When accountants think about software for nonprofits, they typically are talking about accounting systems. But nonprofits, especially those that are government entities, have different needs in an accounting system than do charitable organizations or foundations.
Adding to the confusion, nonprofit software also encompasses donor management, which, in many cases, is a more important choice for the client than the particular accounting system being used.
Making this choice isn't easy. Every nonprofit entity has its own needs regarding the set-up of the accounts, and how accessible the software is to use. In many cases, especially with smaller nonprofits, the people operating the accounting system (and most likely the donor management system) will be part-timers or volunteers. If the software isn't closely tailored to the particulars of the entity, such as funds, endowments and the like, as well as being able to easily switch to different accounting methods to accommodate the reporting needs of different agencies, it will be easy for an inexperienced user to make mistakes.
Having software that will conform to the needs of the nonprofit organization, rather than making the organization conform to the constraints of the software, is something to consider when helping your clients make a choice. There are "nonprofit" versions of many of the popular entry-level and mid-range accounting systems. Depending on your particular client, one of these may be more suitable - or none of them may be the right choice.
In this roundup we looked at 11 nonprofit accounting systems, one or two of which might be a good fit for one of your nonprofit clients. We did not give prices, as almost all of these systems need to be installed and configured by a professional reseller familiar with the specific software. That can add considerable cost to the bottom-line price, rendering retail price on the software somewhat misleading.
The vendors shown in this roundup are not the only ones providing accounting software for nonprofits. Additionally, there are numerous vendors of other types of software targeted at the nonprofit market, including donor management software and fundraising applications.
Techsoup.org is an organization set up to supply nonprofits with software and hardware that has been donated by vendors. In many cases, this software is a version behind what is currently being sold, and all products are available for considerably less than the current retail price. At the time this is being written, the only nonprofit accounting system being listed is QuickBooks Nonprofit Edition, but eligible nonprofits can get donor management and fundraising applications, as well as office suite and operating system software, at steep discounts. This makes Techsoup.org an excellent resource, and something that you should have all of your nonprofit clients who qualify enroll in.
Available in both in-house and Software-as-a-Service applications, AccuFund provides most of what many nonprofits will require in an accounting system in its core system. These sub-applications include general ledger, reporting (both financial and budgeting), accounts payable, cash receipts, system security, a report generator, and bank reconciliation.
MICR check printing allows your nonprofit client to make payments from different fund, grant or endowment accounts without having to purchase and store excessive amounts of check stock. However, the electronic payment capability in accounts payable and payroll may lessen the impact of this feature.
By creating a core system and offering other capabilities as add-ons, AccuFund helps you design a moderately custom system for your client. In all likelihood, most of your nonprofit clients are going to require at least some add-ons, such as Grants Management, Allocation Management, Budget Development, and others from the long list of additional sub-applications that AccuFund offers. But the net result should be that your client doesn't wind up paying for features they don't need and won't use. If, at a later time, the client does develop a need for additional features, these can be easily rolled into the existing system.
Denali Fund Accounting
Cougar Mountain Software
Cougar Mountain Software has been around for several decades, almost since the birth of the personal computer. Like a number of companies that grew into computer giants, including the companies that became Dell and Gateway, Cougar Mountain Software was initially sold exclusively through ads in Computer Shopper, and was known for its point-of-sale applications.
A lot has changed over the years. Cougar Mountain's Denali accounting software is a solid mid-range accounting offering, and the Fund Nonprofit Software is constructed on the Denali foundation, but structured for use in the nonprofit environment. It provides the core accounting modules, GL, Accounts Payable and Receivable, and Bank Reconciliation, but other Denali modules, such as Payroll, Point of Sale, Order Entry and Inventory (for nonprofits that have a retail function) are available. Also available for the Denali system is integration with DonorExpress (a third-party application) to provide an extension of the accounting system. The General Ledger offers budget management tools along with a five-year calendar that allows for multiple fiscal year ends.
Cougar Mountain has offered the Applianz server pre-installed and preconfigured for a number of years. This server, which Cougar Mountain calls Singlepoint, is also available for the Denali Fund system, and can save your client a considerable amount of time and expense in getting up and running.
CYMA Not-For- Profit Edition
CYMA Systems is another long-time accounting software vendor. It has been offering generic accounting software as well as a nonprofit version for decades, so it's a mature product. CYMA NFP Accounting Software is exceptionally modular, so it will be easy to configure a system that very closely matches your clients' needs. Along with the more common modules, such as General Ledger, AR, AP and Payroll, CYMA offers optional modules such as a Grant Tracking add-on for General Ledger, Human Resources, Bank Reconciliation, and sub-applications for entities that maintain a retail presence as part of their operation. These include Purchase Order, Sales Order, and Inventory. Employee Self-Service is another optional add-on.
Financial statements are FASB 117-compliant, and the system produces automatic inter-fund offset entries that can be defined by the client.
As with a number of vendors in this round-up, CYMA Systems offers a 30-day trial, so if the software looks like it would be a good choice for a client, you can get it and take a closer look before your client commits.
The Financial Edge
The Financial Edge is a comprehensive nonprofit accounting system built around a core GL and seamlessly integrating with the vendor's Raiser's Edge Donor Management system. Depending on the modules chosen, the Financial Edge can provide sophisticated analytics and reporting, as well as the ability to manage grants, gifts, endowments and the like to a very granular level. Advanced budgeting is available as an ancillary product, as are connections to other Blackbaud products like eTapestry and products to manage online collections. A wide variety of reports are available, as are customizable dashboards, and F9 and easy spreadsheet integration make ad hoc reporting a fairly painless process.
Having been a developer and vendor focused from the start on the nonprofit community, Blackbaud has considerable experience with the differences that different types of nonprofit entities present. With almost 30 available modules, there is considerable flexibility to configure a system for nonprofit clients of varying sizes and in various entity types (schools, churches and others, for example).
A strong user community exists for The Financial Edge, which is another support resource in addition to the vendor's own support system. The Financial Edge is targeted mostly toward midsized and larger organizations. A new cloud-based version recently became available that lets smaller nonprofits take advantage of the application for a fixed monthly subscription fee.
Fund E-Z Nonprofit Accounting
Fund E-Z Development Corp.
Fund E-Z is available in two versions, Fund E-Z and Fund E-Z Pro. Fund E-Z is the basic core system, and provides GL, Bank Reconciliation, Budgeting, AP, AR, Client Billing, and Direct Allocations. Reports are FASB 117-compliant, and there is support for the F9 report writer. For many nonprofits, these will provide the needed capabilities, and the Fund E-Z accounting applications integrate with Fund Easy Fundraising to provide a more comprehensive system when appropriate.
Some features, however, are only available in the Fund E-Z Pro edition of the software. These include a more flexible user-defined chart of accounts, custom reporting, interfund balancing, automatic offsets, and indirect allocations.
Intacct Nonprofit Accounting
Many nonprofit accounting systems were developed before the advent of Internet- and cloud-based accounting. As the Internet became common, many vendors adapted their software to take advantage of remote hosting, Saas and cloud-based product offerings.
Intacct Accounting is different. It was developed initially to be Internet-based, not adapted from an in-house or client/server application. As with many in-house applications, Intacct consists of a base core GL system around which ancillary applications are integrated. Many of these are not specifically configured for nonprofits, but the high degree of customizability makes it easy to adapt them for nonprofit purposes. The extensive reporting capability allows Intacct Nonprofit Accounting to meet FASB 117 and other reporting requirements.
Perhaps the most valuable feature, however, is that Intacct Nonprofit Accounting was designed to be browser-based from the get-go. This makes it exceptionally accessible. Many nonprofits operate over a wide geographic area, and providing staff and volunteers with easy access to a powerful and comprehensive system with excellent security will benefit both the nonprofit entity and the people who work for and with it.
QuickBook Premier Nonprofit Edition
In terms of sheer number of copies being used, QuickBooks is probably the most popular accounting software in the world. Over the years, this popular application has evolved into a full product line to accommodate small to midsized businesses.
Nonprofit organizations have always been partial to QuickBooks for a variety of reasons. It's affordable, moderately customizable, and it's not difficult to find a bookkeeper or an accountant who is familiar with it. That customizability has paid off big for Intuit. Along with a very active third-party developer market producing add-ons for QuickBooks, Intuit itself has done quite a bit of work adapting the accounting application to fit closer to the needs of different vertical markets. The nonprofit edition of Premier is one of those.
While QuickBooks Premier Nonprofit Edition may not have all the bells and whistles of some of the other products developed for the nonprofit market from the start, it does have enough of them to make the Intuit application quite suitable for less complex nonprofit entities. The ability to create end-of-year donation statements will serve as a basis for a donor management system, especially when coupled with QuickBooks' ability to accept payments and credit card payments/donations.
Preparing Form 990 (Statement of Functional Expenses) is one of the more vertical aspects of a nonprofit accounting package, and QuickBooks Premier Nonprofit Edition allows you to import a nonprofit chart of accounts and create a Form 990 to meet these requirements.
Transparency to constituents and members of the board is another area where QuickBooks Nonprofit Edition meets expectations. The application is provided with numerous reports, all of which are highly customizable, as well as a huge and very active user community. This not only provides access to another area of support, but it also offers a host of contributed reports that you can examine and download before putting effort into creating one for your client.
Redwing CenterPoint Fund Accounting for Nonprofits
Redwing started out as an accounting software producer primarily for the farming industry. In more recent years, its CenterPoint and TurningPoint products became available for other types of businesses that needed a less vertical accounting application.
However, Redwing hasn't abandoned the specialized vertical market - its agricultural accounting applications are still available, and it also offers fund accounting software for both municipalities and nonprofit non-governmental organizations.
As with other Redwing accounting products, the Fund Accounting Software for Nonprofit Accounting is sold primarily through value-added resellers, and the software vendor doesn't publish a price for the software, preferring that you contact it directly.
The software uses CenterPoint Accounting as a foundation, but it has been rather extensively customized so that it provides a better fit than generic accounting software in the areas of fund sources and expenses, and in tracking an unlimited number of funds and grants. Being able to track an expense and apply it to the specific fund that it was incurred against is an important feature in nonprofit accounting, and CenterPoint Fund Accounting for Nonprofits provides the necessary tools.
Payroll is not included as part of the accounting application, but is available as a separate product. This makes it just a bit more complicated in set-up and use; as with other expenses, payroll expenses need to be attributed to specific fund or grant activity (or to general overhead). That's not all that difficult to do, and most payroll software can be configured to accomplish this.
Sage 100 Fund Accounting
Sage Software Nonprofit Solutions
As with QuickBooks, Sage Accounting, in one form or another, has been available for more than three decades. Sage's product line has grown largely from acquisitions, with the acquired product being reworked and integrated into a common product approach. Sage 100 Fund Accounting was originally MIP Software before being acquired and "Sage-ified" with a number, so it came into the Sage family already well-known and with a very large community of users.
When software is targeted at entities with more complex needs, it tends to take a modular approach. Falling into this segment of the accounting market, Sage 100 Fund Accounting is a modular product, with the General Ledger as its core, and more than two dozen available modules, as well as tight integration with other Sage applications such as CRM. These modules include all of the functions that most nonprofit entities will need, including extensive budgeting, grant and encumbrance tracking and reporting, built-in fixed assets, a comprehensive collection of forms and reports bolstered by a custom form designer and customizer, and more. Multicurrency capability is very useful, especially with the global nature of many nonprofit operations.
In the world of software design, usability is a large concern, and the more comprehensive and complex an application is, the more important it becomes to make it as accessible as possible. Sage 100 Fund Accounting addresses this with an easy-to-navigate menu structure and the ability to use and customize a variety of dashboards to present data in an easy-to-understand format.
Using the cloud has become increasingly important in the last several years, and is expected to become even more so in the future. To meet this demand, Sage offers Sage Nonprofit Online - a cloud-based solution that starts at $349 with financial management, grant management, fundraising and CRM. For many nonprofits, the lack of upfront costs, ongoing maintenance costs, and no need for a complex and expensive IT structure will make Nonprofit Online an attractive alternative.
Serenic Navigator is a Microsoft Dynamics NAV-based nonprofit accounting system. Dynamics NAV is, itself, an accounting software system - a highly reworked version of the Navision product that Microsoft acquired in 2002. Rather than just taking a database and constructing an accounting system from there, Serenic started with an already working and highly regarded accounting system, and built a nonprofit system from there. An analogy might be Toyota and Lexus, which both start out on the same framework, but are very different products.
As with a number of nonprofit accounting systems, Serenic Navigator is available in several versions, as well as multiple licensing schemes. Navigator is the core accounting system, which includes the GL, purchase orders, sales orders, inventory, fixed assets and advanced allocations.
This edition is bolstered by The Navigator Extended Suite, which provides comprehensive budget and donor management, and portals. There's also an HR capability and a system for capturing deposits and loans.
Serenic Navigator may not be affordable for some smaller and midsized nonprofits. For these clients, Serenic has introduced Serenic Navigator Online, a streamlined, cloud-based application. This allows a nonprofit to minimize startup and ongoing maintenance costs, and reduce the investment in an IT department.
Open systems has been in the software business since before personal computers became available. Traverse is the vendor's Windows accounting product (Open Systems also offers OSAS for other operating environment) and is built using Microsoft's .Net and SQL technology.
A number of vendors in this roundup have used their generic accounting applications as the foundation for their vertical market offerings, and Open Systems follows this trend. In some cases, features are similar between a generic system and one meant for nonprofits. Allocation is one example of this.
Other features provided by Traverse Not-for-Profit, such as the ability to maintain cross-fiscal-year reporting for reporting grants, are not found in the base version. The nonprofit edition also provides the ability to track restricted, temporarily restricted and unrestricted funds, and create automatic due to/due from reports and entries.
Traverse Not-for-Profit provides a comprehensive suite of reports, including the ones most important to a nonprofit, such as a statement of activities, statement of functional expenses, budget-versus-actual, and revenue and expense by grant or program. Existing reports can be customized if necessary.
The Traverse system has numerous modules available that are not specifically targeted at the nonprofit segment, and can import from other vendors' systems including ADP Payroll, Raiser's Edge fundraising, Donor Perfect, Sage Fundraising 50, and various point-of-sale applications. Tight integration with Microsoft Office applications makes it easy to extend Traverse Not-for-Profit's capabilities with Word and Excel.
Ted Needleman writes frequently on software, hardware, and technology-related subjects, and was previously the editor-in-chief of Accounting Technology.
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