Preparing for New Super Circular Audit Requirements

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.

AICPA Survey Points to Big Data, Increased Scrutiny as Big Concerns for CPAs

Although “big data” has been sort of a buzzword in the business world, it’s becoming more and more of a concern for accountants, including those working in the nonprofit sector. In a past blog post we’ve discussed ways nonprofits can leverage big data, and it appears that the issue of analyzing electronic data is only going to become more important in the near future.

According to The 2014 AICPA Survey on International Trends, published July 30, 85% of CPAs in forensic and valuation services cited big data as their biggest concern going forward. This is a shift from past surveys, which typically placed hiring and retention as the top priority.

Data numbers and line graph

The second most pressing concern for respondents of the survey was increased complexity and scrutiny, coming from different sources such as judges and governing bodies.

Although accountants working for NFPs and NGOs were not included in the survey, these two issues—big data and increased complexity and scrutiny—are big concerns for the nonprofit sector. Peter Brinckerhoff, a former Executive Director of two regional nonprofits and author and internationally renowned lecturer on nonprofit management issues, has stated that transparency and accuracy are two of the most pressing issues for nonprofit financial management.

The Importance of Transparency for Nonprofits
In a whitepaper written for Serenic Software, Brinckerhoff states, “Transparency is no longer optional, either inside or outside the organization.”

Nonprofits, if anything, are under more scrutiny than private sector companies. As Brinkerhoff states, your financials are “on public display at many nonprofit watchdog websites, such as GuideStar and Charity Navigator.”

Reporting requirements are getting more complex, as well. Nonprofits work directly with auditors, and they need to stay on top of all state and federal requirements for reporting, including new requirements for IRS forms 990, 990N, and 990T.

“You might as well have a reporting system that facilitates this easily,” writes Brinkerhoff, “not one that you have to spend hours pulling numbers from.”

The Opportunities of Big Data for Nonprofits
Financial information is a huge part of big data, and making sense of it is a unique challenge that CFOs, board members, and accountants must grapple with.

Brinkerhoff writes, “You still can’t manage what you don’t measure, and like it or not, financial measurements are part of the mission outcome.”  Increasingly, the ability to measure and analyze big data will be crucial to a nonprofit’s financial goals and overall mission.

The biggest opportunity for big data is the potential to gather and analyze financial data in real time, and use it to make important organizational decisions.

Only advanced software solutions give your nonprofit organization the capability to both analyze big data and provide the necessary reporting for complete transparency.

 

Photo by: Tom

 

Serenic HCM Achieves Milestone for Microsoft Dynamics Accreditation

Serenic Human Capital Management (HCM), our HR and payroll software, has passed the Software Solution Test for Microsoft Dynamics, which is a major requirement for Certified for Microsoft Dynamics® status.

Certified for Microsoft Dynamics is Microsoft Corp.’s highest standard for partner-developed software. This certification represents a significant step in elevating the standard for partner-developed software solutions for industry-specific business applications. Solutions with a successful software test have demonstrated development quality and compatibility with the Microsoft Dynamics product. Rigorous testing on the solution’s integration with Microsoft Dynamics is completed by an independent third party.

“By requiring the software solution to meet our highest standards, Microsoft is assuring customers that these certified solutions work with their investments in Microsoft Dynamics,” said Doug Kennedy, vice president, Microsoft Dynamics Partners.

Microsoft Dynamics HR and PayrollSerenic HCM is a suite of products including payroll benefits like multiple employer, flexible calculations, automatic accruals, direct deposit, setup wizards, time journal, and much more. HR includes fields to track and analyze user-defined data, position management, recruitment, communication tracking, pay structures, and many other benefits. We are the exclusive developer of HR and payroll products for Microsoft Dynamics NAV.

“Without Serenic it would be nearly impossible – and cost-prohibitive – to pay weekly. Since Serenic HCM is infinitely scalable, it’s not a big deal – just a push of a button and very little effort to pay weekly versus every other week.”
– Rick Drass – Vice President of Information Technology at Tervis Tumbler

“The automation of the payroll process had huge benefits in creating more efficiency, reducing the process time from five days to not more than half a day, and eliminating defects caused by manual processes previously. Payroll now is a fully integrated application within our ERP system.”
– Frida Farah – Corporate Services Director for Breakfast & Co.

If interested in reading more, check out our whitepaper for ways to address your payroll needs and manage the process yourself vs. outsourcing.

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

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!

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VAR 100 Congratulations & Welcome to New Partners

We want to congratulate several Serenic partners for making the Accounting Today 2014 VAR 100 list! Also, we are happy to welcome two new partners to the Serenic community. They join us in bringing fund accounting software solutions to nonprofits, helping them maximize their resources and focus on their mission.

Accounting Today’s 2014 VAR 100
Top VARS recognized

Every year, Accounting Today publishes a ranking of the top 100 resellers in the industry. A select list of ERP VARS are recognized based on revenue and staff growth. We want to congratulate the following Serenic partners who were honored:

  • Tribridge- Tampa, Florida
  • Socius – Dublin, Ohio
  • Finley & Cook – Shawnee, Oklahoma
  • AVF Consulting – Baltimore, Maryland

Congratulations, and thank you for helping nonprofits achieve their missions. Here’s to another great year.

Welcome knk Group – Software solution for nonprofit publishers

Serenic and knk Group’s U.S. operation, knk Software, will package their respective products – Serenic Navigator Accounting Solutions and knkPublishing – for customers who operate in the publishing and media industries and require nonprofit financial software. The knk Group has been working with Serenic on joint projects for many years, including its first customer deployment to the U.S. Naval Institute Press in 2007.

With its solution deployed at more than 150 publishing and media companies worldwide, knkPublishing provides planning, editing, advertising, paid content, customer relationship management (CRM), online and offline subscriptions, circulations, memberships, events management, and royalty payments.

knkPublishing is the only Microsoft Dynamics certified software for publishing houses worldwide.

Welcome A. B. Computer Systems – Microsoft Dynamics NAV partner

A. B. Computer Systems, a leading provider of turn-key business management software solutions, will provide Serenic Navigator nonprofit accounting solutions to help organizations further their critical missions efficiently and effectively.

“As a Microsoft Dynamics NAV partner, we started to get more inquiries from nonprofit organizations,and wanted to make sure we are providing these customers with state-of-the-art software and support,” said Ed Avizur, president of A. B. Computer Systems. “Serenic has a reputation for providing excellent software products and related support services specifically for the nonprofit market.”

The company’s experienced, knowledgeable and dedicated consultants and software developers, with a proven implementation methodology, help their customers in the distribution, manufacturing, financial and nonprofit sectors increase productivity, efficiency, market share, customer satisfaction, sales and profits.

Together, we will help more nonprofits have a stronger impact on their critical mission goals with clear visibility and accountability to their donors and constituents.

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Who in Your Nonprofit Should Have Access to Financial Information?

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.

InsideNGO 2014 Annual Member Conference

The annual InsideNGO Conference is right around the corner, and we couldn’t be more excited to exhibit again this year.  We’ll be showcasing our flagship nonprofit accounting software solution for NGOs, Serenic Navigator Enterprise, which continues to gain notoriety among InsideNGO members for its unique functionality designed for global organizations.

We look forward to seeing our long-time customers, as well as meeting new folks doing praiseworthy work around the world.  There’s a few times at this year’s conference where we can catch up:

  • Swing by our booth (number 24) to try your luck at winning a lap-top bag or $150 Visa gift card.
  • Our Vice President of Sales, Chris Stevenson, will be participating as a panelist in the Roundtable, “Financial System RFPs: Content Considerations” for those planning to prepare an RFP for a new financial management system this year. The Roundtable will be on Wednesday, July 30th from 9:30 am to 10:45 am in room 207A.
  • Serenic clients are invited to a Serenic User Group Lunch on Tuesday, July 29th at 12:00 pm in room 306. Let us know how we’re doing, speak with company representatives, and mingle with other Serenic Navigator users. Let us know if you’ll be there by emailing mwier@serenic.com.

There’s no doubt that this year’s conference will be as enjoyable as years past for both attendees and exhibitors. See you in D.C. July 29th through the 31st! For updates on the conference, follow InsideNGO on Twitter:  #INGO2014.

2013 InsideNGO Conference

2013 InsideNGO Conference

Nonprofit Accounting: Plenty to Account For

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

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Support is a Top Priority at Serenic

We survey our clients after each interaction with our support team.  Over the past few months, the ratings for Serenic Support have been increasing, and we’re excited to share the results.  The responses are so close to a perfect score!  We track how each client rates their interaction from a number of perspectives.  They include:Support Top Priority

  • Was the initial response received in a timely manner?
  • Was a resolution for this case reached in a timely manner?
  • Was the technician courteous and professional?
  • Was the technician knowledgeable in the area of the customer’s issue?
  • Was the issue resolved to the customer’s satisfaction?
  • Would the customer recommend Serenic Support to others?

According to Rhonda Shuptrine, Sr. Director of Customer Care, “This team continues to amaze me as they continue to strive for excellence with our customers.”

Customers are quoted as saying…

  • “Sarah is the best.  She always resolves my problems quickly and teaches me a little bit each time so I can better use the software… She is very knowledgeable and creative to solve any issues I have.” – research org
  • “Dave provided exceptional service.  Very speedy response time, much appreciated.”– diocesan org
  • “Barrie was excellent… She is terrific, very helpful, patient and persistent.” – health org
  • “Every support rep I’ve dealt with has been exceptionally helpful and accommodating – often going well above and beyond the original issue to come up with a solution for us.  Most appreciated!” – religious org

At Serenic, we have built a very strong team of resources who are ready and willing to enable our nonprofit and government customers to achieve the utmost efficiency in their day-to-day operations and mission attainment.  We understand that our financial and nonprofit accounting software must do more than provide customers with clear visibility into operations, real-time financial analysis, and robust reporting, it must create an opportunity for them to do more good, to affect more lives, and to make a greater difference. Therefore, we hold ourselves accountable to their success and to all those who benefit from what they do.

Thank you to our support folks. Their hard work is appreciated :).  And thanks to our customers, who make the world a better place!

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The Importance of Listening

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.