2011 Review of Not-for-Profit Accounting Systems

12 Products That Can Help Your Nonprofit Clients

From the November 2011 Issue

As with most organizations, nonprofits vary in size and scope, and their software needs vary, as well. As an accounting professional, you know that the software needs of the local animal shelter will vary widely than the needs of the United Way.

While this may be a drastic comparison, it really highlights the wide range of organizations served by nonprofit software vendors. Entry-level, off-the-shelf systems are intended for different types of nonprofits than the top-line, robust solutions. This is not a one-size-fits-all market.

That’s why it’s important to ask and answer a few questions before helping your clients in their search for a nonprofit software product. Here are just some of the questions your clients will need to answer:


  • How is the organization primarily funded; through donations or grants?
  • Does the organization typically do bi-annual or annual appeals?
  • Are products sold to benefit the organization?
  • What is the annual budget of the organization?
  • Does the organization have one primary location or are there numerous locations that require access to the system?

Having answers to these questions will go a long way toward finding the correct nonprofit software for your client. For instance, if an organization is not primarily funded by grants, a grants management module will be irrelevant, but a fundraising module may be a necessity.

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This review breaks down some of the most important aspects of nonprofit software systems:

  • Basic System Functions covers installation, system navigation, available product modules, add-ons and scalability. This is particularly important to growing organizations.
  • Core Nonprofit/Fund Accounting Capabilities includes standard nonprofit-specific functions such as account structure, multiple budget options, grant and donor management, fund-balancing, and e-features such as remote access, EFT payment and email invoicing.
  • Management Features highlights areas such as the availability of dashboards, budget options and “what if” scenarios that allow users to look at several different options when preparing or revising budgets. Spending control functions, collections and fundraising capability are also noted.
  • Financial Statements & Reporting looks at report customization options, the ability to create new reports and process nonprofit-specific reports such as FASB/GASB. This section also covers grant and endowment reporting capability and report exporting options.
  • Integration & Import/Export examines how well the product integrates with other system modules, as well as add-ons and third-party applications. Also noted is whether or not the product offers accountant access and data transfer capability.
  • Help/Support covers the availability of system updates, website documentation and training options available, etc.

These sections won’t cover everything, but they will provide a solid overview to help determine if a system is suitable for your client.