Though you wouldn't know it from the software, there are serious changes underway in the market for nonprofit accounting solutions.The software itself has shown only small, incremental improvements in the past year, largely because 2006 was a year of heavy development and major upgrades for most of the major packages. But in the not-for-profit sector, a number of issue are stirring:

* Budgeting and forecasting are becoming mission-critical. The uncertainty of cash flow and the need for accountability have come together to increase the need for more sophisticated budgeting tools.

A Competition has become fierce. In the post-tsunami, post-Katrina world, many nonprofits are waking to find their key donors being pulled away, donations tightening and membership dropping. The competition for members, donors and even core missions is becoming tighter, requiring NFP organizations to do a better job of managing resources and selling themselves to the public.

* The field for nonprofit software solutions is more crowded. There has been little of the consolidation that has hit other segments of the accounting software industry, so even this roundup does not cover the whole breadth of the marketplace. But with more companies chasing fewer dollars, that consolidation will occur sooner or later.

* The NFP sector is going high tech. Today, the nonprofit or government agency that doesn't have a compelling Web site, easy desktop integration and advanced communications tools - from blogs to instant messaging - will simple get lost in the shuffle. Savvy NFPs are making the jump to light speed where technology is concerned, and with good reason.

With all the changes afoot, it is reassuring to see that the majority of software vendors are already well-positioned for the future, with advanced tool sets and capabilities to meet the demands of their NFP clients - and none more so than the nine presented for 2007.

ACCUFUND ACCOUNTING SUITE V. 3.05

AccuFund is a scalable, mid-range Windows-based product aimed at nonprofit, government and municipal accounting departments. Offering a consistent user interface across a complete spectrum of modules, AccuFund Accounting Suite offers strong financial reporting capabilities and budgeting tools that are helping nonprofits keep pace with demands for greater accountability and management decision support.

Core products included in the suite are the general ledger, accounts payable, cash receipts, bank reconciliation, a financial report writer, import/export functions, user security, and a report and forms designer. Additional modules are available for accounts receivable, purchasing, electronic requisitions, payroll, human resources, employee time entry, allocation management, client accounting, budget development, grants management, fixed assets and executive query/remote access. Additionally, AccuFund offers separate programs for Financial Accounting Standards Board/Governmental Accounting Standards Board reporting and endowment reporting, as well as specialized modules for government clients.

Enhancements introduced with Versions 3.04 and 3.05 include a budget development module for budget entry and approval processes; a client-tracking module to support tracking of clients receiving services for which the agency is billed or bills third parties; a grants management module with advanced tracking for dates, contacts and other information; an electronic requisitions module for rule-based reviews; and dollar-based purchase orders for contract and blanket orders.

AccuFund is a stable accounting suite that offers both flexibility and a low total cost of ownership, allowing it to offer a complete package that is within the reach of smaller nonprofits and government agencies. This flexibility and cost structure - due to be further enhanced in the near future with the introduction of a hosted application service provider version priced at under $300 per month for the core suite - has made AccuFund popular with a wide range of nonprofits that require advanced accounting capabilities in a cost-effective package.

CMS FUND SUITE V. 11.1

The Cougar Mountain Fund Suite is designed specifically for the nonprofit or government organization that manages multiple funds across multiple fund years, with allocation of costs across funds. Long a popular choice for smaller organizations, the CMS strategy of strong accounting functionality with a growing list of expansion modules is building a strong following in the mid-range nonprofit markets as well.

The suite includes modules for GL, AP, purchase orders, bank reconciliation and payroll, plus a universal bridge to transfer data into the accounting program. Additional enhancements include a revenue center to manage order entry; point-of-sale 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 general ledger report generator.

Version 11.1 was designed to enhance nonprofits' 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 are expanded search options within the audit trail, and several key reports to help users quickly find specific entries by amount, user ID or batch.

While the CMS Fund Accounting Suite doesn't have all of the bells and whistles of a high-end package - it could use stronger budgeting tools, for example - it does offer an inexpensive way for smaller nonprofits to get better accounting support with a package that they can afford. And it then offers a migration path to the even-stronger suite of products that the organization will need as it grows. This is a level of scalability not matched by most of its competitors, and is worthy of attention.

CYMA IV NOT-FOR-PROFIT EDITION V. 9.2

Cyma IV Not-For-Profit Edition is a specialized version of Cyma's business accounting software developed specifically for local nonprofits such as charities, churches, local government agencies and hospices. Featuring a strong accounting foundation, the Cyma NFP Edition provides grant-tracking functionality, fund-balancing features, out-of-the-box FASB 117-compliant financial statements and customizable accounts.

The accounting system is modular and offers a general ledger, AP, AR, bank reconciliation, job costing, inventory control, payroll and purchase order modules. The 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.

The updated Version 9.2 primarily offers technical corrections, with few major enhancements due to the stability of the product. It does provide for updated 2007 tax tables and a Form 941 for 2007. The addition of the grant-tracking system in 2005 remains notable because of the number of nonprofits that 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 designed to be solid yet affordable. That is of obvious value to smaller nonprofits, but the powerful features and commitment to the needs of nonprofits will make it attractive to mid-range charities and organizations as well.

THE FINANCIAL EDGE V. 7.7

Blackbaud's Financial Edge is a stable and well-organized accounting system that continues to focus on the critical areas of management decision support and exceptional audit/reporting capabilities for donors, donations and public accountability.

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, 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 powerful and flexible reporting system provides management with timely reports on the organization's overall health, as well as specific programs and initiatives. 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.

Version 7.7 is an incremental upgrade geared toward enhancing grant-record and activity tracking with query, export and report filters. It also expands student billing and accounts receivable with integrated transaction query and export; the integration of the grants module with the GL and AR; security enhancements, including encryption of personal data; and enhancement of project financial statements.

The Financial Edge is about ensuring accountability. Its strong and flexible fund accounting system is combined with advanced reporting capabilities and precise tracking of projects, budgets, grants and endowments in a package that is nonetheless easy to navigate and use. The Financial Edge remains one of the premier accounting systems for nonprofits in the mid-range and above.

KINTERA FUNDWARE V. 7.40

Kintera FundWare offers strong and flexible account tools in a modular suite that continues to evolve both in depth of functions and in its commitment to budgeting and reporting.

This modular approach allows Kintera to craft packages tailored to specific types of nonprofits, including educational foundations, local governments, human services organizations, mental health organizations, Native American organizations, workforce development organizations and youth development organizations.

The core systems for each package include a GL, AP and the F9 report writer. Other types of nonprofits are accommodated by the use of modules for 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 provide support for data interpretation, import and export, including an iData utility for quick access to financial data; ADP to FundWare import; and the FundWare Corridor, a suite of applications, system software, utilities and files designed to provide an ODBC interface to data files.

Recent enhancements to FundWare have focused on better and timelier reporting, better budgeting and control tools, and more effective management of cash flow. These include easier integration and customization through Kintera's API Web Services; enhanced reporting and forms management through support for repetitive billing, cross-fiscal year reporting, and full integration for checks and back reconciliation; accurate inventory tracking; convenient remote access; improved billing support for time and expenses; and additional accounts receivable/cash receivables functionality and customization.

Kintera is also expanding its core programs in 2007 and 2008 to include not only a GL and accounts payable, but also project/job accounting, accounts receivable, cash management and expanded reporting.

Kintera FundWare keeps pace with changes in the nonprofit environment better than any other package evaluated - moving nimbly to add budgeting support and stronger reporting as those become a priority for nonprofits. It does this without sacrificing its core accounting functionality, and at a price point that demonstrates a clear value for the full range of nonprofit types and sizes.

QUICKBOOKS 2007 PREMIER NONPROFIT EDITION

The QuickBooks Premier Nonprofit Edition is a version of QuickBooks that has been pre-configured for the nonprofit environment, with its own chart of accounts, templates and reports, plus donor and vendor centers that allow for better relationship management with key partners.

Though directed to the needs of nonprofits, the core of the software is QuickBooks Premier Edition, aimed at growing businesses that need advanced tracking, forecasting and planning support. It also offers more sophisticated inventory tools and remote access to data. In the most recent version for 2007, the software features improved set-up support, better form customization, a new search capability, and auto-classification of the most frequently entered business expenses. It also offers enhancements to the customer, vendor, employee and donor centers, and provides an optional payroll center.

The QuickBooks software integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Word and Excel to facilitate information sharing and data manipulation. Synchronization with Microsoft Outlook facilitates contact management and group calendaring, while the QuickBooks community of developers offers more than 450 other industry-specific add-ons and modules.

The QuickBooks Premier Nonprofit Edition is the high-capability/low-cost leader in this field, offering a wealth of functionality starting at just $399.95. With the familiar QB interface and substantial customization capabilities, it is a package with strong appeal for small to mid-range nonprofits that aspire to grow into more substantial enterprises.

SAGE MIP FUND ACCOUNTING V. 8.0

Sage MIP Fund Accounting is an accounting solution focused on the specific financial management requirements of nonprofit organizations for tracking and reporting 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 accounting system designed to operate on either the provided MSDE database or on SQL Server. The solution's 18 modules address AP, AR, advanced security, allocations management, bank reconciliation, budgeting, data import and export, direct deposit of payroll, electronic funds transfer, electronic requisitions, planning for encumbrances, an "executive view" reporting system, fixed-asset management, a forms designer, GASB 34 compliance tools, a GL, a grant administration system, a nightshift scheduler, payroll and purchase orders.

New in Version 8.0, which was released last fall, are upgraded internal controls for purchase orders and receiving, and three new modules for inventory control, sales order entry and multi-currency support.

As befits a leading accounting solution for nonprofits, Sage MIP Fund Accounting focuses on the critical areas of accountability, management decision support, and budget management. These capabilities are extended through other programs for fundraising and endowment management, providing a balanced, scalable management solution.

SERENIC NAVIGATOR V. 4.0

Serenic Navigator is a Microsoft Dynamics (formerly Navision) custom application that combines the ease of use of a Windows application to take advantage of the 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 management; workflow and project management; payroll, time and expense sheets; and human resources management.

Navigator is supported by four applications - Serenic DonorVision for fundraising, Serenic CommunityCare for case management, revenue management for utility billing, and grant management. A new addition for faith-based nonprofits, Serenic MinistryView, was released in March of this year.

The most significant new features of Navigator 4.0 are a redesigned and more intuitive graphical interface with the same look and feel as 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.

Serenic Navigator provides 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 its user interface and user-based pricing should appeal to small and mid-range organizations.

TRAVERSE NOT-FOR-PROFIT V. 10.5

Traverse has gained a solid reputation in the middle and enterprise markets for its open source code and advanced features for customization and scalability. A series of modules that are configured for each client, Traverse NFP's core benefits are its built-in financial analytics and its seamless integration with Microsoft Office applications.

A system manager offers simplified set-up and access to the integrated applications of the GL, AP, AR, multicurrency, payroll, enhanced payroll tax reporting, bank reconciliation, direct deposit and fixed assets. In addition, Traverse offers advanced reporting capabilities and specialized solutions for nonprofits, including the ability to track restricted, temporarily restricted and unrestricted funds.

Traverse NFP includes FASB 117 reporting; cross-fiscal-year reporting; and tracking of grants and programs/special projects across multiple fiscal years; while Version 10.5 adds an unlimited number of general ledger budgets and forecasts. Traverse NFP also features importing capabilities from ADP Payroll, Raiser's Edge, Donor Perfect, Paradigm Fundraising and other software packages.

Traverse NFP is a sharp, serious set of accounting and nonprofit tools that blend the sophistication of mix-and-match building blocks with the flexibility and usability of a custom accounting system. The expansion of its budgeting tools and its no-nonsense pricing make it an accounting system worthy of consideration.

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

Vendor Information

AccuFund Accounting Suite V. 3.05

AccuFund Inc.

400 Hillside Ave.

Needham, Mass. 02494

(781) 433-0233

www.accufund.com

Pricing: Standard, single user - starts at $2,995; three users - starts at $6,495. Additional modules - from $1,000 and $2,500 each. Professional Edition - approx. 20 percent more.

CMS Fund Suite V. 11.1

Cougar Mountain Software

7180 Potomac Dr.

Boise, Idaho 83704

(800) 388-3038

www.cougarmtn.com

Pricing: Single user - $3,838.

Cyma IV Not-For-Profit Edition V. 9.2

Cyma Systems Inc.

2330 West University Dr., Ste. 7

Tempe, Ariz. 85281

(800) 292-2962

www.cyma.com

Pricing: Modules - $595 each (payroll module is $595 to $995, depending on number of employees). Additional users - $595 each.

The Financial Edge V. 7.7

Blackbaud Inc.

2000 Daniel Island Dr.

Charleston, S.C. 29492

(800) 443-9441

www.blackbaud.com

Pricing: Contact vendor.

Kintera Fundware V. 7.40

Kintera Inc.

9605 Scranton Rd., Ste. 200

San Diego, Calif. 92121

(866) 546-8372

www.kintera.com

Pricing: Pro Edition - modules, $1,295 to $2,395; user licenses, $595 to $695. Enterprise Edition - modules, $1,595 to $3,995; user licenses, $975 to $1,295.

QuickBooks 2007 Premier Nonprofit Edition

Intuit Inc.

2632 Marine Way

Mountain View, Calif. 94043

(866) 379-6635

www.quickbooksenterprise.com

Pricing: Single user - starts at $399.95; five-user edition - $1,499.95.

Sage MIP Fund Accounting V. 8.0

Sage Software/Sage Nonprofit Solutions

12301 Research Blvd., Building IV, Ste. 350

Austin, Texas 78759

(866) 831-0615

www.sagenonprofit.com

Pricing: Starts at $2,995.

Serenic Navigator V. 4.0

Serenic Corp.

7175 W. Jefferson Ave., Ste. 2500

Lakewood, Colo. 80235

(877) 737-3642

www.serenic.com

Pricing: Business Essentials (basic suite) - starts at $3,000 per user. Advanced Management suite - $6,000 per user.

Traverse Not-For-Profit V. 10.5

Open Systems Inc.

4301 Dean Lakes Blvd.

Shakopee, Minn. 55379

(800) 328-2276

www.osas.com

Pricing: Starts at $500 per module.

Budget Maestro V. 5.8

Centage Corp.

190 North Main St.

Natick, Mass. 01760

(800) 366-5111

www.centage.com

Pricing: Single User Desktop Edition - $3,995. Small Business Edition (one to five users) - $9,995. Enterprise Edition (one to 10 users) - $15,995.

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