Archive

Archive for the ‘Accounting Tips & Trends’ Category

Automate Processes & Go Paperless with Workflow Management!

October 6th, 2014 No comments

Many of our nonprofit accounting users have found automating processes with workflow management helps them be more efficient and cuts down on paper use.

According to Jerry McGlaughlin, Senior Director of Information Technology Services Planning and Business Management at the American Psychological Association (APA), the IT team knows that after implementing Serenic Navigator, the organization as a whole has a better, up-to-date grasp of its finances, and Serenic Navigator’s built-in workflows are having a big impact. Read more…

Transitioning a Business from For-Profit to Nonprofit

September 24th, 2014 No comments

If your business already has a philanthropic vision, then making the transition to nonprofit status may be a wise move. It’s not as simple as applying for tax-exempt status with the IRS, though. You’ll need to carefully plan your transition, taking great care to complete all the necessary federal, state, and regional requirements.

Start With Your Mission

Before you make the move, you’ll need to decide on an overall mission. A nonprofit organization doesn’t exist to generate profits for owners or shareholders—the main objective is its charitable mission.

Your business may already have certain aspects that qualify as charitable activities. Use this as a starting point, and build your new nonprofit organization around it. You may still be able to use your old company’s name, but the fundamental purpose of your new organization needs to change so that it is centered on a charitable mission.
Read more…

How to Avoid These Common Nonprofit Accounting Mistakes

September 11th, 2014 No comments

Nonprofits are dedicated to pursuing altruistic missions aimed at serving the public, but that doesn’t stop many from falling victim to common accounting mistakes. According to a 2013 study by Jeffrey J. Burks at the University of Notre Dame, nonprofit organizations make almost twice as many accounting errors as for-profit companies of similar size.medium_6757849129

Easily avoided mistakes (such as data entry errors) can derail an entire nonprofit’s mission. An improperly categorized expense or a mismanaged account may attract attention from the IRS and cause donors to lose trust in your organization.

Here’s a list of some of the most common nonprofit accounting mistakes, along with some pointers on how to avoid them.

Data Entry Errors

A misplaced zero can wreak havoc on a financial report. Small errors have a way of coming back to bite you, so make sure every entry is double checked every time. Compare accounts with bank statements and maintain the utmost attention to detail, even if you are using accounting software that does many operations automatically.

Failure to Follow Appropriate Accounting Procedures

Every nonprofit organization, big or small, should have clear and effective accounting procedures that all employees are required to follow to the letter. If any procedures are ignored or followed improperly, it can confuse the IRS and set you up for an audit.

For instance, implementing a single platform for your nonprofit accounting software with automated workflows can ensure that policies on purchasing and expense processing are enforced, while maintaining audit trails.

Lack of a Complete Review Process

Without a robust review process, it’s easier for small mistakes to fall through the cracks. Make sure every accounting transaction is reviewed by a second pair of eyes at the very least.

Relying on Volunteers and Untrained Personnel

Budgeting restrictions can make it difficult to hire professional staff for your nonprofit organization, but accounting is one of the areas where you shouldn’t rely on volunteers or untrained personnel.

Accurate and complete accounting from a professional accountant helps you avoid costly errors. It will also help your fundraising efforts, since donors will be more likely to trust you when you have professional and accurate financial reporting in place.

Improper Categorization of Revenues and Expenses

Unless you categorize every single source of revenue and every expense, it’s difficult to determine how donations and grants are being used. Many donations are restricted, which means they have to be used in for specific purposes. Categorizing all revenues and expenses allows you to show a complete paper trail for all money flowing through your organization.

Losing Track of Petty Cash

For most nonprofit organizations, having some cash on hand is necessary when small expenses pop up (such as buying office supplies as the need arises). However, a petty cash fund needs to be as meticulously monitored as any other expense.

Make sure only a few employees have access to petty cash, that it’s under lock and key at all times, and that you keep receipts for all transactions.

Avoiding These Errors Helps Your Nonprofit Achieve Its Overall Mission

When you avoid simple accounting errors, you help your nonprofit achieve these three objectives: save time and money, help build a relationship of trust with donors, and give managers and board members the information they need to make strategic decisions.

Of course, the ultimate goal is to achieve your organization’s mission, and that is what nonprofit accounting is all about.

Photo courtesy of: 401K

Serenic Recognized as an “Innovator” in Financial Management

September 8th, 2014 No comments

Tribal Government

Vendor Landscape for the Native American Technology Research Center

The Info-Tech Research Group recently released its new Vendor Landscape for the Native American Technology Research Center. We are excited to share that Serenic received high scores and has been recognized as an “Innovator” in the report titled, “Vendor Landscape: Financial Management Solutions.” Serenic is the only software provider to receive an overall “Exemplary” product rating for our nonprofit accounting software, Serenic Navigator. The vendor report helps orgs find the best fit for their needs based on functionality and value for their investment.

The Innovator category identifies software providers that have demonstrated innovative product strengths which act as their competitive advantage in appealing to niche segments such as tribal governments.

Comprehensive Financial Solution for Tribal Orgs

The report notes that Serenic Navigator is a comprehensive financial solution built on Microsoft Dynamics NAV and that, together with our partner Finley and Cook, we bring strong fund accounting, grant management, and GASB compliant reporting tools to tribal organizations like the Muscogee (Creek) Tribal Nation of Indians.

“Tribes looking for a comprehensive solution and a knowledgeable, dedicated vendor should definitely consider Serenic Navigator,” the report states, adding that, “The solution would be particularly useful for any tribes that need flexible accessibility into their solution through the use of Web Client or mobile desktops.”

Info-Tech Research Group Vendor Landscape reports help enterprise IT decision-makers identify a short list of vendors for their IT programs depending on their needs. Included are only those vendors which the Info-Tech Research Group would recommend to their clients. Serenic was one of eight vendors that made the list!

View the full report and share with your colleagues.

The Right Technology Keeps Global Organizations Connected

August 25th, 2014 No comments

Today it seems like we are sometimes over-connected with cell phones, social media, and instant access to news at any time. But believe it or not, there are occasions in today’s world where being connected is still a challenge. Today’s NGOs and multi-national nonprofits must stay connected with people around the world. They often cross geographical, cultural, and political boundaries to reach those in need. They manage people who speak different languages, manage funds in multiple currencies, and manage applications on diverse technical platforms. As they spread their cause globally, these organizations encounter hurdles and difficulties of every sort in an environment of increasing government oversight and shrinking budgets. Staying connected in tough!

This is where the right financial technology helps ease the struggles and allows NFPs and NGOs to focus on their mission at hand. To be efficient, effective and timely, here are ways your accounting software can help you stay connected.

Cloud, Portal or Replication Software Options for Accessing and Sharing

You must have access to your accounting system despite unreliable internet, insufficient bandwidth, or an intermittent power supply. In a global solution, look for cloud deployments, access to the internet via a portal or terminal services, or data replication between remote and central systems. This allows for sharing information, for instance when field representatives need to update grant administrators at the central office.

fund accounting for NGOs

Currencies

In every global organization, there is constant movement of funds from the grant manager at the central office to the field offices to the recipient. As the funds move across borders, they are likely to change currencies. A grant might be awarded in US dollars then sent out to regional country offices in Euros where it is used to purchase food with Kenyan Shillings. Your system should automatically convert funds from one currency to another at each step in the process. You need a system that can easily track, manage, and analyze funds in multiple currencies across each of the different entities.

Languages

At the same time funds are flowing downstream, information has to flow upstream. Details about services provided, funds expended, and constituents served must find their way from the field offices up to the central office on a timely basis. Workstations should be configurable with language options so two people sitting side by side can each access the system in their native language. If you’re not careful, you can quickly end up turning your organization into a virtual tower of Babel – where no one knows if the organization is moving in the right direction.

Data Monitoring

Regular data monitoring will help you make better decisions. You’ll want users to have appropriate access depending on their position in the central office, a regional office, or the field. Look for the ability to manage transactions, track awards and grants, allocate overhead, communicate with others downstream, create financial statements, enter transactions in local language and currency, and report clearly.

The right tools can help even the most widely distributed teams stay connected and work together. They can foster communication and help organizations avoid the roadblocks that can distract them from their mission.

For more detailed examples and diagrams, read a whitepaper for missions on the move!

Preparing for New Super Circular Audit Requirements

August 11th, 2014 No comments

For nonprofits or NGOs that receive federal awards, recent changes to A-133 audit rules take effect later this year. Previously, organizations receiving federal awards exceeding $500,000 included a mandate that the recipient undergoes an A-133 audit. Going forward, that threshold has been raised to $750,000 for audits of fiscal years beginning on or after December 26, 2014, and requires that a single or program-specific audit be conducted.

An audit has one primary requirementRecent changes to A-133 audit rules – provide evidence that the recipient has complied with award requirements and the federal dollars have been utilized as intended. For organizations that wait until the end of the year to create or accumulate records in support of their compliance efforts, preparing for the audit can be a nightmare.

To make preparation simpler, we recommend the following:

  • Take a proactive approach.
  • Apply a strong combination of formalized policy and procedure guidelines.
  • Rely on a solid software toolset for help in streamlining business processes.
  • Keep detailed documentation.

By taking this advice, we feel organizations can minimize the effort gathering evidence for the auditor and spend their time focusing on their mission.

Dealing with the federal government is complicated enough. Award recipients needn’t be in a position where the cost of compliance exceeds the value of the reward. With the right software, staying compliant doesn’t have to mean increasingly complicated business processes. When used properly, it can streamline the process by helping centralize information, safeguard assets, ensure appropriate approvals and adequate documentation for expenditures, and automate reporting even in the funder’s required format.

To read a complete whitepaper on audit complications and streamlining compliance with audit rules, check out our whitepaper online.

How Can Financial Software Help Increase Your Organization’s Productivity?

July 30th, 2014 No comments

In a world of technology that is constantly changing and developing, it can be a bit intimidating to try new technology.  But, with the help of nonprofit financial software, your organization can become even more productive.

Here are a few of the most important ways that financial software can increase your productivity.

Automation decreases problemsAutomate Processes That are Currently Manual

One of the best things financial software can do for your nonprofit, NGO or governmental organization is simply to automate the processes you already use.  With software taking care of some basic processes, you can depend on greater efficiency, and redirect your manpower to other more intricate processes.

Minimize Error and Maximize Accuracy

Many of the biggest problems in organizations are due to human error.  With financial software you can greatly decrease disparate systems that often require duplicate entry, thereby ensuring the accuracy of all entries.  The automated processes are designed to eliminate errors and increase overall success and efficiency.

Include Secure Controls

With new automation, many nonprofits and board members worry about information security.  But with user-based rules, employees only have access to information most relevant to their work responsibilities – customized based on job function.

That means that all of your financial information will be secure and that your records will only be accessed by those with permission.  This will not only leave you with a record of access but also give your organization a sense of security for the safety of your financial data.

Easy Access All of the Time

Another benefit of financial software is that it can provide easy access to approved employees whenever they need it.  Instead of needing to look through stacks of physical documents, your employees will be able to access necessary records via a web browser or from the comfort of their own computers.

This will increase efficiency by cutting down on the time spent searching for appropriate records, giving them access to enter and update data, and ultimately providing more time to produce quality work.

Now is the Time

The transition to sophisticated financial software can start now.   So don’t wait for a new day to start backing up your information on a computer, start today and see what your new financial software can do for you!

Categories: Accounting Tips & Trends, Nonprofit Tags:

Who in Your Nonprofit Should Have Access to Financial Information?

July 23rd, 2014 No comments

The finances of a nonprofit organization can range in complexity from simple donations-based accounting to an organization that uses many grants and government funding.

Determining who should have access to financial information within your nonprofit organization depends largely on how complex your financing is, but three basic financial functions should always be present: clerical, operational, and strategic. As long as you have staff for all three of these functions, you should be able to have adequate control over your nonprofit’s finances.

Clerical Support Staff

Your nonprofit should have people who handle the organizational and clerical aspects of accounting. Basically, clerical staff assists by filing, copying, and making deposits. They provide support and take care of much of the mundane tasks necessary for meticulous bookkeeping. Only a basic knowledge of accounting principles is required, but attention to detail is crucial.

Operational StaffKey to worldwide financials for NFPs

Operational staff takes care of a wider range of functions, including compiling financial statements and paying bills. This requires a greater understanding of nonprofit accounting, and therefore staff should have relevant experience managing grants and working for nonprofits.

Strategic Staff

Finally, strategic staff will guide the development of your nonprofit’s financial goals. This will include analytics and planning, and would require a high level of knowledge and skills about accounting and many years of experience.

It’s possible to cover all three of these areas without hiring a large full-time staff. Many smaller nonprofits will hire financial consultants to work on a part-time basis. You can also use accounting software, which takes much of the burden off of the clerical and operational staff, as well as helping with the analytics and planning of the strategic staff.

Whether your staff is large or small, your finances need to be clearly mapped out. Executives must have complete control over the financial functions of the organization. The people who have access to financial information within your organization should be part of your overall accounting strategy, either working in the clerical, operational, or strategic functions.

Nonprofit Accounting: Plenty to Account For

July 16th, 2014 No comments

Nonprofit organizations add value to their communities and the world in ways that many for-profits cannot because they are focused on serving and taking care of the needs of society. While their success often comes from volunteer workers, it also comes from the effective use of donations and related funding. So, of course, accounting for the expenses and funding coming into your organization is crucial for its success. There are two critical questions to keep in mind when you are accounting for a nonprofit.

What is the Primary Mission?

What is the main reason your NFP does what it does? As the name implies, nonprofits are not built with the goal of earning a profit. That’s one of the reasons these organizations receive special tax treatment from the government. So what do you look for instead when accounting for your nonprofit organization? Because your primary mission isn’t to produce a profit, your NFP should have a secondary mission of keeping revenue above expenses, which seems simple, but many nonprofits fail at this and find themselves operating in the red within just a few years.

Crucial aspects to a superb financial statement

What is in Your Financial Statements?

When you are accounting for a nonprofit, you will notice that there are some distinct differences in the financial statements that are used.  While a for-profit will use balance sheets, income statements, cash flow, and statements of stockholders’ equity, a nonprofit will use statements of activities, expenses, and financial position to judge where they are in relation to their goals. These different metrics really require a different set of financial tools for tracking and reporting.

How Serenic Navigator Can Help

Fortunately, Serenic Software has been working with nonprofit organizations like yours for over 15 years to provide an efficient way to manage all the accounting details specific to the NFP and public sector world. Serenic can improve the efficiency of any nonprofit by keeping them within compliance of grant requirements, cutting down on spending for projects, reducing labor costs, and simplifying the auditing process.

How it Works

Serenic Navigator is nonprofit accounting software that works alongside your business processes and mission to organize, simplify, and ultimately streamline all of your fund accounting. This integrated approach enables you to provide complete transparency and remain accountable in order to secure future funding. This also keeps organizations aware of where they are in relation to their milestones and goals, so you are always tracking your secondary mission while remaining focused on your primary one.

If you are looking for a way to improve the accountability and management of your funding, see why so many other nonprofits are choosing to simplify with Serenic Navigator.

Photo by Sam

Categories: Accounting Tips & Trends, Nonprofit Tags:

The Importance of Listening

July 7th, 2014 No comments

Every day, I speak with nonprofit organizations about their processes, their challenges, and their complaints as they navigate the complex world that is fund accounting. I hear them, but some days I worry that I’m not really listening. It’s a challenge that I think we all face at one time or another – conflicting priorities, repeated conversations, focusing on the negatives, all conspiring to allow people’s words to swirl around us without truly finding fertile ground.

When your job is to really listen to what the client or prospect is telling you, not just hear the words but actually listen to the underlying challenges and find solutions … well, you can’t tune out. And it’s something I’m passionate about – our clients are passionate about helping others according to their mission, while I’m passionate about helping them.

The most enjoyable time in my job is that point when I find a solution in my software that will save a client time or money, or both. When they make that connection between what Serenic Navigator Express or Essentials can do and what they’ve been trying to do in an accounting program designed for for-profit organizations or with Excel spreadsheets. Or when we design new accounting software features as we’ve been doing for the last several months.

Recently, we were working closely with several clients, talking about the tasks that were taking their time and the difficulties they were having. And from those conversations, we’ve added a memorized reporting feature that will help our clients every single day, one that will make the software even more useful to power users and casual users, alike. We designed it over a matter of days and with the power of a cloud solution, our clients were using it within a week.

Memorized reports

Other features include expanding the power of nonprofit reporting with columns that filter by both different dates and account ranges.

Filter by dates and account ranges

And I got to feel that feeling, when I know that I’ve not just heard my clients, but actually listened to what they need and translated that into business requirements and computer code.

Some days, my job is like magic.