Case studies: Nonprofit software in 2018
Two very different nonprofit organizations discuss how their nonprofit accounting software meets their unique needs.
Automation in Alaska
Nonprofit: Catholic Community Services
On record: CFO Tiffany Varnadoe
Start date: July 2017
Price: $10,000 a year
Objective: Catholic Community Services consists of several divisions providing different services such as health care, meal provision, transportation, and child and family services for communities in need. It is located in Juneau, Alaska, which is Alaskan bush country — this means the area is disconnected from the North America road network and ferry system. It is the one of the only organizations that provides social care to the regional population in need. Given all those factors, CCS chief financial officer Tiffany Varnadoe needed accounting software that was robust enough to handle such a diverse organization, and her old software wasn’t cutting it. She bought AccuFund through a reseller, ComputerWorks NFP Solutions based in California, and found that it met her specific and diverse needs.
Implementation: Varnadoe said she “cannot describe how easy AccuFund was to implement,” and credits the reseller for making it so easy. Jeff Durante, president of ComputerWorks, is Varnadoe’s point-person for implementation and ongoing support. For initial implementation, ComputerWorks sent a team to Juneau two times to conduct training, first for several weeks to walk CCS through its first payroll with AccuFund, then later for an intense one-day session. Thereafter, Durante has been available to Varnadoe either through email or Skype.
Highlights: CCS is too diverse to have a federally negotiated indirect rate, so it has to manually allocate administration overhead to every single program and site. Varnadoe explained that this is a tedious and difficult task that takes two days to complete manually. With the help of Durante, she was able to configure AccuFund to automate this process completely. Secondly, CCS holds 85 grants. To remain compliant with regulations, CCS must use the funds from those grants equally, and be able to demonstrate that it is doing so. Because of the amount of grants it is handling, this was impossible for Varnadoe to do before AccuFund, which automates this process.
“I used to do it by hand and it failed every month,” Varnadoe said. “And it took me a whole day. Now I just push the button.” AccuFund gave so much time back to the finance team at CCS that Varnadoe was able to eliminate a position entirely. The money that saves, she said, goes right back into the organization.
Challenges: “The only challenge I’ve had was when the board asked me for a couple of different report formats for our statement of activities (profit and loss statements),” Varnadoe said. “It took me a little bit to do that. I had to call Jeff and say, ‘Listen, hook up with me online and walk me through this,’ because I hadn’t done the reporting training session yet.”
Varnadoe was quick to note that in the nine months since installing AccuFund, the challenges have been very minor.
What’s next: “We as an organization do not experience growth because we are in an environment that doesn’t grow. The population is declining,” Varnadoe said. “Our goal is to remain stable and, of course, serve as many people as we can. AccuFund has helped us succeed by reducing expenses, and in the nonprofit world, if you can do that, and more of your money is going to programs and services, that’s success. The more people we can help, the better.”
Keep it simpler
Nonprofit: Campus Outreach
On record: Accountant and part-time finance director Brittany Dillon
Start date: July 2017
Price: Contact vendor
Objective: Campus Outreach, a college ministry based in Indianapolis, wanted to switch from the larger, robust accounting system it was using before that “took a lot of work to run,” Brittany Dillon said, to software that was simpler to use. “It had to have a lot of capabilities but also be user-friendly and easy to navigate,” she said. Aplos was affordable and fit the bill for the 30-employee organization.
Implementation: “I kind of wanted to redo all my funds from the beginning so I didn’t have to transfer everything over,” Dillon said. “Aplos helped me with specific things I was confused about. I was able to schedule time with one of their staff online, and he would call me and walk me through my chart of accounts.” Aplos also offers on-site implementation and training.
Advantages: Dillon noted that Aplos’ reporting system is very easy to use. “You can save a lot of your reports on there — even monthly bank recs. It’s all on the cloud, so I feel pretty safe.” She said she also liked the live bank feeds, which are very visible and easy to use.
Challenges: When Dillon first started using Aplos, it didn’t offer a donor management system, but it does now. Since the platform Dillon uses for donor management costs less than Aplos’ and fits her needs, she chooses not to move to Aplos’ version. She wishes Aplos integrated with her donor management software of choice, as she spends time transferring the data over every month.
What’s next: “Aplos has really just simplified the whole financial process,” Dillon explained. “We’re a decent-sized ministry, but we don’t have a lot of transactions, so I feel like this allows me to do my accounting pretty simply and saves us time compared to what we’d done in the past.”