Helping your client pick accounting software has never been easy. Helping them choose the right nonprofit accounting system is even more difficult.
Not only is nonprofit accounting considered a vertical application, but in actuality, it consists of multiple vertical applications, depending on the type of nonprofit entity your client happens to be. Different nonprofits can have very different accounting and workflow needs that not every nonprofit accounting application necessarily addresses.
Another area where nonprofit accounting applications differ is in their support for donor management and customer relationship management. Some vendors offer application systems ancillary to accounting, others don’t, and yet some others offer connectors into the ancillary applications offered by other vendors or partners.
To help you get started in your search, we surveyed a dozen vendors who offer nonprofit accounting, asking them about features, support, training, and other areas of importance, and collected their responses in the chart that accompanies this article (see the Comparison Guide here). (Note: An earlier version of the accompanying chart, incorrectly characterized AccuFund's offering; it has both on-premise and cloud-based solutions, and can be used on Mac's through an app delivery product.)
Hopefully this will get you off to a good start and suggest other questions that you will want to ask vendors as you help select the appropriate software.
We also asked each vendor to tell us in a short paragraph or two about the latest features they have added. Those responses are below.
WHERE TO START
Keep in mind, however, that the first step isn’t performed on the vendor side of the equation, but on the client side. Both you and your client have to have a good idea of the needs and wants in the accounting system before ever looking at what’s available and how the software will fill those needs and wants. A thorough understanding of a client’s workflow is also required. Implementing a new system like accounting is the perfect time to tighten up workflows, but remember that huge changes in the workflows in your client’s business are also likely to be more of a hindrance than a help.
Finally, make sure that your client understands that there will be additional costs required beyond just buying or leasing the software and maintenance. Whether it is performed by you, a reseller/partner, a client’s IT department, or a combination of some or all, getting the new system configured, installed, and up and running is going to take time and money.
- Abila (MIP Fund Accounting): Abila plans to offer new functionality and regulatory updates while also continuing to grow its Web-based experience via MIP Advance, its cloud-based offering. The company is currently focused on adding key reporting enhancements and revamping both its reporting engine and accounts payable solution. In addition, the company is building an accounts payable API to support key integrations.
- AccuFund (AccuFund/AccuFund Anywhere Complete): Highlights of its recent release include a new Position Control module to control payroll spending by position. The new editions also include optional encumbrance of positions for organizations wanting to commit the funds for a position. Also, in the Employee Portal front end to Payroll, they have added a “Soft Clock” app for recording payroll time with a cell phone or tablet.
- Blackbaud (Financial Edge NXT): New Financial Edge NXT features this year include the release of a new year open general ledger API, enhancements to reporting, new analytical dashboards, enhanced capabilities for real-time bank reconciliation, better document attachment tools, and the modernization of several key accounts payable features.
- Cougar Mountain Software (Denali): Recently, Cougar Mountain added enhanced support for four markets: manufacturing and distribution companies, nonprofit organizations, local government entities, and medical device leasing companies. Product enhancements include multiple payer or payees, leasing inventory control, tracking of leased items, e-delivery of statements, integration with Avalara, and stronger fund accounting.
- Fund E-Z Development Corp. (Fund E-Z Nonprofit Accounting): Among its new features are the Purchase Order Approval feature, including one or two levels of approvals and an optional threshold; a “dashboards” feature including new general ledger ratios, data source, and add-from capability; and the “form designer” feature. The new Fund E-Z Foster Care is a major product that was fully integrated with the Fund E-Z Nonprofit Accounting system. The company is about to release a Fixed Assets module, and to add ACH and external check processing.
- Grant Management Systems (GMS Nonprofit Accounting and Financial Management System): GMS will be releasing an updated package within the next few months that is designed to be more user-friendly. Employee files have been revamped to include collapsible sections, and fields have been added for additional data collection. Exporting has been enhanced.
- Intacct (Intacct): Recent features include Collaborate, which provides a secure social layer within Intacct to help users communicate, and Spending Control. A new collaboration with American Express provides automated ACH payments and check printing and delivery. Also, the Digital Board Book for fundraising organizations delivers real-time insights on key donor and fundraising metrics via real time integration to a user’s CRM solution.
- Intuit (QuickBooks Online Plus): Intuit recommends its QuickBooks Online Plus to nonprofits for its budgeting capabilities. Additionally, QB Online Plus has a class feature that allows nonprofits to easily track expenses by program or grant and streamlines the tax reporting process.
- NetSuite (NetSuite): NetSuite has created nonprofit-industry-specific functionality including custom records that enable nonprofits to easily create, track and manage funding sources; custom GL segments that can vastly simplify the process of managing complex nonprofit reporting; and a unified e-commerce platform. This new release showcases enhanced reporting for custom segments, dynamic allocation schedule support in custom segments, and fixed asset management enhancements.
- Open Systems (Traverse): Open Systems now offers a cloud implementation of Traverse for nonprofit organizations. Traverse Cloud provides a month-to-month pricing option, and includes expanded credit card processing options to accommodate fundraising and other transactional needs.
- Red Wing Software (CenterPoint Fund Accounting): CenterPoint Fund Accounting has recently been released as a SaaS option that is exactly the same as its locally installed version. A major recent addition in Version 10 is the ability to scan and attach documents.
- Serenic Software (Serenic Navigator): Serenic Navigator 2016 offers new capabilities in mobility, report creation, and improved integrations with Microsoft Office and Office 365. Serenic continues to create new and improved functionality with advanced fund accounting, workflow-based approvals and notifications, and a comprehensive award (grant/contract) management feature-set.
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