Accounting System Advice
A project for African Rainforest Conservancy
Pro Bono Time
Pro Bono Time
We are transitioning from using QuickBooks software to a QuickBooks online account. As an Executive Director of a small organization, it is my responsibility to keep our financials current and report out to the board on a regular basis (and work with an accountant on a quarterly basis and an auditor on a yearly basis to do this). Our budget is small (under $400,000), but I still find it overwhelming with my limited time to keep our financials organized and up to date. I think part of the problem is not feeling totally comfortable using QuickBooks. Ideally, I would like to work with a volunteer who can assess our current record keeping practices and suggest policies and procedures to keep us on top of things, as well as train me in using QuickBooks, including compiling reports.
An accounting or bookkeeping system is the foundation for a nonprofit’s success, and a well-designed system maximizes efficiency and effectiveness. Armed with these tools, a nonprofit can focus on its mission instead of on its books. This project requires that the organization has a minimally functional system, and the accounting professional will help improve or enhance it by offering advice and custom reports. The accounting professional will not be building the system from scratch.
The accounting professional reviews the current accounting procedures and the current chart of accounts with the Executive Director and/or the Accounting Manager and seeks to understand: how the organization operates; the main sources and uses of the organization's funds; and certain structural elements that may be crucial to the organization’s operating system.
Independently, the accounting professional develops an understanding of the accounting system used by the organization (e.g. Access, Quick Books, etc.), including viewing and/or conducting demonstrations online and reading about the system’s reporting capabilities.
The accounting professional develops suggestions to reorganize the general ledger structure (or chart of accounts), including a clear map that traces the existing account structure to the proposed new one. (These suggestions may or may not be implemented at the discretion of the organization.)
The accounting professional also describes and develops certain custom reports the organization can run on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, quarterly) for reporting to the Executive Director, to the Board or to other interested parties.
The Executive Director and/or Accounting Manager provide feedback on the custom reports, and the accounting professional incorporates the feedback and input from the organization’s staff.
The Accounting Manager and the accounting professional meet to implement the new account structure and the custom reports. (This marks the beginning of the “test period,” which may last four to six weeks.)
The Accounting Manager masters the use of the custom reports during the test period, with weekly check-in calls with the accounting professional to assess status. The Accounting Manager, with assistance from the accounting professional, double-checks the reported output against the accounting data to ensure the custom reports are accurate.
The accounting professional returns to the organization’s offices for a final review meeting to correct or tweak any issues that were raised during the test period (if necessary) and finalize the project.
- At least 2 years of accounting experience
- An understanding of accounting systems
- Working knowledge of the nonprofit sector and its unique fund accounting rules
- Experience working with multiple stakeholders to accomplish goals
- A positive attitude and willingness to learn a new system and work patiently through issues that may arise
- An Executive Director and Board of Directors strongly committed to this project
- Staff who can invest the necessary time to make the project succeed
- An existing accounting system purchased by the organization and used for at least six months
- Patience and willingness to work through issues that may arise at various stages throughout the process