If there were a single word to describe the state of the not-for-profit marketplace, it would be "accountability."The scrutiny given many nonprofits in the wake of the tsunami and hurricane crises of the past 18 months, combined with some high-profile scandals among national and local nonprofits, has done for this market what Enron did for public corporations - driven the demand for clear audit trails and better reporting of nonprofit financial information.

The accounting software industry has responded to this call for accountability with substantially enhanced data management and reporting systems. In fact, all nine of the products presented here have upgraded their compliance and reporting features within the past year to meet this requirement.

Accountability is not the only major trend impacting this market in 2006. The move to Web-based accounting is getting underway, with a majority of the systems providing for Web-based procurement, and Kintera introducing Sphere, a set of online fundraising and CRM tools.

AccuFund Accounting Suite V. 3.02

AccuFund is an accounting suite designed for nonprofit organizations and government agencies that is scalable to meet the needs of most accounting departments. It is an off-the-shelf Windows product that effectively manages the Govermental Accounting Standards Board and Financial Accounting Standards Board reporting requirements of these organizations.

Core products included in the suite are the general ledger, financial reporting, budget reporting, accounts receivable, cash receipts, bank reconciliation, a user security system, and a forms and reports generator. Additional modules are available for accounts payable (including inventory and responsible-party billing), payroll with labor distribution, human resources management, fixed assets, allocations, purchasing with inventory, online requisitions, loan management, and custodial checking. AccuFund also offers separate programs for FASB/GASB reporting and endowment reporting.

Recent enhancements to the suite include the inclusion of System Union's Vision for AccuFund, an add-in to Microsoft Excel that allows direct reporting in Excel for AccuFund data from the general ledger and accounts payable modules. Vision reporting for accounts receivable is due this spring, as is a major new release of AccuFund that includes a major rewrite to the report writer and includes a new columnar report writer.

Other features of note are the document management system, which lets users scan bills and attach them to invoice documents to validate funding requests; drill-down capabilities from the organization record to detailed transactions; and a table-driven configuration, where each element has a drop-down list of available values.

Sporting an easily navigable Windows interface, AccuFund provides an effective and flexible accounting system with strong Office integration capabilities. AccuFund has lowered the cost of its suite in recent months, making it an attractive investment for nonprofits seeking a solid solution with low total cost of ownership.

FastFund Nonprofit Software V. 2.1

FastFund Nonprofit Software combines the key components of nonprofit management into a straightforward and cost-effective system that integrates modules for a general ledger system, fundraising and payroll.

Designed by CPAs with over 21 years of experience in nonprofit management, FastFund offers strong accounting features and effective fund management. The general ledger system is bolstered by modules for AP, AR, cost allocations and payroll. The fundraising module adds the ability to track donors, prospects, constituents, appeals, campaigns and other key elements of fundraising, acknowledgment and accounting.

Integrating with the FastFund accounting system, FastFund Raising is a flexible and powerful engine that sets up a table of codes based on the user's coding system, then handles the chart of accounts; funds, campaigns, appeals and gifts; prospect and donor lists; and cash, pledge or in-kind processing. The data is then processed into reports or exported for mail merging.

Araize recently introduced an upgrade to Version 2.1, adding a revised report designer for customized financial statements, stronger sorting and filtering capabilities, a user-definable chart of accounts, and automatic inter-fund balancing to manage activities between funds. All of the FastFund modules comply with the requirements of FASB 116 and FASB 117, adhere to strict accounting principles, and offer a detailed audit trail of all transactions.

FastFund is a comprehensive development, donor and membership management tool that provides an attractive option for the 700,000 nonprofits in the U.S. Its streamlined accounting, powerful accountability functions and a cost of less than $1,500 for all of the modules make it the system of choice for small and mid-range nonprofits.

The Financial Edge V. 7.6

Blackbaud's The Financial Edge is a stable and well-organized accounting system that focuses strongly on the decision support and accountability requirements of today's not-for-profit organizations.

In addition to handling the general ledger, AP, AR, payroll, cash management, fixed asset management, point-of-sale support, forms generation and reporting functions of the accounting system, The Financial Edge is designed to integrate seamlessly with other applications that include The Raiser's Edge fundraising system, The Education Edge system for independent schools, and The Information Edge system for executive data analysis.

A flexible reporting system provides timely reports on the organization's overall health, as well as specific programs. An extra level of tracking is provided for projects, grants and endowment management, allowing separate reports on reimbursable grants and contracts, endowments, projects, special events, exhibitions, scholarships, investments, and other entities without cluttering the chart of accounts.

Incremental enhancements to Version 7 include new business rules for projects, enhancements to the GL reports, and new functionality to improve data entry. But by far the most significant change has been in the area of accountability - providing the tools to share timely and accurate information with key stakeholders, assure that donated funds are accounted for and protected, respond quickly to auditors' requests, and verify to donors that gifts have been used for their intended purpose.

The Financial Edge is fast, flexible and comprehensive - a management toolkit built to handle complicated accounting and accountability tasks with an easy style and precision. Its management focus and easy dashboard navigation make The Financial Edge one of the most comprehensive, capable and flexible products in its class.

Cougar Mountain Fund Accounting Suite V. 10

Cougar Mountain has built its reputation on software for the small to mid-range firm that combines solid accounting and clear, unalterable audit trails. Version 10 of the Cougar Mountain Fund Accounting Suite combines these with the ability to handle multiple funds across multiple fund years, with allocation of costs across funds.

The suite includes modules for general ledger, AP, AR, purchase orders, bank reconciliation and payroll, plus Universal Bridge to transfer data into the accounting program. Additional enhancements include a Revenue Center to manage order entry; POS software to manage retail sales and membership revenues; the PCChargePro Credit Card Authorization System for online processing of credit cards, checks and debit cards; an e-commerce platform; fixed assets; and a flexible GL report generator.

Version 10 was designed to enhance the nonprofit's money management capabilities by streamlining payment and collection processes through reduced transaction costs, while following financial services industry best practices for securing individual customer financial data. Also new in this version is the ability to create a mirror image of the organization - useful for year's end, and for setting up a realistic organization to train with or to test a new process.

With fully integrated modules for fewer data entry errors and better access to management information, the Fund Accounting Suite combines a strong accounting foundation and reasonable pricing in one of the best packages for small to mid-range nonprofit organizations.

CYMA IV Not-For-Profit Edition V. 8.0

CYMA IV Not-For-Profit Edition is a specialized version of CYMA's business accounting software. Featuring a strong accounting foundation, the NFP Edition provides grant-tracking functionality, fund-balancing features, out-of-the-box FASB 117-compliant statements, and customizable accounts.

The accounting system is modular and offers general ledger, AP, AR, bank reconciliation, job costing, inventory control, payroll and purchase order. The CYMA IV NFP Edition expands on this modular accounting system with applications for the special requirements of fundraising and allocations - including pledges receivables; inter-fund receivables; inter-fund payables; unrestricted, temporarily restricted and permanently restricted funds; cash and non-cash contributions; grants and contracts; special event revenue; program expenses; fundraising expenses; and donated services and materials.

Version 8.0, introduced in October 2005, introduced hundreds of upgrades across all of the modules - greatly enhanced sales order and inventory systems; resizable screens and free text searching; a new inquiry capability in AR and AP; a quick-entry system for payroll; and cross-period and cross-year financial statements in the general ledger.

A new grant-tracking system is particularly notable, since many nonprofit organizations rely on government and private grants for funding. The CYMA grant-tracking system was specifically designed around the specification for electronic submission of grant reports created by the National Association of State Auditors, Treasurers and Controllers.

CYMA IV Not-For-Profit Edition is geared to the government agency or nonprofit seeking a strong accounting foundation and reporting functionality for an attractive price. Aimed at mid-range organizations, CYMA IV is a sophisticated solution that has been tailored to the specific needs of nonprofits and their managers.

FASS V. 6.0

The Fund Accounting Software Series (FASS) is a transaction-oriented accounting system designed to handle the fund accounting and reporting requirements of nonprofit organizations. Its core advantages for nonprofits are its speed, a flexible and uncomplicated reporting system built into the general ledger, and its tight integration with Microsoft Office.

Integrated modules are offered for multi-fiscal-year project reporting, AR, AP, bank reconciliation, payroll with direct deposit, inventory management, purchase order management, fixed asset management and invoicing. A separate but integrated software program, Donor Records, handles the tasks associated with raising funds and tracking donors. Financial statements comply with FASB 116 and 117, with funds automatically segregated into unrestricted, temporarily restricted and permanently restricted classes, and FASS presents a clear audit trail for accountability.

OLE integration with Microsoft Office is an important asset of the FASS system. It allows for additional formatting options, and is particularly useful for presentations to outside accountants or directors who may be more comfortable with the format of Office programs.

New in Version 6.0 are additional options for payroll services, including direct deposit; substantial enhancements to the donor records module; enhancements to the system manager, general ledger and project management modules, including a new capability to enter data via spreadsheet; and improvements to the AP module.

A mid-range accounting solution for nonprofits, Executive Data System's FASS is ideal for organizations that wish to spend more time fundraising and less time bookkeeping. Its functionality, speed and flexibility in data entry and output make this a strong choice both for new nonprofits and those that wish to migrate to a more robust accounting solution.

Kintera FundWare 7.4

Kintera FundWare unites accounting, budgeting and reporting tools with an impeccable audit trail and clearly defined internal controls in a modular suite designed to provide nonprofits with better management information and accountability tools.

The base package includes the general ledger and budgeting tools, but Kintera backs this with an impressive array of additional modules for AP/purchase orders, AR, advanced financial reporting, advanced printer control, advanced security, allocation management, bank reconciliation, cash receipts, electronic time sheets, payroll, project/grant management, report management, and Web reporting for enhanced collaboration and report sharing. Other modules support data interpretation; import and export, including an iData utility for quick access to financial data; ADP to FundWare import; an F9 reporting tool that provides a real-time data extraction link between FundWare and Excel; and the FundWare Corridor, a suite of applications, system software, utilities and files designed to provide an ODBC interface to data files.

Since Kintera's acquisition of FundWare 18 months ago, the modules have undergone almost continuous enhancements - including better integration with Kintera Sphere's online fundraising and CRM tools, and a more capable AR/cash receipts functionality. The most recent addition is an enhanced Fixed Assets module, designed to track assets through their full life cycle.

Kintera FundWare was designed to give not-for-profit organizations a modular accounting solution that is fully compliant with FASB and GASB requirements. Its emphasis on an impeccable audit trail and workflow management demonstrate that it is a solution keenly attuned to the evolving needs of nonprofit organizations. Kintera clearly intends to dominate this class of not-for-profit software with a fast, well-crafted and well-integrated set of accounting tools.

Sage MIP Fund Accounting V. 7.0

Winner of the 2005 Campbell Award for best overall in customer satisfaction, Sage MIP Fund Accounting is an accounting solution focused on the specific financial management needs of nonprofit organizations and state and local government organizations that need to track and report on multiple funds across multiple budget periods to meet their reporting requirements and demonstrate easily audited accountability.

Sage MIP Fund Accounting is a highly scalable modular system designed to operate on either the provided MSDE database structure or on SQL Server. Its 18 modules address AP, AR, advanced security, allocations management, bank reconciliation, budgeting, data import and export, direct deposit, electronic funds transfer, electronic requisitions, planning for encumbrances, an "executive view" reporting system, fixed asset management, a forms designer, GASB 34 compliance tools, a general ledger, a grant administration system, a nightshift scheduler, payroll, and purchase orders.

Sage releases upgrades to the software each fall, with the next coming in September, and the recent upgrade to Version 7.0 included an array of new features and ease-of-use improvements. These include new default financial statements, a Form 990 worksheet, allocations improvements, and significant payroll enhancements. In addition, Version 7.0 consolidates the previous versions for small, midsized and large organizations, as well as state and local government agencies, into a single, more flexible offering, eliminating upgrade fees and technical barriers for growth between each product.

Sage MIP Fund Accounting has a strong focus on accountability and management - from its flexible fund accounting and reporting capabilities to its Executive View capabilities in budgeting non-financial data and outcomes. This focus, combined with its scalability and customization features, makes it of special value to national nonprofits and those on a high-growth curve.

Serenic Navigator V. 4.0

Serenic Navigator is a client-server-based software solution that brings powerful and scalable accounting to nonprofit organizations of virtually any size. A Microsoft Dynamics NAV (formerly Navision) custom application, Navigator combines the ease of use of a Windows application with the powerful data analysis and drill-down capabilities of the Microsoft Dynamics technology.

Included in the system are 16 financial applications that cover everything from the general ledger to fixed assets, investment management and grant management. A procurement suite handles purchase orders and requisitions, including Web-based procurement. Additional modules address donor management, reimbursement billing, inventory and warehouse management, workflow and project management, payroll, time and expense sheets, and human resources management.

Navigator is supported by four operational applications - Serenic DonorVision for fundraising, Case Management, Revenue Management for utility billing, and Grant Management.

The most significant new features of Navigator 4.0 are a redesigned and more intuitive graphical interface with the same look and feel as Microsoft Outlook's menu system, and the addition of several industry-specific applications, including time and effort reporting, integrated fundraising/donor management, and utility billing. The latest version also provides advanced Web Services and XML support, which allows for the rapid deployment of Microsoft .Net portal applications for non-accounting users using Microsoft's Sharepoint services.

With its strong accounting underpinnings and Outlook-style interface, Serenic Navigator provides nonprofit organizations with a tightly integrated accounting system that can handle not only the intricacies of SFAS 117 and GASB 34-compliant financial reports, but also provide management support for people, assets, funds, grants and investments.

Its scalability and enterprise-quality capabilities make it highly attractive to national nonprofits, while at the same time its user interface should appeal to small and mid-range organizations.

Dave McClure is the president of Kent Associates, in Alexandria, Va., an independent testing laboratory and evaluation service.

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