An Executive Director Reflects on Bringing Bookkeeping In-House
Recently Carol sat down with Lynda (not her real name), an executive director who brought bookkeeping in-house in 2018 for the nonprofit organization she leads. We worked closely with Lynda to help her manage the transition. Now that the monthly bookkeeping process has settled into more of a routine, we took a few minutes to get Lynda’s thoughts on her experience.
CAROL: Hi Lynda. How are things going?
LYNDA: Pretty good, taking it a day at a time. I’ve been dealing with the audit over the past couple of months. We had our big annual fundraiser last month and now we’re working on the budget for next year. It’s been a lot of things at once!
CAROL: Well thanks for taking time to talk with me about your first year on a new accounting system.
LYNDA: I’m happy to talk with you. It will help me think about our in-house bookkeeping as we move into 2019.
CAROL: What was your motivation to implement a new accounting system?
LYNDA: When I came in a few years ago the books never matched the bank account. For everything we were creating a new general ledger account so we had too many accounts. Also when the books were audited, they were never adjusted to agree to the audit. It was a real mess.
CAROL: What did you try to fix the bookkeeping?
LYNDA: At first we had client receivables in QuickBooks, then in 2014 we moved our receivables to an industry-specific software. That helped with managing our clients and revenue, but it did not solve the accounting problem. We had a treasurer for a while who actually prepared financial statements in Excel because he could not get good reports out of QuickBooks. Then we went from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online. But all the problems carried over into QuickBooks Online. That’s when we reached out to you.
CAROL: What has been the most challenging part of the new accounting system?
LYNDA: The challenging part has been learning the new system. I took some accounting in college and I’ve had experience doing different aspects of accounting in my work, but I’ve never had to wrap my head around the whole process before. Time can also be an issue for me because I’m pulled in so many different directions.
CAROL: What have you done to help with time management?
LYNDA: As you know, we hired an assistant, Jen, to help me with the bookkeeping and other administrative tasks. But she is in the process of learning the system, too.
CAROL: What has helped you and Jen with learning?
LYNDA: The [written bookkeeping] procedures have been good. Also the online meetings where you walked us through how to do certain things, like matching transactions in the bank feed.
CAROL: What is better now than under your old bookkeeping system?
LYNDA: The reporting has been better. I’m learning to understand what I’m looking at when I’m reading the reports. The Finance Committee has also been able to understand things better.
CAROL: Are some aspects of the bookkeeping easier now?
LYNDA: Yes, the day-to-day entry like processing the vendor bills is easier. Having all transactions come through the banking feed has also made the bookkeeping a lot easier.
CAROL: What do you see as the remaining challenges?
LYNDA: Getting books done timely is a challenge. We have a treasurer who wants to see reports about ten days after month end. Jen is still learning how to do everything, and so am I. We are still working through a learning curve. I think it will get easier, but there are some challenges. Just this week a light went on when I was entering pledges from the fundraiser. The difference between a sales receipt and invoice became clear. Until you do these things, it doesn’t always stick.
CAROL: I get the impression the organization has grown a lot in recent years.
LYNDA: Yes, this is only our fourth year of getting pledges. We have more donors now, and a new board with different expectations. We also have a Treasurer who asks a lot of accounting questions. I’m glad I am able to provide better answers.
Follow up note: The organization above used our QuickBooks® to Go! template for QuickBooks Online. We modified it to work with their customer relationship management (CRM) software that they use for invoicing. Unfortunately the software does not integrate with QuickBooks Online so we were not able to automate the import of revenue transactions. However, the software provides an excellent monthly summary report of invoices and payments on invoices. We were able to use that monthly report as the basis for a “summary sales receipt” entry into QuickBooks Online. (See our blog posts on revenue management software and summary sales receipts.) Other modifications to the template were minor, such as making the typical edits to list elements to reflect their specific streams of program service revenue and the names of their fundraisers.