When it comes to non-profit accounting, the efficiency of automation can grant your association more time and flexibility
Every non-profit association, regardless of its purpose and provenance, shares one fundamental commonality: the accounting must be done, one way or another. Depending on your association’s needs, that could be a fairly straightforward task—or a quite complex one. Fortunately, as in many other areas these days, complex processes, and even straightforward ones, can be simplified through digital automation.
What It Means to Automate Your Association’s Accounting
When you import information from any financial service—a meeting platform like CadmiumCD or Eventbrite, for example—you can view it in a spreadsheet. If you’re using a manual process, you then need to pay someone to enter all of that data from the spreadsheet into your own accounting system. But when you automate, you can integrate the data from the spreadsheet into your own system, well, automatically.
There may still be some manual aspects to the process. An employee will likely need to pare down data brought in from third-party systems, which may have more information than you actually need, and you will also need to implement some routine error-checking procedures.
The automated data, meanwhile, is securely backed up, both at the host company that originated it and in the accounting software that is its destination.
How Does Accounting Automation Help?
If you choose to automate your accounting, the obvious benefit is that it’s a time-saver, but there are other potential windfalls in it for your association as well.
- Reduction of human error. No matter how conscientious someone is, manually transferring information from a spreadsheet to an accounting system is rife with opportunity for minor or major mistakes. The automation of the transfer makes the data more valuable, as it’s more accurate.
- Saving more than just time. The time spent manually transferring information correlates with money spent paying someone to transfer that information. An employee who currently devotes some or all of their hours to accounting data entry could have their time repurposed to be better focused on furthering your organization’s goals.
- Access to more detailed information. Because you aren’t constrained by how much time and money you can spend on manual entry, each transaction you track through an automated system can carry a lot more detail. Rather than working with just daily totals, for example, you can access more information about when, where, and how transactions are being made.
- Ability to implement advanced financial planning. When transaction processing is automated, you can access big-picture information more quickly, giving your board leadership team the information it needs to make financial and strategic decisions farther in advance than would otherwise be possible.
At Association Headquarters (AH), a major shift from manual to automated accounting took place in 2017, when the company began using Bill.com for all of its own and its client partners’ disbursements, said Justin Martin, CPA, Director of Client Financial Services at AH.
“In the past, there was a physical form on blue paper that went through with an invoice, and then an account executive was physically signing off on the bill,” Martin said. “Then it was brought to the accounting team, which would manually enter it into our accounting system, and finally we would cut a manual check and mail it out.”
Even after all of that, if anyone needed to confirm a payment or view an invoice, they had to come back to the accounting department, which would then have to take the time to help track down the information.
Now, however, everything is done online, with bill coding, approvals, and routing all taking place digitally within the payment platform, and most of the payments are then disbursed electronically. This saves time, of course, but it also increases transparency between AH and its client partners. Whether they work with AH as a full-service client partner or they simply outsource their accounting to the company, they don’t have to go through the accounting department to access their financial information.
“Today, client partners have easy visibility on prior invoices and payments, and they can review their information online or in an app,” said Martin. “So, for example, as people return to traveling, they can approve all their invoices while they’re waiting in an airport—or wherever else they may be.”