This is the seventh and final post in our blog series: Best Practices for Selecting Nonprofit Accounting Software
The typical accounting software lifecycle is 5-10 years for nonprofits, so you’re looking at a long-term investment. Keeping your new accounting software viable is achieved by implementing upgrades and proactive maintenance.
You just need to plan for it: all vendors have different schedules, with some offering major upgrades every year, quarter and some releasing new service packs every month. All of the above is greatly simplified with cloud accounting software.
Below are additional guidelines to ensure that you get the most out of your nonprofit accounting software so that you can instead focus more of your energies towards achieving your mission.
Your VAR Is Your Friend
Maintaining a strong relationship with your nonprofit accounting software provider over the lifespan of your software is easier if it's a value-added reseller (VAR) with nonprofit experience vs. directly with a vendor. VARs typically offer a premium level of support, which likely can cost more than the vendor's standard level of support but can be justified because it will help keep your accounting software viable and fresh over the long haul.
We recommend that premium level support includes an agreement that covers the following:
- How often you meet to review the system and support
- Identification on what reporting, dashboards and/or key performance indicators (KPIs) are needed for each department
- When upgrades and enhancements are released
- What training is needed over time relating to hiring and attrition
In this way, your VAR will be intimately familiar with your system. Compare this with contacting a vendor's offshore technical support where they will have to be brought up to speed with the configuration of your system on every call.
Expanding Your Horizons
Once your accounting software is implemented and paying for itself, you may consider how to get even more value out of it. This often takes the form of implementing what wasn't ready for the initial go-live date, along with adding CRM or business intelligence (BI) modules.
BI, in particular, can set the stage for accelerated growth. Your accounting software will help increase the visibility of financial data, which inevitably leads to an increased appetite for more detailed reporting and analysis. BI turns your nonprofit's data into rich visuals for you to collect, organize and monitor all KPIs. This leads to better forecasting and planning, the ability to evaluate what-if scenarios, better decision-making, reduced costs, and growth.
As your nonprofit accounting software facilitates the streamlining of your processes, just be sure to document these changes. This will make training new employees a breeze and help you avoid unpleasant surprises following software updates.