What is the Nonprofit Finance Digital Transformation Tipping Point?
In the digital age, good stewardship requires an overhaul of many manual, paper-intensive processes. By using technologies like cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and open APIs for integration, digital transformation empowers nonprofit finance teams to make data-driven decisions for greater impact.
Recently, digital transformation was the topic of a presentation at the Nonprofit Finance Leaders Forum. In a panel discussion, experienced nonprofit finance leaders shared their experiences undergoing digital transformation at their organizations and provided ideas other organizations can use to start their own path to digital transformation. Sage Intacct’s Director of Nonprofit Industry Marketing, Joan Benson moderated the panel and was joined by Karen Adame, Kote Lomidze, and Alliah Ali.
Karen Adame brings over 35 years of experience in financial management, business development, program management, product marketing, product management, software sales/implementation and financial consulting in a variety of industries. In her five years at JumpStart, Inc. Karen has led the Finance, HR and IT teams in the implementation of new software solutions and processes to streamline and improve operations. Karen also sits on the Investment Valuation Committee for all of its funds. Prior to joining JumpStart, Karen served as CFO, CIO and Chief Product Officer at Keyedln Solutions, as the Senior VP of Operations at Epicor Software, and in other leadership and consulting positions.
Kote Lomidze is the chief financial and administrative officer (CFAO) and senior vice president for finance at World Learning, overseeing all global financial, IT and facility operations. He joined World Learning in 2009. Prior to joining World Learning, Kote spent 11 years working in finance at World Vision in his native Georgia, Russia, Zimbabwe, and the United States. He is a CPA and holds a bachelor's degree in mathematical economics and a law degree from Tbilisi State University and an MBA from Georgetown University.
Alliah Ali is a Customer Success Advocate who serves as a technical resource for Sage Intacct direct customers. She has over 8 years of experience in the not-for-profit sector, where her most recent role was Director of Accounting & Financial Operations at DonorsChoose. She found success in revamping and strengthening controls, reorganizing processes, and simplifying procedures to maximize the efficiency and accuracy of accounting records.
During the course of the discussion, the panel covered the role of technology in digital finance transformation, including how technology can improve visibility, reporting, automation, collaboration, and connectivity.
How digital transformation improves mission impact
Over the last several years, the pace of change around technology has been stunning. Not that long ago, we were all learning about a new idea called cloud computing. Today, we’re in a “new normal” where remote work and cloud technology have become standard.
Nonprofits are changing and adapting quickly and need to make sure their technology will support future goals. Being able to connect applications easily and interact with multiple best-of-breed solutions has opened up a new world for the nonprofit finance team.
With the right view of data and the ability to accurately measure performance metrics, nonprofit finance leaders are leading their organizations toward greater effectiveness in terms of mission impact. What may start as a new dashboard or report will lead to new conversations with board members and new communications with constituents. Then, that often leads to new collaborations between teams that can bridge gaps and transform the organization. Put simply, digital finance transformation can help nonprofits make a greater impact with fewer people and less money.
Three top pains for nonprofit finance teams
Year after year, the Sage Intacct Nonprofit Technology Trends Survey yields consistent results about what nonprofit finance leaders view as their top three challenges. Most nonprofits struggle with:
- Manual, time-consuming reporting. Typically, nonprofit finance and accounting teams spend too much time trying to input data to the accounting system and then pull it back out to Excel to manipulate it for reports. Manual reporting is time-consuming and inefficient. Spreadsheets are prone to errors and version control issues. All too often, these challenges result in delayed or inaccurate reporting.
- Lack of real-time visibility into KPIs and outcomes. Without real-time data and the visual dashboards that make the data easier to digest, it’s easy to miss opportunities. Backward-looking reports mean reactive decisions, rather than proactive. With real-time visibility, you can spot trends evolving and make decisions without delay.
- Inefficiencies due to multiple, disconnected systems. In short, data just doesn’t flow in a way that empowers leaders to make decisions with a high level of confidence. Instead, some key facts are always trapped within one system or another and CFOs cannot be sure they have the complete, up-to-date picture of performance.
The digital transformation tipping point
Eventually, inefficient, manual processes cause too much organizational pain, leading finance leaders to make a change. Each of the panel participants shared reflections on how and why their organizations reached the tipping point for adopting digital transformation.
When Karen Adame joined JumpStart, the organization was using an on-premises, older accounting software solution that was missing vital functionality. It was difficult to maintain and update. The staff could not easily work from home. She had been a customer of Sage Intacct at a prior organization and believed it would be a vital tool to help JumpStart move into the digital age with efficiency and effectiveness.
At World Learning, Kote Lomidze shared the tipping point for digital transformation started in the Chart of Accounts. With more than 50,000 GL account numbers, things were quickly getting out of hand. They had to be careful to ensure that every account number made it into one of the buckets on the balance sheet and nothing fell through the cracks. The tipping point came when Lomidze’s team realized they couldn’t balance the balance sheet. Their older accounting system was no longer robust enough to generate their basic needs for financial reports. That was the start of an epic journey in digital transformation that saw World Learning adopt Sage Intacct for financial management, along with other integrated business applications and even a few apps that Kote developed himself.
Alliah Ali recalled the tipping point for her team at DonorsChoose. The nonprofit was going through tremendous growth, enjoying 15% YOY revenue growth. Growth is a wonderful problem to have for any nonprofit, however, several applications at DonorsChoose weren’t up to the task. They lacked General Ledger visibility and a view into the full grant lifecycle. They needed a financial management system that could scale and deliver core requirements to support their growth. In order to continue fundraising for classrooms — the organization’s core mission — the finance team needed to move to the cloud and adopt a new financial management system.
The panel covered much more ground during their discussion than we can’t share in one blog. Panel members went on to share insights and experience about:
- What systems each nonprofit chose to integrate with their financials
- What technologies delivered the most significant gains for the finance team
- How reporting has been transformed at each of the nonprofits
- How automating KPIs impacted mission achievement
- Examples of process automation that made significant impacts
- What the development of AI and machine learning will mean for nonprofits
- How becoming more digital changed the overall culture within each finance team
If the top pains and tipping point stories we’ve shared resonate with you, you will want to watch the full panel presentation at the virtual Nonprofit Finance Leaders Forum. While you’re there, check out all six on-demand sessions. Each presentation delivered nonprofit finance and technology tips and information you can put to use within your own organization.
Natalie Anderson is a senior nonprofit industry marketing manager for Sage Intacct. Natalie has 10 years of experience in software marketing and is passionate about helping nonprofits leverage software to achieve mission success.
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