Working for a non-profit is a mighty cause, but it can also be a mighty challenge. Compared to accounting peers at for-profit organizations, a non-profit’s budget is much smaller and has less resources to work with. Unfortunately, these aren’t even the biggest challenges that finance professionals at non-profit organizations have to work with.
According to a study by Abila, accountants working for non-profits are spread thin across the organization. They often have their hands deep in multiple departments and may not have a team of accountants to back them up. Basically, non-profit accounting professionals are expected to do more with less.
These are the top four challenges non-profit accountants are facing today, according to the study:
As with most non-profits, employee numbers are small. Most employees are wearing multiple hats in a day’s work. This is true for non-profit accountants, as well. Nearly all of the senior-level survey respondents reported that they are actively involved in the day-to-day activities of the organization. Furthermore, they also reported that they are actively involved in decision making across the entire organization. This is not just in the finance department, but playing a decision making role in operations and human resources, as well.
Freeing up time in the finance department by automating a lot of the tedious jobs like collecting on donation pledging and membership fees allows finance professionals to focus on their other roles too. An automated accounts receivable software can send out reminder emails to donor and members to pay their fees, so you don’t have to.
With such a small budget, many non-profits turn to grants. Grant-providers, however, don’t make the process easy. Often, no year-end is specified for funds and granted money is limited to a certain expense. Non-profit accountants often spend a lot of time tracking which monies go where, which grants are receivable and when the grant can be collected on.
Being able to easily track these grants would free up a lot of time for researching new grants to apply for and increasing the chance of collecting them. The account information and collection communications should all be in one spot on an accounts receivable software, instead of in file folders across the office.
There is no one source of cash flow for non-profits. Money is coming in from many different sources; donors, fundraisers, members, grants, etc. Keeping track of the money from all these different sources can become confusing and difficult. On top of that, the study showed that two of biggest challenges identified by non-profit financial professionals were identifying long-term sustainability and finding new funding sources.
Keeping all of these existing funding sources straight is key to being able to tackle those two big challenges. An accounts receivable software can set automatic alerts to keep you informed of who has paid, who still needs to pay, how many days past due someone is and more.
The most surprising finding in the study was that a majority of non-profit financial professionals said they were least involved with the fundraising and development department. How will the finance department continue to find the long-term sustainability it needs to keep the non-profit afloat if there is no communication with the fundraising department?
Using an automated accounts receivable software for non-profits will fix collaboration and communication between these two departments. The when, why and how of fundraising and money management will be more easily affixed to the non-profit’s mission and develop a clearer vision of the future.
Although automated accounts receivable software may not be the first idea in mind when considering a financial solution for a non-profit organization, it will help to continue and automate cash flow. It can easily be integrated with ERP software and other fund accounting programs, keeping all finance information needed in a non-profit in one place.