Not-for-profit organizations face a number of challenges not found in the typical business environment, particularly with respect to cash flow management and budgeting.

Such organizations are usually unable to control when pledged money will actually arrive; they are unable to forecast total revenues with any certainty each year; and they cannot easily manage their accounts payable, since this is dependent on cash flows that are, at best, estimated.

At the same time, nonprofits are required to be financially transparent and to easily present to donors and other stakeholders how and when donated funds will be used. Unlike in other businesses, expenditures from nonprofits often are treated as legal obligations. And finally, detailed multi-year budgets are often required for grant applications and to satisfy donors.

All of this means that budgeting is an integral part of the nonprofit accounting system. Unfortunately, this is an area that some accounting systems do well, some do poorly - and some don't do at all.

For organizations that need powerful and precise budgeting, a program designed specifically for this purpose is mandatory.

Budget Maestro from Centage is a program aimed at providing nonprofits with enhanced budgeting, forecasting, planning and reporting capabilities. Budget Maestro maps to the exact general ledger structure for easier budget-versus-actual comparisons; instantly recognizes profit-and-loss, balance sheet and cash flow; generates reports in real time; and forecasts and creates what-if scenarios. In addition, it offers critical capabilities for payroll planning, capital asset planning, inventory management and debt management that are often overlooked in conventional accounting packages.

Though formal budgeting and forecasting software can often cost as much as the basic accounting system (Budget Maestro starts at $3,995 for the single-user desktop system), any nonprofit that has attained sufficient size and complexity to need planning support needs it badly enough to invest in mission-critical planning tools.

Centage offers a powerful budgeting solution that scales with the organization as it grows, and helps to tame issues of cash management and budgeting that can easily compensate for its up-front costs.

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