Why Automation Matters

How Automation Can Help Nonprofits

Many nonprofits spend years relying on manual data entry, spreadsheets, and basic financial tools like QuickBooks. Why? Because those processes work…at least at first.

 

As your organization grows, you might find that the time you’re spending on repetitive manual tasks is growing too, with month-end closes growing longer and longer, until they seem to take up most of the month. All those tedious, time-consuming activities can lead to a dash to the finish line that causes oversights and errors.

 

To address these challenges, many nonprofits are moving to Sage Intacct and other cloud ERP solutions that automate key processes, including close management, saving time and improving accuracy.

accounting professional using a computer to automate financial functions

Spend More Time on What Matters

The primary benefit of automation is that it saves time—often hours and hours of time every month. When you fully automate your month-end close, for instance, you basically move into a perpetual state of close, so there’s no months-end rush where you’re digging through data and struggling to reconcile budgets.

 

Organizations that automate can take the hours employees formerly spent on mind-numbing manual tasks and instead devote them to bigger-picture, more intellectually demanding activities. That means more time developing and executing new strategies, cultivating donors, improving marketing, and performing other mission-focused work.

 

The Right Numbers Every Time

Another challenge with manual processes is that they are inherently error-prone. Even the most diligent of employees will make the occasional mistake, which can lead to hours or days of confusion. Worst of all, if data entry or other errors aren’t caught right away, they might be seen by donors and board members, which can do real damage to your nonprofit’s reputation.

 

By streamlining and automating data flow and reconciliation steps, you can reduce the risk of human error and gain more confidence in the integrity of your processes. And you can still maintain control over your automated processes—updating and fine-tuning as needed to address changing requirements.

 

Time to Automate?

Insero & Co. can help you decide whether it’s time to automate your processes and, if so, how to make the shift as seamlessly as possible using best-in-class software. Our team has decades of experience helping hundreds of nonprofits through these and other challenges. Contact us to talk about the relationship-based services we provide and how they might help save you time every month.

Key Benefits of Nonprofit Dashboards

Introducing a Better Nonprofit Dashboard

Quick: Do you know your funding mix, balance sheet performance, and the composition of your key revenue sources? If it’s going to take you a while to patch together responses to those questions, it might be time to consider upgrading to a better nonprofit dashboard.

 

One such solution comes from Sage Intacct, the cloud financial solution, which has teamed up with GuideStar, the largest source of nonprofit data, to offer pre-built dashboards that provide real-time insights, automation, and visibility.

nonprofit laptop computer with financial dashboard charts and graphs

Connect Directly to GuideStar

The general public, foundations, other nonprofits, and many others rely on the detailed nonprofit information compiled in GuideStar. And now, with the Sage Intacct Nonprofit Financial Board Book powered by GuideStar, you can connect directly to GuideStar’s benchmarking tool, ensuring that your organization is fully aligned with GuideStar’s recommended metrics and best practices.

 

The Sage Intacct Nonprofit Financial Board Book powered by GuideStar calculates metrics automatically using balance sheet, revenue, and expense data that’s pulled from Sage Intacct, as well as your internal donor management, payroll, and other systems.

 

The pre-built dashboards then display the most important metrics—the same metrics GuideStar uses to demonstrate nonprofits’ financial health and ensure they’re on track to accomplish their missions. At a glance, you can view key metrics such as revenue composition, sources of liquidity, and unrestricted cash, which makes it possible to quickly identify revenue trends, track sustainability metrics, and monitor expenses against program results.

 

Focus More Time on What Matters

Because the Nonprofit Financial Board Book calculates metrics automatically using data from Sage Intacct and your internal software, you don’t have to waste hours on data entry. Instead, staff hours can be devoted to viewing the dashboards, analyzing the results, and making more informed decisions to guide the future of the organization.

 

The dashboards make it easy to view critical revenue, funding, and expense data, and use it to guide planning and strategy. Plus, the convenient visuals of key balance sheet metrics that align with GuideStar recommendations make it possible to manage more proactively. The real-time data can also help you prepare for the future, as you track trends, monitor the stability of your reserves, and communicate revenue opportunities to the board.

 

From the main dashboard, you can also link directly to GuideStar and connect with peer organizations to discuss best practices and how to overcome common challenges.

 

Ready for a Better Dashboard?

There are big benefits to having a better nonprofit dashboard that will give you a comprehensive picture of your financial health. Insero & Co. can help you explore all the benefits of the Sage Intacct Nonprofit Financial Board Book and determine if it’s the right choice for your organization.

 

Contact us to talk about the accounting and financial management services we provide and how we might be able to give you more tools to help you trim costs, improve visibility, and achieve your mission.

When Does Outsourcing Make Sense?

When Should Nonprofits Outsource their Accounting?

In the TV show “The Office,” three desk-bound accountants handle the financial responsibilities for the fictional paper company Dunder Mifflin. Minus the outrageous humor, the show’s portrayal of an in-house team of accountants reflects most people’s vision of how businesses and nonprofits operate. The reality, however, is changing.

 

Nonprofits in particular are increasingly moving away from the in-house model and are outsourcing some or all of their accounting and financial management responsibilities. For many nonprofits, the benefits—particularly the ability to focus employees’ time and energy on mission-critical activities—are too big to ignore.

nonprofit bookkeeper paying invoices and using a calculator considering outsourcing

When and How Much to Outsource

One of the advantages of outsourcing is its flexibility. You can outsource whichever tasks you want for however long you want, as in these common nonprofit scenarios:

 

  • You need help preparing for an audit.
  • An employee has left the office, is out sick, or is on maternity leave, so you need temporary assistance with monthly tasks.
  • Your organization is growing, so you need support while you hire and train new employees.
  • Your in-house team doesn’t have the legal or technical know-how to handle particular challenges, such as reviewing bank reconciliations.

 

Other nonprofits find that it’s more efficient to outsource their entire accounting and financial management operations. It’s often a cost-efficient move, and after the initial transition period, many hours formerly devoted to training and supervision can instead be spent working on essential tasks, such as donor cultivation, that directly affect the top line.

 

Outsourcing Benefits

To decide whether outsourcing is for you, be sure to consider the key benefits of each approach. With the in-house model, you can hire a person who understands your particular needs, establish their daily tasks, and walk into their office anytime a question comes up.

 

Outsourcing offers a variety of other benefits. In addition to the time and cost savings mentioned earlier, you can:

  • Access a team of experienced experts
  • Take advantage of the outsourcing firm’s extensive resources
  • Pay only for the help you need, scaling up and down as needed
  • Get high-level analysis and advice without hiring a C-suite employee

 

Although virtual accounting firms aren’t literally down the hall, it’s worth talking with them about how they will communicate with you and how available they’ll be to answer your questions. Expert advice from the best firms should be only a phone call away.

 

Ready to Outsource?

Insero & Co. has been serving nonprofits—including foundations, arts organizations, environmental groups, and more—for over 20 years. We provide a range of services, including outsourced accounting support (budgeting, grant assistance, month-end close, and more), audit services, assessments and strategic guidance, and employee benefit plan audits.

 

Contact us to learn more about our relationship-based service and how we can free your team to spend less time on finance-related tasks and more time focused on your mission.

 

What is a Virtual Accountant?

Rest assured that despite the “virtual” term, virtual accountants are very real people that provide tangible benefits to businesses and nonprofits. In fact, outsourcing to virtual accounting firms is an increasingly popular option for organizations across the country that want all the expertise of in-house accounting without the costs and hassles of managing employees.

 

How Virtual Accounting Works

Traditionally, businesses and nonprofits have employed in-house professionals to manage all their financial management responsibilities. But increasingly these organizations are outsourcing some or all of these tasks to firms that specialize in providing an array of services, including:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Budgeting
  • Forecasting
  • Cash flow management
  • Financial statements
  • Tax preparation
  • Risk management

 

Virtual accounting firms work closely with each client to identify and deliver the desired services, communicating as needed to discuss particular approaches. Typically, the firm will devote a team of experienced professionals to ensure that each client’s needs are continually met.

 

Why Outsource

Virtual accounting addresses several of the drawbacks of traditional in-house employment:

  • Scalability: When business grows, virtual firms are ready to grow with you—with no need to hire and train new employees.
  • Stability: Employees inevitably leave or retire, often taking proprietary knowledge with them. Virtual accounting firms always have a team of professionals available to meet your needs.
  • Cost: Employing in-house experts is expensive. Virtual accounting firms offer a variety of services that can be less expensive, especially when you factor in the cost of hiring and training new employees.
  • Expertise: Instead of relying on one person or a few to keep pace with all the latest processes, requirements, and tools, you get a team with experience across tax, accounting, audit, and other fields.
  • Focus: Financial management is a necessity for businesses and nonprofits, but it’s not the mission. Outsourcing to virtual accounting firms allows organizations to spend less time on employee management and more time on their mission-critical initiatives.

 

The Insero Difference

Insero & Co. is a premier virtual accounting firm with more than two decades of experience and accountants, consultants, and support staff available to meet the needs of businesses and nonprofits. The firm is large enough to provide the resources clients need, yet small enough to provide relationship-based service built on a foundation of regular communication and personal attention.

Contact us to talk about your current finance and accounting challenges, and how we might be able to help you reduce costs—and headaches—as your organization continues to grow.

How Do You Track Jobs in QuickBooks? Part 2

In this second of a two-part series, we’ll explore how you use the job-related records you’ve created.

Last month, we showed you how to start building a foundation for tracking jobs in QuickBooks. We explained that you can use the software’s jobs tools to track income and expenses for any related group of items and/or services (you can think of them as projects, if you prefer).

We covered three elements of preparing to use “jobs”:
  • Creating job records that you can use in transactions (example: develop promotional materials)
  • Creating item records that can be assigned to jobs (example: website development)
  • Determining whether you’ll need to create a new account in your Chart of Accounts for your job income and expenses. You should consult with us anytime you think it might be necessary to modify the Chart of Accounts.
Using Your Job-Related Records

Now that you’ve recorded the items and jobs themselves, you can start using them in transactions, and eventually track your progress by generating reports.

Let’s say you worked eight hours on website development for your promotion job. You’d open the Employees menu and select Enter Time | Time/Enter Single Activity to open this window:

snapshot of time/enter single activity

You can enter individual, billable activities and assign them to jobs.

In the example above, you’re limited to recording one day’s work on a specific SERVICE ITEM. You’d verify the date and select from the drop-down lists to complete the fields for employee NAME, CUSTOMER:JOB, and SERVICE ITEM. You can either use the timer to time the job or enter the number of hours manually in the DURATION box. Click in the Billable box to create a checkmark and add NOTES if you’d like. The CLASS field is optional; talk to us if you’re not familiar with this feature.

 If you worked on two separate service items on the same day for that CUSTOMER:JOB, you would create two individual records. You can also enter billable activities directly on a timesheet by clicking Employees | Enter Time | Use Weekly Timesheet. Once you select the employee NAME at the top, any single activity(ies) you created that week will appear as individual records, and vice versa.

Writing a check or using a credit card for a job-related purchase that should be billed to the customer? You’d fill out these forms in QuickBooks like you usually do, making sure that you document the items or services by highlighting the Items tab, select the correct CUSTOMER:JOB, and make a checkmark in the BILLABLE? column.

credit card purchase/charge

If you write a check or charge your credit card for purchases that can be billed to a CUSTOMER:JOB, be sure to record it in QuickBooks.

If you’ll be doing some billable driving for your job, you should also be tracking your mileage in QuickBooks. Open the Company menu and select Enter Vehicle Mileage. If you haven’t created a VEHICLE record in QuickBooks, click <Add New> and easily do so. Complete the rest of the fields and save.

Tip: Do you want to see some of your overhead expenses on job costing reports? Create a CUSTOMER:JOB named “Overhead” and assign related costs to it.

Billing the Billables

When the time comes to invoice your customers (Customers | Create Invoices), you’ll see how your careful work in QuickBooks simplifies that task. Open an invoice form and select a CUSTOMER:JOB. If you’ve entered billable items for him or her, this small window will open:

 billable time/costs

When you create an invoice for a CUSTOMER:JOB who has billable time, mileage, or other expenses, QuickBooks can automatically add them.

If you leave the first option checked and click OK, another window will open that lists all of the expenses you’ve marked as billable to the customer, arranged by type. Click in the first column of each expense you want to include and click OK. Your invoice containing those entries will open. Do any editing necessary, and then save it.

Note: You’ll probably notice two fields in the Choose Billable Time and Costs window that refer to Markup. This is an advanced concept that we can explore with you, should you want to charge customers more for expenses you’ve incurred on their behalf.

Related Reports

QuickBooks contains a wide variety of reports related to your work billing customers for jobs. Click Reports in the navigation pane or Windows menu, then Jobs, Time & Mileage to see what’s available. Choose a date range and click Run to see them appear with your own data.

If you’ve never worked with jobs in QuickBooks, we strongly recommend that you let us help you here. There are a lot of moving parts, and you don’t want to miss out on any of your efforts or expenses that are billable.

For more information on our team of Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisors® click here.

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How Do You Track Jobs in QuickBooks? Part 1

If your business divides some of its work into specific jobs and you’re not tracking them individually, you’re missing out on valuable insight.

 Job-costing is not just for contractors. That’s probably the most common understanding of this concept in QuickBooks, but you can also use the software’s jobs tools to track income and expenses for any related group of items and/or services.

Think of them as projects. If you’re an expert in business promotions, for example, you probably have multiple projects going on simultaneously that consist of materials you might need to order for your client (like special paper) and the actual work you do (design, content-creation, etc.). You could also have to track expenses like mileage, and you may price your services by the hour.

QuickBooks can handle all of this. If you’re conscientious about documenting all of the pieces that go into every job, you’ll be able to run reports that show you how much you spent and took in on each. This information can help you better price your services and manage your time to maximize profitability.

Many Elements                                  

 In this first part of a two-column series, we’re going to explore the basic elements that go into job-tracking. Keep in mind that there are many different ways to work with jobs. How you choose to do it will depend on the structure of your business. We can help you devise a plan.

We’ll look at a simple example here. The first step involves setting up a job for an existing client. Even if you think you’re only going to be doing one project for them, you can still set it up as a job so you can assign all related income and expenses to it. This will make it much easier if you get additional work from the customer down the line – and if you have to bill the customer for something that’s not related to a specific project.

To create a job, open the Customers menu and select Customer Center. Make sure the Customers & Jobs tab is highlighted. Select the customer by clicking on it. Right-click the name and select Add Job from the drop-down list. When the New Job window opens, click the Job Info tab.

showing how to track jobs

You can track your Jobs by keeping their status current in the New Job window.

Fill in the Job Name field. In this example, we’ve selected a name that’s broad enough that we’ll eventually be able to break down into specific tasks. If your customer has an outstanding balance as of the current date, that amount will appear in the Opening Balance field.

Enter a Job Description. The Job Type field is optional, but creating these classifications can help with advanced reports that gauge profitability. Consult with us if you want to explore these.

Open the Job Status list and select the correct one, then choose a Start Date and Projected End Date. You’ll document the End Date when you’re finished. Click OK.

Creating Item Records

 You may already know that if you buy and/or sell products and/or services, you have to set up individual records for each one so you can include them on sales and purchase forms. You’ll need these to record income and expenses related to your Promotion job. If you’re new to QuickBooks, here’s how it works.

Open the Lists menu and select Item List. In the window that opens, click the arrow next to Item in the lower left corner and select New. A window like this will open:

shows what type of services you charge for or purchases

The New Item window

The Item Type list will drop down. Select Service. In the example above, you’re creating a record for a service you sell: Website Development. Enter that in the Item Name/Number field. Ignore the U/M Set field; this is not available in QuickBooks Pro or Premier.

Enter a Description and your hourly (or project) Rate. Choose the correct Tax Code status and select the Account. When you’re done, click OK.

Warning: You may not have an Account in your Chart of Accounts that fits the specialized income and expenses you want to track. Let us help you set one up.

 You’ll repeat this process for other types of promotional work you do (making flyers and brochures, designing and ordering branded products, general content creation, etc.).

Think It Through First

 Before you create your first job, spend time envisioning how you want it structured. Remember that every invoice or timed activity or other income or expense you enter will only be assigned to one Customer:Job, but you can include as many Items as you want. As we said, we’re happy to help you think this through and go through setup with you.

Next month, we’ll demonstrate how the records you’ve created can be used.

For more QuickBooks tips, tricks and info on training from our team of Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisors® subscribe to The QBC.

QuickBooks and QuickBooks ProAdvisor are registered trademarks and/or registered service marks of Intuit Inc.

How to Apply Finance Charges in QuickBooks

You may hate to have to do it, but assessing finance charges for late payments may improve your overall cash flow.

There are a myriad of ways to bring in customer payments faster and improve your cash flow. You can:

  • Get a merchant account and let customers pay you electronically
  • Offer a discount for early payments
  • Shorten the payment due cycle (21 days instead of 30 days, for example)
  • Be more aggressive about collections

QuickBooks can help you take all of these steps. It also offers a fifth option: assess finance charges for tardy remittances.

Maybe you don’t want to do this because it seems like a less-than-friendly way to treat customers – especially valued ones. But you’re not in the business of lending money, which is what you’re doing when you continue to let your accounts receivable slide. So, here’s how to do add finance charges to your payment policies.

Multiple Issues Involved

Before you can start adding finance charges to tardy payments, you’ll need to let QuickBooks know how you want them handled. Open the Edit menu and select Preferences. Click the Finance Charge tab in the left vertical pane, then the Company Preferences tab in the window that opens. You’ll see something like this:

example of how to enter finance charges

You’ll need to decide on your QuickBooks Finance Charge settings before you can begin to apply these late fees.

What Annual Interest Rate will you charge? Will there be a Minimum Finance Charge? Do you want to offer a Grace Period? If you’ve never worked with finance charges before, you might be at a loss as to how you should answer these questions. We can talk it through with you if you’d like, and make sure you’re selecting the correct Finance Charge Account. In our example, QuickBooks defaulted to 70100 – Other Income, which may be the best option for you.

The next question may require some research. Some jurisdictions don’t allow you to Assess finance charges on overdue finance charges; you’ll need to find out. If there’s any doubt, make sure that the box in front of that option isn’t checked.

QuickBooks also needs to know on what date it should start calculating finance charges: on the due date or invoice/billed date. Finally, check the box in front of Mark finance charge invoices “To be printed.” QuickBooks doesn’t include finance charges on invoices themselves; it bills them on separate invoices. Check this box if you want the software to print all of them as a batch.

When you’re done here, click OK.

Applying the Charges

 example of how assessment date is used to calculate charges

By selecting an Assessment Date, you’re telling QuickBooks how many late days should be included in its finance charge calculations.

When you’re ready, open the Customers menu and select Assess Finance Charges. A window like the one in the image above will open.

QuickBooks, of course, performs all of the required calculations in the background. But it must first know what specific date you plan to actually assess the charges so that it can determine the number of late days that should be included. This may not be the current date, so be sure the Assessment Date is correct before proceeding.

All you have to do here is make sure there’s a check mark in front of every finance charge that should be invoiced (they’ll probably already be there, but you should verify this). If you send statements, clear the box in front of Mark Invoices “To be printed.” The finance charges will appear on the next statement.

When you’re satisfied, click Assess Charges.

Dispatching the Charges

Your finance charges have now been recorded in QuickBooks as individual invoices. When it’s time to print, open the File menu and select Print Forms | Invoices. You’ll see your numbered finance charge invoices displayed like this:

example of invoice charges when printing them

You can see your finance charge invoices when you go to print them.

(Of course, if you email invoices, you’d click on File | Send Forms.)

It’s a good idea to notify your customers before you start assessing finance charges. This will give them a chance to catch up, and no one will be surprised to see the extra invoices.

QuickBooks does the hefty lifting as far as calculations are concerned, but it’s very important that you set your finance charges up correctly. Customers will be annoyed by mistakes. And it’s much easier for us to help you get this tool set up right from the start than to have to go in and untangle errors. Let us know if you plan to start assessing finance charges, and we’ll help make it work for you.

For more QuickBooks tips, tricks and info on training from our team of Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisors® subscribe to The QBC.

QuickBooks and QuickBooks ProAdvisor are registered trademarks and/or registered service marks of Intuit Inc.