Not-for-Profit Budgeting with Intacct

This article discusses modern budgeting and forecasting solutions for non-profit organizations, zooming in on premier feature and functionality offerings to expand your Intacct experience.

Budgeting is such an important process, regardless of whether you’re doing financial planning in your personal life or full-scale organizational budgets and forecasts.  For non-profit organizations, budgeting can be the exact reason you are able to live within your means, surviving to continue providing what the community needs.  When recently speaking to non-profit budgeting contributors, I discovered that one of the biggest hurdles is the technology they are using to respond to today’s complex planning demands.  Excel might be perfect for a household budget, but performs subpar for any organization of a healthy size.  If you’re reading this article, you’re probably looking at independent software vendor (ISV) budgeting tools that can bring together your historical Intacct actuals and/or maybe information from another system, like payroll from ADP, to simplify and upgrade your planning processes.  Modern planning software delivers secure collaboration for your budgeting and forecasting tasks, which streamlines the requisite teamwork, so that you can successfully live within your organization’s means.

Budgeting almost always involves a number of staff coming together with historical actuals and research to project for the coming year’s financial plan.  Excel has been internationally trusted in the finance realm, but the manual process of linking spreadsheets can be tedious and unsecure.  Plenty of finance departments are still relying on Excel, so an ISV solution investment might seem like something you can skip.  This article will explore the benefits you can experience with modern premier features and functionalities in budgeting tools for Intacct.

ISV budgeting solutions have been growing in prevalence because of their business user friendly, accessible, and collaborative nature.  Excel add-ins are popular, offering the spreadsheet application’s familiarity with the powerful functionality that a toolbar ribbon adds, allowing end users to get away from the manual linking process of disparate spreadsheets.  The top ISV offerings come equipped with accounting logic and automation for simple business end user data management, as well as reusable templates.

With budgeting for any industry, logistics and security going to be top concerns, with the amount of sensitive data only growing.  Modern features, like password protection and access rights, are changing teamwork into accessible ownership over budgets that your team has to meet through the year.  With modern software, you can get away from lengthy e-mail threads as well as hefty spreadsheet attachments.  Budget managers can then ensure that the budgeting process is simple and inclusive.  And your potential return on investment won’t just be measurable in money.

When you consider all of the time and energy, in addition to the money that your non-profit invests in budgeting, a modern planning software can be so valuable.  But what features and functions are top considerations when shopping around for a solution?  Aspects to evaluate: an Excel or proprietary platform, budgeting functionality, integration options, a stand-alone tool versus a comprehensive BI suite, and web-based planning software.

We’ve already established the global popularity of Excel, but the familiarity translates to ease of use, and Excel add-in software turbo-charges and expands the spreadsheet application.  Furthermore, Excel gets upgrades in terms of functions, as in secure collaboration, reusable templates, and plenty of additional budgeting capabilities.  On the other hand, proprietary platforms are also available.

Some ISVs producing budgeting tools posit that Excel is a pain, add-in or not, especially for budgeting, but this is typically tied to the marketing of their own proprietary interfaced tool, both on-premises or on the Web.  Because these programs aren’t Excel-driven, crafting a budget might be tougher to learn since your budgeting team will have to acclimate to non-Excel formatting and rules.  This could translate to more training and/or consulting costs, which is just one price tag to consider.

No software is going to answer all of everybody’s problems, but you should avoid tools that aren’t actually solutions for your planning objectives.  The top modern budgeting software should enable you to compare historical numbers with projected figures side-by-side for the coming year, easily add multiple line items for accounts, spread totals across a year, design reusable templates, see authorship, produce roll-ups, and utilize parameters like Department, Division, and Entity.  In addition, what-if scenario analyses might be beneficial for your non-profit team, allowing you to see how different choices can have an impact.  As an example, you might be preparing for new staff, planning beyond the GL, to account for your on-boarding, training, and payroll, with headcount calculations and statistical reporting.  Additionally, these tasks should be business user friendly for management at all levels.

I’ve written about the difference between online analytical processing (OLAP) cube and data warehouse integrations before, analyzing what elements would best serve you in achieving your specific goals in terms of live integrations versus relying on a BI data store, but ease of use should be priority #1.  Do you have staff that has the OLAP-specific skills and experience in order to manage the BI data store?  Do you have more than one data type to manage and analyze?  Will you eventually upgrade other BI tasks?

Some third party software vendors have designed complete suites of fully integrated BI solutions.  If your roadmap includes an upgrade for financial reporting, dashboards, and/or data storage, you should consider a BI suite.  Rather than working with several stand-alone tools, you can rely on one team of sales, consulting, and support professionals.  Completely integrated suites offer similar interfaces, which can mean a shorter learning curve for your team.   Additionally, Intacct is a perfect example of the Web successfully and powerful serving as a technology platform, and budgeting has followed this trend.

Web-based BI tools are the new go-to platform, and budgeting is making the move.  As an Intacct user, you know about the flexibility and accessibility of your data management processes with a web-based solution.  That said, don’t rush to the first browser-based budgeting tool you can find.  You still need to make sure that the software meets your particular needs.  Web budgeting is only going to become more popular, so you’ll continue to hear more about it.

Finally, non-profits need to consider that a budgeting tool must generally and specifically help their organization plan for all of the fundraising, donors, special events, payroll, volunteers, expenses, and so on that contribute to the overall financial makeup.  As a non-profit organization, it is arguably even more important to gather all of your data to strategize accurately for a successful future.  Solver produces an Excel-powered budgeting stand-alone tool, with web budgeting front-end options, as part of the comprehensive suite of BI solutions and would be happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use Planning solution for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities with Intacct for non-profit organizations.

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