Archive for the ‘Accounting Tips & Trends’ Category

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.

7 Steps to Avoid Buying the Wrong Accounting Software

June 30th, 2014 No comments

You’ve been tasked with finding new nonprofit accounting software for the organization’s leadership to evaluate. Where do you start? How do you find the financial software that will be the best fit for your organization?Avoid Buying the Wrong Software

We get that question often, so we’ve created an infographic to help guide you through the process. “7 Steps to Avoid Buying the Wrong Software” will help you take the right path, leading you to the best software to serve your nonprofit and governmental needs. The infographic provides a sytematic approach to help your prepare and know what to expect.

At Serenic Software, we work with nonprofits like yours to help them manage financials and foster better relationships with your donors and volunteers. We know how important it is for you to find the software that will:

  • Support your strategic initiatives,
  • Improve workflows across departments,
  • Provide a clear return on investment,
  • Be easy for users to learn and adopt.

At Serenic, we are dedicated to empowering nonprofits and government agencies to achieve their missions more effectively. Yes, we would like you to choose our software, but we genuinely want you to find the best solution for your unique situation.

Don’t miss any of these key steps in your software search, download the infographic to share with your director and board. Or request a free requirements template to help in your search!

7 Things Your Nonprofit Accounting & Reporting System Needs

June 23rd, 2014 No comments

If you want to ramp up your financial reporting system, or are thinking of upgrading, do your homework! Be sure to talk to current users, ask peer organizations what they are using, and consult with your auditor. Make sure that any system you invest in has at least the following capabilities, and that those capabilities can be used easily.
7 Things Your Nonprofit Accounting & Reporting System Needs

  1. Meets all the reporting requirements of the IRS 990, 990N, and 990T. No sense in not being able to turn these documents out easily. The same caution goes for your state reporting.
  2. Can provide the needed information to your auditor. The less time the auditors have to spend digging out what they need, the lower your audit bill should be.
  3. Can report flexibly to different audiences. Most board members don’t want to dig through a 20 page printout. Most staff don’t need to. The ability to differentiate is key. Also, graphs and charts are really important for some users. This capability should be built in, and not require exporting to a spreadsheet.
  4. Can report in real time. Waiting to the end of the month is just so….last century, and can leave you wanting at times when you need to decide now.
  5. Can back out cost shifting. You need to make your resource allocation decisions based on real data. And, cost shifting situations can, over time, get so complicated, that you do not want to require some poor staff person to do this by hand.
  6. Can generate reports for online review. Mostly this means that the reporting system can develop documents in .pdf format, but check with your webmaster to make sure that this is easy, and easily updated. If you have a board portal on your website and can integrate the financial reporting with that, all the better.
  7. Can easily integrate with other database and reporting systems. For example, your financial system should be able to connect seamlessly with your grant management and donor tracking system.

Good financial reporting is a key part of good stewardship. More than ever it is essential to have the ability to be responsive to financial inquiry, whether from inside or outside your nonprofit. Make sure you have the right tool for the job.

Read more in our case study written by Peter Brinkerhoff.

Tips to Calculate Financial ROI & Evaluate Mission ROI

June 18th, 2014 No comments

Remember that, as a nonprofit, you need to look at not only Financial ROI, but also Mission ROI. These two different returns are closely related. If a particular service is contributing a great deal toward the success of the mission, it may not be essential for it to make money. Conversely, if a service is not contributing directly to the success of the mission, it better be a profit center. A good example of the latter kind of service for most nonprofits might be a fundraising event that does not provide services directly to constituents, but does bring in more funds than it spends and contributes those excess funds toward the direct servicing of constituents.

Here’s a visual demonstration of this concept:

Tips to Calculate Financial ROI & Evaluate Mission ROI

That said, you need accurate numbers to measure financial ROI, and here most nonprofits are behind the curve due to what’s called “cost-shifting.”

Cost-shifting arises when one funder says they’ll pay for direct costs, but not indirect, on a particular project. So, you shift the indirect costs out to a different cost center. Another funder pays for 50% of the CEO’s time, and so you move her expenses there, even if she really spends 90% of her time on the project for a while. After 10 different funders weigh in with their particular reporting needs, the cost picture is so muddled, that you can’t really tell what your real costs are, unless you back out the adjustments.

Can your reporting system do that? Can it tell you what a particular service or grant is really costing you?  Can it track the source of funding separate from the program cost, while still allocating to the appropriate funding sources?  Without that information the staff and board can’t make an informed stewardship decision. In addition, this information needs to be available often with greater frequency than just monthly. Doing the homework now on your ability to quickly respond in a prudent fashion is key.

Read more in our case study written by Peter Brinkerhoff.

Allocations – What Are They Costing Your Organization?

June 9th, 2014 No comments

Recently, we started tracking how much time it takes nonprofits and government organizations to allocate their expenses to the appropriate fund and/or dimension (project, program, department, etc) at the end of the month. The initial numbers are quite high and the cost to the organization is quite shocking.

Here at Serenic, we learned long ago that the best way to “empower your mission” is to reduce the effort spent in the back office managing manual spreadsheets and making sure more effort can be focused on your organization’s mission. Since we are in the business of building financial and accounting software for nonprofits and governments, it’s appropriate that we built a solution, “Batch Allocations,” that eliminates the effort needed for this task. We have nonprofit and government clients running our standard “Line Allocations,” however, when they need to perform complex matrix math calculations, they use our Batch Allocations. These allow them to completely eliminate their spreadsheets. Here is a relatively simple scenario.
Read more…

Why the Quality of Your NFP’s Financial Reporting is Critical

May 19th, 2014 No comments

Here are 5 reasons why the quality of your nonprofit accounting software’s financial reporting is critical to your mission, ensuring resources are not wasted:  Quality of Financial Reporting

1. It’s Still Best Practice

Good financial reporting is still a best practice and a key expectation of both large funders and small donors alike. It bears noting that donors are increasingly sophisticated about your financials. They know how to find your 990s, examine your costs of fund raising, take a look at your balance sheet and net revenues. They expect you to follow best practices in this area. If you don’t have solid, dependable reporting and current numbers both funders and donors will question your ability to manage your organization well, and to use their investment in you (their donation) to the best mission outcome possible. Remember, donors have tons of choices of great missions to fund. Why would they invest in a weak, poorly run organization? (More online)

2. The Board Is More Deliberate Than Ever
Your board members are the fiduciaries of your nonprofit and are responsible if things go off the rails.  Having good financial reporting that they can both depend on and access quickly is crucial.
Read more…