Sage's installation wizard leads the user through setting the system up in a variety of Windows environments. For first time installations on stand-alone computers, users can opt to use the included MSDN database. For higher performance and for multi user systems, Sage will configure an existing instance of Microsoft SQL that must already be in place on the organization's computer.
Sage's MIP includes nonprofit-specific functions that the company describes as designed into the product rather than added on to it. Those features include self-balancing funds, cross-year reporting, and integrated budget management functions. In addition, the system integrates with the company's line of fundraising applications, allowing for direct tracking between accounting activities and donations.
An additional 20 or so modules are available and integrate directly with the system. These include Grant Administration, Budgeting, GASB Reporting and others. While this makes MIP highly flexible, it also means that any installation will include more than the single MIP module.
MIP's main screen makes operations easy for both the uninitiated and experienced user by offering a full compliment of navigation options. The system's main screen offers a list of modules along the left side of the page from which the user can select. Once the module is selected, a workflow diagram is displayed with icons that represent the various functions and their relative position in the sequence of processes. For example, designing and modifying the chart of accounts appears before defining account code combinations, then followed by optional functions to work on distribution codes, assign offset accounts, and assigning closing accounts. The steps of entering journal entries and posting transactions are shown as separate processes. In another panel to the right, the list of reports available for the module are shown.
Many of the reports needed by nonprofits are included with the system and ready to run. I found it simple to modify the content and format of the reports without the need to access an external report writer. I was also able to save my customized reports as favorites, ready to run without having to repeat the customizations each time I wanted the same report.
As part of the account setup, I was able to create my own fields (Sage describes these as unlimited in number). These are helpful in maintaining notes and specific information regarding the details of funds sources, vendors, and notes about specific transactions rather than depending on separate notes.
Most modern general ledger applications include the ability to drill down into the details of transactions. MIP includes this drill down ability as well, and makes it easy and intuitive to use.
A unique feature is MIP's Executive View. This is more a licensing issue than a particular feature that accomodates executives who are more interested in viewing information than in processing it. Executive View is a heavily discounted license that can be configured to the specific needs of an executive who needs to keep up to date on balances, operating results, and budget status. However it does not allow access to accounting transactions. This arrangement is particularly helpful when creating budgets, as these licensees have the ability to create budget proposals that can be viewed by other members of the team, modified, and eventually merged directly with the MIP budget system. After my own experience working with multiple versions of spreadsheets, consolidating the work of multiple users, only to finally rekey the spreadsheet budget into an accounting application, I understand the frustration this kind of tool can prevent.
Sage's MIP Fund Accounting is a flexible and extensible application that can be used in nonprofit organizations ranging in size from the very smallest to international in scope. It offers a simplified but capable user interface, a variety of integrated applications, customizable reporting options, and can be accessed through an local network or via the Internet.
Intuitive user interface
Executive View licensing for non-transaction oriented users
Integrated extension modules available
Additional modules and user licenses can boost the cost of the system