The role of the business manager at an independent school is often one that presents a wide range of challenges. Parents and donors have high expectations for how your school spends funds and payments, handles student records and tracks programs — and you have to manage all of this in order to deliver the high-quality education promised.
Meeting Expectations and Managing Data
To manage such high expectations, many schools will build a software stack that allows them to handle accounting, tuition management, program management, fundraising and so much more to complete daily activities.
Too often, however, connecting this stack of applications is at best a hassle and at worst a nightmare — the idea of systems “talking” to each other is often a pipedream. While a lack of integration is a challenge for other organizations as well, it presents even more of a concern for independent schools, which represent a unique subgroup of schools. Without the buying power of a school district or dioceses to back you up, you often are relegated to using a disparate, siloed set of applications to get the job done.
The Realities for Independent Schools
This presents a challenge for independent school business officers and finance professionals, who often rely on spreadsheets and other manual processes to “integrate” the wide range of applications used, copying data to a spreadsheet, manipulating the formatting and reuploading it to a different system.
The process of doing this often leads to inaccuracies, wasted time and a frustrating lack of visibility, as few solutions exist to combine products that are designed for specific functions.
An application for accounting, an application for tuition, an application for donor management and fundraising, an application for managing information, and more. On their own, each application does what it’s supposed to do. The accounting platform gives you the control over the books, fundraising applications take in money and administrative applications track necessary information about your students.
However, no matter how well each application works, if nothing integrates, your team has to spend hours or days trying to track information from point A to B to C.
Lack of Visibility
Even if you have a well-designed multi-fund accounting solution, tracking the cash flow in and out of each fund and applying it to student accounts is rarely an easy proposition. This lack of integration and visibility could result in your school mistakenly sending invoices when none were required or other mismanaged billing, resulting in angry calls from parents and an unfortunate blow to your reputation. Parents pay a lot of money for top-tier education, and any sign of disorganization looks bad on your team and the school as a whole.
Increased Stress, Decreased Productivity
If you leverage a wide variety of applications, transferring data between each one increases risk. Each time you download and manipulate the data, more risk for error appears. If someone is lucky enough to catch the error, your team needs to find it, fix it and restart the entire process. Each step in the process takes more and more time as your school grows, leading to increased stress for your staff and decreased productivity.
The Power of Integration: Seeing the Big Picture at Your Independent School
Fund management, student management and financial management each present unique challenges for independent schools, and few solutions exist that provide affordability, flexibility and reliability.
At Wipfli, we’ve seen these challenges and have worked with many independent schools to customize and deliver a tailored version of Sage Intacct for the unique needs of Independent Schools. Paired with our proprietary SchoolConnect solution, independent schools are able to minimize the amount of manual data entry, speed up everything from billing to accounting to student management, and see the big picture as it pertains to their operations.
Success Story: SchoolConnect for Sage Intacct
Don’t just take it from us. Take it from Wipfli client and highly satisfied customer Roberta Hopkins, CFO of Georgetown Visitation, a 300-year-old college preparatory school in Washington D.C:
“With our old system,” says Hopkins, “the chart of accounts was very outdated. We had to download data from Financial Edge into Excel and then create the financial statements. If there was an error, we had to redo the entire process.” The financial statement preparation process was very manual, time consuming, and cumbersome.
Wipfli implemented the Sage Intacct core modules and leveraged Sage Intacct’s non-profit QuickStart templates that include pre-built and customizable non-profit financial statements. To automate inter-fund transactions in the general ledger, cash management and accounts payable, Wipfli developed automated entries that efficiently and accurately auto-balance the appropriate fund.
Additionally, Wipfli implemented SchoolConnect, a billing and integration suite created specifically for independent schools, which enables Georgetown Visitation to manage all their financial and operational data within Sage Intacct. SchoolConnect eliminates the manual data integration of student management and tuition payment systems, which Hopkins estimates was 50% of one of her employees’ workload. Now, tuition payments, address changes, email address changes, and donations can be easily and quickly synchronized with Sage Intacct on a daily basis.
This content was originally posted here.