Some 45 percent of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute.
Nonprofit finance professionals: Get in the New Year’s spirit and jump on the resolution bandwagon! And, I’m not talking about resolving to lose weight, get organized, or quit smoking. Instead, I’m referring to resolving to make some key changes within your organization that could have a huge impact on your success in the New Year.
Through our interactions with customers, market intel, and findings from our recent Nonprofit Finance & Accounting Study, we at Abila have a pretty good handle on the trends and challenges facing nonprofit finance professionals. Based on this knowledge, we propose you make one or more of the following four New Year’s resolutions:
Forge more collaborative relationships with your fundraising counterparts
One compelling revelation from our Nonprofit Finance & Accounting Study is how little involvement there seems to be between the finance/accounting department and the development/fundraising department.
In fact, fewer than half of the nonprofit finance professionals who responded (47 percent) say they are involved in fundraising decisions.
That’s really surprising when you think about how vital these two departments are to donor stewardship – the very foundation of your nonprofit. Because, if you’re not treating donors well (by properly managing their money, being transparent and forthright about how you’re spending it, and acknowledging their support early and often), you won’t have the funding to achieve your mission.
So, to provide the best experience for donors, and to keep them faithful supporters of your nonprofit, you should take the steps to fully integrate your fund accounting and donor management systems, optimize your processes, and make it possible for the finance and fundraising teams to plan, collaborate, and succeed together.
Plus, a tighter integration between the team bringing in the money and the team managing
the money can only benefit the organization by providing a single, shared view of the fiscal health and mission of the organization.
Operate more efficiently
The number one most common challenge finance/accounting professionals say they face on a daily basis is interruption from other departments. That’s what nearly half of all respondents to our Nonprofit Finance & Accounting Study report.
It’s highly likely that most interruptions are driven by people from other departments needing small bits of information like specific data points and numbers as they’re planning, budgeting, and compiling their own reports. One way to address this challenge is to provide specific times when other departments can interrupt. These predefined collaboration times/working sessions can significantly reduce one-off, back-and-forth communications. This actually dovetails nicely with resolving to collaborate. Again, when regular interdepartmental meetings are on the books, questions can be asked and issues resolved in that setting.
Another option is to look at software that provides customized, role-based dashboards for different departments so they can self-serve. Imagine how much easier your life would be if your director had view-only access to the numbers.
Finally, moving your fund accounting system to the cloud, enables anytime/anywhere access. When you and your finance team have the flexibility to work from home, you will significantly reduce office and cube interruptions.
Invest more in employee development
Your incoming Millennial team members (who, by the way, will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2020) see having cross-functional expertise for all staff members as an important trend, according to our finance and accounting study. To keep them engaged and retained, you need to make sure you’re providing them with ample opportunities to develop professionally.
Look at what you budgeted for professional development last year, where you got your money’s worth and where you didn’t. And ask yourself, can we invest more this year? When you give your team members the time and resources to attend training where they can expand their skills and go to professional conferences where they can learn from and collaborate with other nonprofit professionals, you’re not only helping them grow professionally, you’re also building loyalty, engagement, and future leaders of your nonprofit.
You need to have strong succession plans developed for your senior leaders who are nearing retirement age and career paths for those you’ve identified as future organizational leaders. This will help you avoid a “brain drain” and ensure smooth transitions when the time inevitably comes to change guards.
Plan and act more strategically
Many respondents to our finance and accounting study feel they spend too much time preparing for month-end meetings, reporting, and accounts receivable (more day-to-day tasks) than strategic planning that could provide broader benefits to the organization.
The obvious advice is to make the previous three resolutions, and you’ll have more time to act strategically.
The not-so-obvious may lie in the tools you use. Many nonprofits and associations use their donor and association management systems as tactical tools, focusing primarily on transactions, such as donation collection, dues renewal, and event registration. To get more out of your technology investment, you should tap into the power of these systems for strategic purposes.
For-profit organizations are finding success by offering customized experiences to consumers through data analytics, segmenting, and choice. Resolve to take a similar path, using technology to create a highly-personalized constituent journey for each individual constituent, whether they’re donors, members, volunteers, etc. Using the data already housed and readily available in your software will also help you make more informed, strategic decisions across the organization.
The preceding is a guest post by Justin Morrow of Abila. As a product marketing manager at Abila, Justin communicates the benefits of the company’s innovative solutions to nonprofit, association, and government professionals. He’s been in the nonprofit technology market for nearly a decade, specializing in integrated fundraising and financial solutions. Justin is a native Tar Heel, but has recently moved to Austin, Texas, with my wife Whitney and three young kids.