Abila recently released their Nonprofit Finance and Fundraising Collaboration Study - Opportunities for a More Collaborative Nonprofit ›. With more than half of fundraisers (55%), and close to half of finance staff (45%) indicating the relationship between these two groups is not collaborative, there is room to improve and strengthen the dynamic. Abila's study outlined recommendations on areas where improvements can be made, and through our new blog series, "Finance and Fundraising Working Together", we will expand on each of the recommendations.
Recommendation Six | Evaluate Opportunities for System Integrations
The majority of both groups see some importance in having an integration between the fundraising and accounting system. Identify where there is opportunity for improved efficiencies and reducing duplicate data entries in two systems. Less manual work equals less room for errors and more reporting consistency.
There are many key advantages to integrating your accounting and development systems including:
Reduced Manual Error. The less data that is being keyed and rekeyed, the less chance of having errors that require additional time and effort to reconcile.
Reduced Time. In addition to being error prone, duplicate data entry can take a lot of staff time to complete. By automating these processes, time can be spent on other, more critical areas.
Streamlined Coding. By integrating your systems, your Chart of Accounts (COA) can be incorporated behind the scenes into your development software so that when an entry is made in the system, the coding automatically occurs helping to streamline the process and reduce errors.
Improved Controls. With your chart of account setup and defined by accounting, and then overlaid onto the development system, you have better control and consistency on the coding improving the data that flows between systems.
Timely Access to Data. When systems are integrated, it keeps them up to date with the most recent data providing access to timely information for both departments.
While automating the integration between systems is often the most desirable, sometimes that is not always possible. If that is the case, there may be other options available to help connect your systems. We covered data integration in a previous post, but here is a recap of some of the important points.
Data Integration allows you to interface data from one software application to another software application. By mapping information coming from the first system to the corresponding fields in the second system through a definition file or template you can easily transfer data electronically. This mapping file becomes the key that talks to both systems. This type of data integration may be something you can use to eliminate some of your more time intensive manual processes.
Some Key Points on Data Integration:
- Your data must be clean. If you do not have good data coming out of the original system, you will not have good data going into the new system. It is important that the data be clean, readable and free from errors.
- Your data must be in a consistent format. Once you create your mapping, any changes or modifications to the format of the data will impact the import and require an update to the mapping file. The mapping only works when you put the same data in the same fields every time.
- Your data must be in a compatible file format. For most import files, a CSV file format is appropriate.
- Your data must match the field types. The data that you are bringing into the system needs to match the field type into which it is being imported. For example, if you are importing into a numeric field, you cannot have alphanumeric data.
As you setup your integration it will be critical that you test the process to insure that the import is working correctly and achieves your goals. Depending on the systems you are integrating you will usually have some functionality for error handling as well.
Whatever method you implement, the advantages of integrating your financial and fundraising systems are numerous and can help to improve the dynamics between the two departments.
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