Nonprofits and Data

last person joined: 8 days ago 

This group is for those interested in learning and sharing about all things data-related for nonprofits. The Nonprofits and Data group is for people using data to serve a mission, either directly or by improving nonprofits and the nonprofit sector. That includes everything from collecting data and managing databases to analytics, data visualization and data mining. Here are some examples of topics we discuss: using data to improve organizational effectiveness, measuring impact, using data for storytelling, tools for data management and analysis, figuring out the “right” data to collect, and learning skills to help us use data better.

Financial data dashboard development

  • 1.  Financial data dashboard development

    Posted Nov 15, 2018 09:19
    We're transitioning away from the finance team making individual reports for every department every month, to utilizing the reporting and dashboard features of our accounting software (Sage Intacct). I'm coming from a technology support kind of function, with a personal interest in effective data usage/visualization but not much experience. And very little context for financial information. Does anyone have experience with creating/using financial dashboards? What financial data (whether on a dashboard or not) have you found to be of interest to management? We're a foundation, so we don't have donor related financial information.

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    Keisha Carr (pronouns: she/her/hers)
    Systems Support Associate
    Bainum Family Foundation
    Bethesda, MD
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  • 2.  RE: Financial data dashboard development

    Posted Nov 16, 2018 09:17
    Hi Keisha,

    My organization is making a similar transition to Sage Intacct, and we are looking forward to the reporting options with that.

    We've also been improving our financial reporting in our CRM. One of the things that was really important (because we're so event driven) was creating custom fields in our database to track what the budgeted revenue for a program was, so we could always compare the budgeted revenue to what has come in so far.

    Does anyone else have any financial dashboard advice?

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    Emilio Arocho
    Director, Technology and Digital Strategy
    Food and Drug Law Institute

    Community Organizer, NTEN Nonprofits and Data group.
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  • 3.  RE: Financial data dashboard development

    Posted Nov 16, 2018 12:48
    Hello, as a service organization numbers like FY to date contract utilization, and budget variance reports are very important to us. We're starting to actively raise funds online, so comparing that to our contract/grant income is important too.

    One thing the variance reporting brings out is the impact of shared costs (particularly IT capital projects!) allocated across the org that can have surprising (usually negative!) impacts on program/department funds.

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    Winston Berger
    IT Data Systems Manager
    A Better Way, Inc.
    Berkeley, CA
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  • 4.  RE: Financial data dashboard development

    Posted Nov 17, 2018 22:28
    Hi Keisha,

    Dashboards always sound good in theory, but a lot of times, our clients struggle to say what they actually want on those dashboards! This reflects that many decisions get made without looking at data, and becoming more data-driven is a culture shift, not simply a matter of offering dashboards.

    For a foundation, some common items to look at include:

    Total grant commitments vs amounts actually disbursed
    Cash projections (based on expected disbursements)
    Grant amounts by topic (or whatever strategic categories the foundation uses for its grantmaking, eg geography, grantee type, etc.)
    Budgeted grant amount vs granting commitments

    More generally, regarding dashboarding, the most important thing to think about is cadence. We put a speedometer in our car, but we only have a check engine light. We need to monitor speed at all time, but we don't need that kind of frequency of granularity to measure engine maintenance. Too often, we see dashboarding and real-time reporting for data that you shouldn't look at so frequently. Often, these numbers become kind of meaningless, and over time, those dashboards are ignored.

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    Isaac Shalev
    http://www.sage70.com
    Stamford CT
    @Sage70
    isaac@sage70.com
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  • 5.  RE: Financial data dashboard development

    Posted Nov 19, 2018 15:07
    Isaac,

    You bring up such a good point about the culture shift to becoming more data-driven. It will definitely need to be a consideration as we move forward (especially in recognizing why there may not be a clear answer to "what data do you need?").

    As I'm also not on the grant-making part of staff, I don't use that system of record (we use GIFTs to management our partner grants). Have you found organizations with both a CRM-like system and a financial accounting system create dashboards in both to review the items you listed?

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    Keisha Carr (pronouns: she/her/hers)
    Systems Support Associate
    Bainum Family Foundation
    Bethesda, MD
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  • 6.  RE: Financial data dashboard development

    Posted Nov 20, 2018 11:10
    We're currently helping a few foundations with that exact issue. There are GMS (grant management systems) that have robust CRM functionality too. These tend to occupy the middle of the market. At the entry-level you tend not to have much CRM functionality. At enterprise, you have  some, but you also have an expectation built into the system that you'll be integrating with a CRM. That's typical of enterprise architecture: best-in-breed tools, and complex integrations to keep them in sync.

    Happy to talk with you directly, at no obligation. You can schedule with me at www.calendly.com/sage70/30min

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    Isaac Shalev
    http://www.sage70.com
    Stamford CT
    @Sage70
    isaac@sage70.com
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  • 7.  RE: Financial data dashboard development

    Posted Nov 21, 2018 14:55
    I can offer some input - but keep in mind my viewpoint is from an accounting level.

    We've been working with Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 - been working with it since the 2013 version. It takes care of 90% of the stuff that we need to do on the accounting side - and the great part is that it is highly customizable.  We use it primarily for member management, benefit plan management and for the majority of our accounting and reporting. It has been very reliable to date and development costs have not been out of this world. Reporting on the accounting side has been adequate - most of the canned reports provide the essentials. Any additional reports that you need to produce can be created using MS SQL Server Report Builder. There are a number of dashboard products that can be purchased to organize and display these reports, generate reports - we've simply created our own version in house to meet our needs.  These reports apparently can be incorporated within the NAV dashboard - although I've only had limited success trying to incorporate custom reports into the products dashboard equivalent. The canned reports I never ran into issues with adding.

    The downside - is that in NAV 2018 and prior releases - any of the development which took place was integrated at the application level - not separated out from the application. This meant that whenever we did an upgrade - their were substantial development costs in moving to the new version. All of the unique development stuff had to be re-integrated within the new version. This is a huge concern that I have heard from other users of the product - and Microsoft appears to have addressed this with their new product Business Central.

    The new direction with NAV is a move to a revised product called Business Central. They've separated out the customization so that updates and upgrades can be more easily rolled out - without having to incur additional development costs. We are looking at moving to this platform in the upcoming years. It is my understanding that with this new version you can house data locally (MS SQL Server) or in the Microsoft cloud or both. Keeping our data local was a huge concern for us.

    My biggest advice is talk to other people using the product - and get a realistic idea of development time and implementation costs. Depending upon the product and customized requirements they can vary significantly. Not all developers are reliable or accurate in their estimates - and some of the quotes may be far fetched in order to get your business. Make sure you get a fixed cost contract in place with requirements clearly defined. Development costs are notorious for cost over run.

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    Scott Tywoniuk, CPA, CA
    Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
    P: 780-822-2408 | F: 780-447-0613
    11835 149 Street NW, Edmonton, AB T5L 2J1
    www.arta.net

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