Finance and fundraising departments meet and greet at each transaction.
Fundraising connects the transaction to an organization, a household or an individual—and further—needs to track and report on marketing data associated with the transaction. Fundraisers need to make sure that their campaigns for programs are well-funded. Accounting manages each transaction from both a revenue and expense perspective.
Having constituent management and accounting within the same technology will unite these two departments and ensure the long-term success of a nonprofit’s mission. But where should you turn to bridge the gaps between finance and fundraising to prepare your organization’s meaningful work for lift-off?
NetSuite supports all the essential processes of nonprofits within one cloud solution, giving you the ability to centrally manage your entire organization and accelerate your mission.
Is Technology Integration the Final Frontier?
Should you pursue the “best of breed” technology for fundraising and integrate it to the most robust financial reporting solution available? This approach can require the involvement of three costly vendor teams. Often integration tools built into an accounting system are basic and you may require a third-party integrator. With the goal of one-and-done data entry and reports that would satisfy everyone at the board room table, you will be required to integrate fundraising and finance very carefully so that the unique needs of both departments are understood and met.
Data Mapping and Business Process Design
Nonprofits must be able to code and map multiple criteria to each transaction. NetSuite easily handles this requirement, eliminating the need for separate fundraising, accounting and reporting solutions, bringing all business processes together under one roof.
If you select individual technologies, difficult decisions need to be made about which solution will be used for specific business processes. Development and finance will need to talk through a lot of operational detail, potentially changing how things are done in the day-to-day. Since most of us don’t like change, particularly when big ticket items are involved, expect the boat to rock while sailing to the promised land.
If you go with two separate systems for fundraising and accounting, for example Salesforce.com for development, you’ll be required to build-out the solution (i.e., customize and accommodate additional data and business processes within Salesforce).
A pre-build constituent management bundle exists for NetSuite which provides a dashboard for viewing donations, pledges and grants. If you don’t have all you need, NetSuite is also a “development platform” that provides the ability to customize, script and integrate data from external sources using web services.
The choice of an ERP (enterprise resource platform) such as NetSuite allows your organization to use a single system of integrated solutions to automate many back-office functions, going beyond siloes of fundraising software and accounting.
Nonprofits are living in a new era, where donors see themselves as investors looking for proof of an organization’s effectiveness before they contribute. Nonprofits in a sense are pushing back on what constitutes effectiveness, debunking the notion that laurels should be given to organizations with the smallest percentage of administrative and fundraising overhead.
The Overhead Myth, a letter from the CEOs of GuideStar, Charity Navigator and Wise Giving Alliance, has broken new ground by publicly busting the myth of the overhead metric. The letter encourages nonprofit leaders to share reports about the true costs of achieving their missions so that funders and nonprofits can do a better job of resourcing their programs.
Technology used to integrate systems needs a bigger picture than just linking fundraising and finance.
Technology alone is not the answer. A vision of transparency, impact and stewardship of resources is a choice that your board and executive leadership must first make. Ask yourself: What’s most meaningful about the work that we do and how will we track and communicate stewardship and progress toward our goal?
Replace fractured thinking between fundraising, program and finance, and use technology to capture the information needed to accurately communicate where you stand. Up your game and stop using the same tired functional expense pie-charts to demonstrate effectiveness.
Focus on the Big Picture
Financial ratios are not your core accomplishment, fundraising is not your mission, and technology is not the point.
The point is how many meals were delivered to seniors, how many pets got adopted and how many trees got planted. What resources were needed to accomplish these goals? How will you sustain these programs into the future? Reports that monitor, enlighten, steward and strategize are the reports your donors, board and leadership want to see. Take the lead and use technology to track and communicate the big picture.
Our team has a deep bench of CPAs and consultants with expertise in both the nonprofit sector and NetSuite software. If you’d like to learn whether NetSuite could be a fit for your nonprofit, contact us online or give us a call at 410.685.5512 to schedule a demo.