Nashville Zoo Prepares for Growth Amid COVID Uncertainty
The Nashville Zoo’s mission is to inspire a culture of understanding and discovery of the natural world through conservation, innovation and leadership. Since opening its doors in 1991, it has grown from a small, private operation to an AZA-accredited facility that welcomed more than one million visitors last year. Today, the progressive and dynamic zoological park is located on 188 acres, making it the 9th largest zoo in the country by landmass.
We recently hopped on a Zoom call with the organization’s CFO, Kim Pridgen, to learn about the zoo’s journey from Sage 50 to Sage Intacct. She talked about the ongoing turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic (which restricted zoo guests during the worst possible time—its peak summer season) and shared her thoughts as she looks ahead to whatever might come next.
In our new customer story, Pridgen explains how the organization quickly achieved impressive results by upgrading from Sage 50 to Sage Intacct, including:
- Accelerating the monthly close by 50%
- Increasing finance team efficiency by 30%
- Cutting days from monthly report preparation
- Achieving thousands of dollars in cost savings via better spend analysis
Before COVID made its impact on the community of Nashville, the zoo was experiencing a rapid upward growth trajectory. Naturally, this led its leadership to think big, such as planning new animal habitats and unique visitor experiences. However, Pridgen and her team initially worried about whether they could support the expansion because of their heavy reliance on paper-based processes.
Transforming manual tasks with 30% more efficient workflows
After 10+ years, the company had outgrown its Sage 50 system, creating some limitations around internal controls and reporting as the organization expanded. “Simply put, we couldn't quickly close the books, because our reports never seemed to balance,” explained Pridgen. “Everything we were doing was manual, from entering data from our POS and outsourced payroll systems by hand every day, to doing extensive reviews, fixing coding errors, and other antiquated processes. We were concerned about these inefficiencies because there was no room for growth, so the thought of expanding was very scary.”
After getting advice from several other zoo CFOs across the U.S., and evaluating solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics GP, Oracle NetSuite, and Blackbaud, Pridgen selected Sage Intacct for its easy-to-use reports and dashboard capabilities. She also had previous experience with LBMC, and knew their partnership with Sage Intacct would ensure reliable consulting services. LBMC helped the Nashville Zoo go live on Sage Intacct on March 1st—just weeks before pandemic-related shutdowns brought the organization’s income to a halt.
“Sage Intacct was our savior during COVID,” mentioned Pridgen. “We never would have been able to work remotely if we were still on our other system.” Thanks to the cloud-based solution, her team shifted effortlessly to working from home, increased efficiency by 30%, cut the monthly close from 10 days to five, and adopted paperless accounts payable. Pridgen saves a full day each month that she previously spent on tedious report preparation for the board. Meanwhile, her team avoids at least 30 minutes a day of manual data entry now that they can use simple uploads to pull data from other systems into Sage Intacct. Pridgen shared, “Sage Intacct simplified everything for everybody, and I have time to ensure the accuracy of our reports instead of scrambling to get them finished.”
Freeing up thousands in savings to meet operational needs
Because Sage Intacct’s multi-dimensional general ledger helped shrink the zoo’s unwieldy chart of accounts, the finance team can now produce profit and loss statements for individual events at the push of a button, rather than spending weeks sorting out how to allocate expenses. What’s more, Pridgen can check cash flow weekly instead of quarterly, which has been a huge help during COVID-related cutbacks. “With Sage Intacct, we’ve scrutinized every expense and found ways to save thousands of dollars without impacting animal care staffing,” she said. “The system also lets me quickly run budget projections for different scenarios to determine how long we can get by if faced with another shutdown.”
Although the nonprofit organization collects admissions and event fees, it is also funded by donations, which have been impacted by the pandemic. Since traditional named sponsorships on capital projects are less compelling while foot traffic is low and construction projects are on hold, the zoo’s development team had to get creative. They leveraged Sage Intacct to look into things like spending by vendor and costs per animal, which helped them make compelling cases for donation requests. For example, they started offering donors and large vendors new opportunities, like asking them to help feed a giraffe for a month.
Thanks to these fundraising efforts and impressive levels of community support, the organization has managed to fund most of its necessary operating expenses this year, and even expects to increase its overall budget slightly next year. “We’ve been selling out in our limited capacity and our ‘Boo at the Zoo’ Halloween program for kids brought in exactly the same revenue that it did last year, which was a pleasant surprise,” Pridgen shared.
Next up, Pridgen looks forward to adding statistical accounts, such as keeper hours and visitor attendance, into Sage Intacct. She’s also working on building roles-based dashboards to monitor overall performance and demonstrate program impact. Finally, she plans to implement Sage Intacct’s purchasing module, which will help the organization adopt centralized purchasing practices and fully prepare to ramp up growth again when the time is right.
Read our customer story to learn more about the great results Sage Intacct delivered for the Nashville Zoo during eight months of the pandemic.
With 12+ years of global high tech customer marketing experience. Andrew has lead global customer reference team responsibilities for generating awareness, building sales pipeline, creating customer success evidence, and growing revenue. As the Director of Customer Marketing at Sage Intacct, he is responsible for leading the customer reference and advocacy program.
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