Accounting System Advice
A project for Environmental League of Massachusetts
Feb. 12, 2013
Pro Bono Time
We already have a good accounting system via Quickbooks Online. The purpose of this project is to make our accounting system simpler and easier to use. In short: elegant. Right now, it's messy, having been tweaked hundreds of times that it now needs a comprehensive review and overhaul. We also need advice to put staff practices into place that will keep the system organized and clean into the future.
The Environmental League of Mass. needs accounting assistance in two areas:
1) A review of our chart of accounts in light of how we actually do business, and a plan to modify the chart of accounts to better match our business practices. At present some of the accounts and sub accounts are confusing both to staff and especially our board. Monthly financial reports often raise many avoidable questions. We need someone with strong accounting skills and nonprofit accounting experience to first seek to understand our business practices and then help us map out a migration from our current chart of accounts to a new one that is more useful to us.
2) Staff training in how to use Quickbooks Online. We specifically need help in these areas:
a. How to properly keep our books on a cash basis. Our current accounting method is strictly accrual-based, but we need to be able to switch to cash-based reports for things like cash flow projections. Currently when we run cash reports, the numbers are incorrect.
b. A review and advice on whether our current methods for accounting for deferred revenue (membership payments that are made in one fiscal year but apply to the next one) are correct and advisable or could be simplified or otherwise improved.
Qualifications: We need someone with a) strong Quickbooks Online skills, b) strong nonprofit accounting skills & experience, and c) someone who is located near enough to downtown Boston to be able to come in for a number of in-person working sessions.
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
I have a great deal of experience with Quickbooks, and must admit it has many flaws. The agency I work for has very precise requirements that could not be met with Quickbooks. However after extensive research on my part I was able to find reasonably priced add on software packages that achieved our goals. The quickbooks handling of payments was also an issue, however was able to convert to cash basis and still handle fiscal year end accruals.
However I assume you are in Massachusetts, I am in NE Pennsylvania. With a full-time job, travel is out of he question. Feasibly how could I help.