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ImageWhile accounting may seem a nerdy side-kick to the heroism of the non-profit’s actual mission, it is the very foundation from which all good works spring. Ignoring or slighting this important operational aspect can lead to plummeting donations, embarrassing scandals and/or diminished effectiveness. Yet, it is common for non-profits to ascribe this important function to antiquated accounting practices.


“The average nonprofit has been using its current accounting solution for about seven years. If your organization has been using the same solution for much longer, it may be time to evaluate what’s currently out there,” advises Justin Cross, director of Syndicated Research at Campbell Rinker. He says 10% of nonprofits are currently using an online product for their accounting, and interest is rising in the sector.

If it’s time to consider an overhaul or upgrade of your accounting practices, here’s a snapshot of leading fund accounting software, according to Randy Johnston, executive vice president at K2 Enterprises, to help you make the call that’s right for your cause:

Company Product
Pro
Con
 
Accufund, Inc.AccuFundNew design by experienced developersNot as feature complete as other competitors, primarily because it is relatively new 
Blackbaud, Inc.The Financial EdgeExcellent Dashboard capabilitiesExpensive
 
Cougar Mountain Software Inc.CMS FUND SuiteInexpensiveLack of features 
CYMA Systems, Inc.
CYMAIV Not-for-Profit EditionExceptional value at the low end, strong allocations, inexpensive fund raising tool   
Lack of supporting modules like gift shop 
Intuit, Inc.QuickBooks NonprofitWell knownNFP accounting weak 
Kintera, Inc.FundWareHas been a strong product for yearsTransfer of ownership causing lack of focus on development and stability

 
Open Systems, IncTRAVERSE Not-for-ProfitCustomizable and complete accounting modules like POS, Web   
Lack of strong integration to fund raising tools 
Sage SoftwarePeachtree Premium Accounting for Nonprofits 2008
Good accountingLack of fund raising 
Sage SoftwareSage MIP Fund AccountingStrong accounting and NFP focus. Excellent fund raising tools. Entry level product quite affordable  
Lack of customization 
Serenic CorporationSerenic Navigator for Not-for-ProfitsVery customizable   
Requirement to buy Dynamics NAV, expensive

 
     


There is a consensus among market followers that The Financial Edge from Blackbaud and Sage Software's Sage MIP Fund Accounting lead the pack. Campbell Rinker recently conducted a nationwide survey of approximately 2,400 nonprofit users of accounting software and online solutions. “To our surprise, The Financial Edge rated a little better with organizations that have revenue of less than $5 million annually, while Sage MIP Fund Accounting did better with larger nonprofits,” says Cross. “Both were top rated though, regardless of revenue.”

The two companies received the Campbell Award for their products’ exceptional ratings. The ratings are based on customer likelihood to recommend the product they use to other organizations.

It is a bit tougher to declare either Blackbaud or Sage the clear winner, though, as experts say it all depends on what your nonprofit needs. “The leading NFP product is Sage MIP. They have the most complete system with partners that understand how to install the product properly. They have coverage in web gifts and fund raising backed by solid NFP accounting. Their offerings range from entry level through much larger systems,” explains Johnston. “But, Blackbaud has the most effective consulting teams that specialize in Fund Raising using The Raiser’s Edge.”

“The most affordable NFP that does NFP accounting correctly is CYMA NFP,” he says. “The customizable NFP products are TRAVERSE and Serenic. If a group has special needs not met by standard products, these two players are the only option.”

Some market experts say that local awareness and nonprofit staff capabilities are more important factors than software capabilities in choosing the right product fro any given nonprofit. “Both MIP and Navigator are distributed and implemented by a channel of local resellers. These resellers are trained in the products they support and are available to the organizations that hire them in their markets,” explains consultant Geni Whitehouse, CPA.CITP, CSPM, and founder of “Even a Nerd Can be Heard.”

“The Financial Edge, on the other hand, is sold directly by Blackbaud, the manufacturer of the software, who is less likely to know their local area, culture and unique business requirements,” continues Whitehouse.

Whitehouse says The Navigator solution is developed in the Microsoft Dynamics NAV product and therefore has advanced technology and is easily modified to meet the specific requirements of diverse organizations. It offers “unparalleled access” to information all designed specifically to meet the needs of organizations of any size, serving constituents around the globe. Meanwhile, the MIP solution is a strong contender for small to medium organizations.

“But the proper fit is best determined by a local reseller of the products that are sold through these channels,” concludes Whitehouse.

Any software, no matter how well designed and maintained, can only perform as well as the people who use it. “In my experience, the most important thing to consider is the expertise level of the user and any staff time constraints,” says Jennie Brick, senior Finance and Administration Consultant at Pacific Training And Resources. “If you anticipate significant growth for your agency you might be well advised to invest in a more sophisticated software as well as staff training.”

The recommendations differ for small start-up nonprofits. “If your agency is just starting out and you are limited in your choice of accounting staff, you might want to start out with something easier like QuickBooks but have an independent accountant help set up your system and maintain it on a monthly or quarterly basis to ensure data veracity,” advises Brick. Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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