Determining the needs of the not-for-profit organization should be considered first and foremost. After all, a small church group could get by using nothing more than a spreadsheet while a larger association such as an animal rescue facility would need a more detailed system for checks and balances.
Things to look for in an accounting software program
Some of the most important attributes in a quality accounting software program for not-for-profits include:
- The ability to track contributions easily. This enables the nonprofit to see which donors are giving the most and how often donations are received.
- Capability of generating end-of-the-year donation statements along with individual summaries, reports, and totals.
- Multiple-user capability.
- Ability to identify the organization's income and expenses so that both amounts can be clearly presented to boards, donors, tax specialists, etc.
- Ability to create custom charts, graphs, lists, etc.
- Some software programs feature an ability to forecast future income and expense needs, but this feature is not necessary for all nonprofits.
- Another feature that is not necessary for all, but is useful, is a software program that can also help generate a business plan for proposals, grants, fundraising, etc.
- Importing feature so old information can be sent over from different applications or systems.
Staying ahead of the game with quality software
It is important to identify what your nonprofit organization needs before purchasing any software. Remember it is better to have too many features than too few. Keeping good records is a solid way for any nonprofit to stay ahead of any financial troubles and provides an easy frame of reference should any problems occur.
Additional things to consider
Needs change depending on the organization. For instance, some charities need a system that can download bank and credit card transactions as well as track online donations.
Payroll management is necessary for some charitable organizations that have a staff comprised of full and part time workers (or a combination of the two). Accounting software that has the capability of running a payroll program is necessary for these establishments.
Printing checks, expense reports, and bills should also be something the accounting software does easily.
If the charity requires the tracking of expenses such as mileage, food, or whatever else, make sure the software purchased has this ability as well to cut down on time spent keeping track of what volunteers and/or employees spend.