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2009 Review of Not-for-Profit Accounting Systems

A Crucial Time for Solid Nonprofit Accounting

From the Nov. 2009 Issue

Much like the entities that will utilize them, nonprofit software products
vary in breadth and scope. While smaller nonprofits and smaller government entities
have no need for the bells and whistles of more sophisticated specialized software,
larger nonprofits definitely do. The IRS Form 990 has been completely redesigned
and began use for tax year 2008. Though the new form has only two more pages
than its predecessor, it also now has 16 accompanying schedules ranging from
Public Charity Status and Public Support to Supplemental Financial Statements
to Supplemental Information Regarding Fundraising or Gaming Activities, and
so on.

Obviously, most nonprofits will not be required to file all 16 schedules,
but the point is that IRS filing requirements and FASB 117 Financial Statement
requirements for nonprofits means that the assistance of solid nonprofit software
will definitely make the nonprofit’s life easier.

Of course, the other side of the nonprofit that needs a solid software system
is fundraising and donor tracking. A solid, accurate donor base is a necessity
for a nonprofit of any size. And without it, the agency stands little chance
of performing the work that others may depend on.
The products reviewed here range from basic, entry-level fund products to enterprise-level
nonprofit solutions that easily handle everything from fund allocation to donor
tracking. Most fall somewhere in between.

The following categories were considered in each product review:

Ease of Use/Flexibility. I’ve spoken with countless
people who have invested a lot of time and money on a software product only
to be overwhelmed by a steep learning curve. As a result, they are often forced
to search for another product, wasting their time and their money, along with
their employees’ time. Ease of use is important.

Modules/Scalability. Both large and small nonprofit organizations
should consider the modules included with the base system as well as those available
as add-ons. How scalable is the product? Can it grow as the nonprofit grows?
This is an important category, particularly for nonprofits undergoing a transitional

Features/Functionality. What does this software do that sets
it apart from the competition? How easy is it to perform those necessary functions?
Also, what are some of the new features that have recently been added to the

Reporting. Will the product produce the reports (Form 990
and FASB 117) that every nonprofit must be able to produce. What about management
reports? Can reports be customized or exported to Excel or saved as a PDF file?
How do the product’s reporting capabilities set it apart from other products?

Support/Help. Is a solid Help function available? Are users
able to reach support personnel when needed? What are the support options?

Relative Value. This particular section is pretty relative
(as noted in the section title), but we look at the cost of the product versus
what a nonprofit will get for that price. If a system provides extensive features
and functionality, but those features aren’t really utilized properly
at your NFP client’s organization, or if the product does not provide
the data needed for the NFP to survive and thrive, the relative value is low.
However, if a different organization purchases the more robust and feature-rich
system, and it meets the needs of that organization, then the relative value
is high.

Be sure to advise your clients to take the time to visit the vendor websites
for more information and product demos. Have them try out a few, and then help
them make their decision. How well the program suits your client’s nonprofit
organization will determine its value and ultimately the success of the organization
and your relationship with it.

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AccuFund, Inc. – AccuFund Accounting
AccuFund Accounting Suite, from AccuFund, Inc. offers
a complete financial solution designed for nonprofit organizations and
government entities. The latest release of AccuFund (version 3.08) offers
several new features along with powerful system functionality.
Blackbaud – The Financial Edge
The Financial Edge from Blackbaud is primarily designed for mid-sized to large nonprofit organizations that require transparency and accountability in their actions. However, the vendor has just recently released a small business version.
Blackbaud – Fundware
Now a Blackbaud product, Fundware (formerly Kintera
Fundware) continues to offer nonprofit organizations and government entities
solid fund accounting functionality. Designed for mid-sized nonprofits
and government entities, Fundware provides users with an excellent, scalable
product that offers the flexibility that organizations desire.
Cougar Mountain Software – CMS
Professional 2010 FUND
CMS Professional 2010 FUND for Nonprofits from Cougar
Mountain Software provides nonprofit and accounting functionality to small
to mid-sized nonprofit organizations and government entities.
CYMA Systems, Inc. – CYMA Not-for-Profit
Fund Accounting Software
CYMA Not-for-Profit Fund Accounting Software is
a completely modular system that offers a complete financial solution
aimed specifically at nonprofit organizations. Ideal for small to mid-sized
organizations, CYMA offers excellent scalability, allowing users to purchase
the modules they need when they need them.
FUND E-Z Development Corporation
– FUND E-Z Accounting
FUND E-Z Development Corporation has offered nonprofit
software for 20 years. The latest release, Version 10, offers a completely
rewritten software product that is now a client/server application utilizing
MS/SQL Express 2005.

GMS, Inc. – GMS Accounting &
Financial Management System
GMS was designed specifically to provide accounting
and financial management functionality for nonprofits that receive and
maintain numerous grants throughout the year. System requirements to run
GMS are minimal, but installation of Microsoft Access or SQL Server is
necessary prior to in-stalling GMS.
Intuit – QuickBooks Premier Nonprofit
With QuickBooks’ dedicated focus on small
businesses, it’s no secret that it has quickly become the product
of choice for small business owners. When Intuit began adding industry-specific
versions and opening up the product through its SDK, it spread to even
more markets.
Sage – Peachtree by Sage Premium
Accounting for Nonprofits 2010
Peachtree continues its excellent tradition of providing
smaller businesses with an affordable software product that can be geared
toward a particular type of business or organization. Peachtree for Nonprofits
2010 offers smaller nonprofits the same benefits that users of Peachtree
have enjoyed for years.
Sage – Sage MIP Fund Accounting
Designed specifically for the nonprofit and government
sector, Sage MIP Fund Accounting continues to offer a solid fund product
which continually provides frequent product enhancements designed to increase
the value of the product.
Serenic Software – Serenic Navigator
Serenic Navigator is a powerful financial software
designed for nonprofit organizations, public sector entities and NGOs.
The vendor has successfully combined a strong core system with Microsoft
Dynamics NAV to create a powerful, yet easy-to-use product. Serenic Navigator
is optimally designed for use in larger organizations.

2009 Review of Not-for-Profit Accounting Systems — Comparison

See inside November 2009 issue

Helping Not-for-Profits with Better Accounting

Column: From the Trenches