view from the highest level that is just right for a specific program, managerial role, or functional area of your organization.
Gain visibility with role-based dashboards
Role-based dashboards gather the most important reports, metrics, KPIs, and approval statuses into one location, so that managers and executives receive the greatest benefit of insight for ongoing management and oversight.
Sage Intacct helps you easily set up components on each dashboard, adding the reports, graphs, and collaborative communication feeds that each user will use most.
At-a-glance, a user can see key performance and financial information, such as real-time budget-to-actuals for each program or grant. For greater internal controls, dashboards use permissions to deliver only the relevant information approved for each user.
At the Summit: Measuring what matters—outcomes and mission impact
The mission is the reason nonprofit financial professionals come to work each morning. It is also why donors and funders continue to give.
Financial performance information is extremely important, but it is even more powerful when paired with operational performance metrics that demonstrate the powerful impact your organization can
make with each dollar of funding.
For today’s nonprofits, being able to deliver accurate, timely information about program outcomes is critical to achieving your mission.
Automated reporting for outcomes
Statistical accounts in Sage Intacct help track and report on non-financial information to monitor outcomes and impact. This type of measurement allows you to connect your executives, board, funders, and donors with the human side of your mission—whether that impact is measured in patients treated, meals served, or workers trained.
An outcomes dashboard lets you display important financial information side by side with outcomes—and compare the real-time data in the current period against prior periods or years. Statistical accounts demonstrate how well your organization achieves its mission more effectively than traditional financial reports alone.
Find your true north and thrive
Align your organization with its mission by finding the real-time metrics that help you stay focused on delivering outcomes.
Cloud-based technology gives nonprofits, of all sizes, access to sophisticated software that was once reserved for only the largest businesses and organizations. With a true cloud financial system like Sage Intacct, you can dream big for your organization, knowing you will have the insights needed to navigate toward mission success.
The right solution will help you achieve operational and financial excellence, overcome limited resources, and multiply your effectiveness through automation. More access to real-time results
lets you discover your organization’s true north, so you can thrive.
About Sage Intacct
Sage Intacct is the AICPA’s preferred provider of cloud financial applications.
Specializing in helping nonprofits of all types—including health and human services, NGOs, charities, trade and membership associations, cultural institutions, and faith-based organizations—Sage Intacct streamlines grant, fund, project, and donor accounting, while delivering real-time visibility into the metrics that matter.
Our modern, true cloud solution, with open APIs, gives nonprofits the connectivity, visibility, and efficiency they need to do more with less. At Sage Intacct, we help nonprofits strengthen stewardship, build influence, grow funding, and achieve mission success.
In addition to intuitive software solutions, Sage Membership provides members with access to actionable human advice from experts and peers through exclusive content and tools to help you make even better mission-critical decisions.
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