Best Practice Trends for Nonprofits: Automating Your Processes

This is the final post in this series on nonprofit best practice trends. We’ve covered some key areas that you’ll want to make sure to consider as you plan and execute in the coming year. This week’s topic is automating your processes.

As nonprofits, we focus on expanding programs and services, reducing costs, increasing return on mission, and strengthening donor loyalty—all of which is good stewardship. That’s really what automation of processes is all about: doing more and creating greater impact with less.

We started this series talking about outcome measures. It’s pretty clear from funder prioritization and requirements that monitoring, measuring and sharing key metrics are critical. But this requires efficiency and automation of processes. If you want to ensure high program efficiency metrics, you have to create the productivity savings, via automation, to reduce the proportional costs of overhead to program investment.

Here’s a specific example - let’s say you want to improve internal controls and reduce the inefficiencies of your manual purchasing system. By utilizing automated workflows in a best in class fund accounting solution, you will save time, paper, and frustration. Automated purchasing workflows will give you notification (on any device) that you have a pending electronic purchasing requisition or PO for approval. As you approve vendor payments, you can drill right into the original document to see the invoice. Payments are point and click. Reporting and visibility are instant.

Another example might be your audit. Is it taking too long and costing too much? In an automated environment, you can create a dashboard for your auditors that give them view only access to key reports and documents – right from their office. They can drill right into the source documents and you save travel, delays, and costs.

Jim Cook, CEO of Mozilla, (a nonprofit committed to keeping the internet open), is a “believer in automating everything.” Check out this short video of the difference process automation has made for Mozilla.

As you define your goals, priorities, and strategies in the year ahead, select some best practices to implement in your organization. Define, track, and measure results so that you can identify your savings and efficiency gains. Get familiar with the technology tools available to help you increase stewardship while decreasing costs. Feel free to use this resource when you start to look for a modern application to help you automate your processes: Checklist: Essential Features of a Modern Accounting System for Nonprofit Organizations.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the series. Questions or comments regarding automating your processes? Please leave a comment below. Be sure to learn more about how Intacct helps nonprofit organizations, and register to attend an upcoming Intacct informational webinar, "Not Your Mother's Chart of Accounts: Modern Day Nonprofit Accounting Applications," on Thursday, March 5, 2015 at 11:00am PST.