Accounting isn't fun to most people. Volunteers that do this are typically very detail oriented and organized. If you can get an accounting firm to do your books as a pro bono that is great. If you are a 501(c)(3) non-profit, it is also ideal to get a CPA or accountant on your Board of Directors.
Quickbooks and Peachtree are probably the most common accounting software packages out there. Once you use one, you will be married to it for life, because it is difficult to transfer data to the other. If you are a 501(c)(3) non-profit, you can sometimes find Quickbooks cheaply on TechSoup.
Salesforce.com has a charitable Foundation that provides 10 complimentary licenses of Salesforce.com's CRM tool to qualifying non-profit organizations to help them manage their donors, volunteers, partners, marketing campaigns, donations etc. The complimentary licenses are valued at about $ 14,400 per year.
Point of Sale
Accrual vs. Cash Basis
Accrual and Cash Basis are two different ways of doing accounting. Cash Basis is easier for smaller organizations, whereas Accrual is required by the IRS of organizations that make over $600k annually or a third-party audit is required by a foundation for larger grants. A very simple example to distinguish the two is that Accrual assumes that checks clear the same day you write them, and that invoices are paid the same day you write them. Whereas with Cash Basis checks are entered in on the date they are cleared, and invoices are entered in on the date they are paid. As a result Accrual accounting requires more effort, but gives you a more accurate month to month report.
Quick and Dirty Cash Basis Accounting
The following is a very simple and 90% automated way of keeping track of the accounting and receipts.
- Buy a filing cabinet and put it in a safe but convenient location, used ones are under $20 at thrift stores.
- IRS. NOTE: It REALLY helps if you limit who can make purchases and thus who is responsible for the receipts to one very organized person.
- If you can afford the well worth it monthly fee, signup for Quickbooks Online -- if not, Mint.com (also owned by Intuit) is free and while it is made for personal accounting it can be bastardized for running a small organization.
- Connect your bank accounts and Paypal accounts to Quickbooks Online or Mint.com, if your bank isn't supported, pick a bank that is, it is well worth the trouble. On a related note, a good bank will also waive all the fees for a non-profit.
- At the beginning of the year find a CPA that will fill out your IRS Form 990, and ask them what Chart of Accounts they would like, in other words, how would they like bank transactions categorized / coded. Tax law may change yearly, so ask this question yearly.
- Have the person in charge of purchases log in on a weekly or monthly basis and accurately categorize / code all of the transactions in Quickbooks Online or Mint.com based on the recommendations of the CPA.
- Have the CPA file your 990 based on the end-year Quickbooks Online or Mint.com reports.
The penalties for screwing up payroll are far greater than years of paying a payroll company to do it. Ask some of your smaller local non-profits who they use.
One key distinction when shopping around for a good company. Payroll companies will fill under your organization's name and unemployment number, whereas with a Leasing company you they file everything under their business name and unemployment number.
Who uses what?
We use Quickbooks and Quickbooks POS, and instantly share the data files to various board members using Dropbox. Relative to other products, it seemed to be FAR cheaper, but they seem to get you in any customization with auto-renewing monthly support contracts. Not to mention if you want to accept credit cards, the POS software makes it impossible to use any other credit card processor than, you guessed it -- Intuit. The rates aren't good or bad, but it would be nice to have other options.
All donations, new parts sales (taxed), and used parts sales (not taxed) are run through the POS. The Shop Manager then closes out the till at the end of the night and the amount is checked and deposited.
Online donations are accepted through Google Checkout, which charges 0% (free) as long as you are a non-profit part of the Google Grants program.
We use Quickbooks for invoicing and account reconciliation. We have used Quickbooks Cash Register Plus for the past 4 months and just this week are migrating to Point-of-Sale since it became available at Techsoup for $80 and will help manage inventory of a small list of items we sell. I've learned that the migration is not automatic and requires exporting from CRP and importing in POS. I will have to manually re-setup all the cashier's accounts in POS, as it appears there is not an option to export/import those settings. We started with a stand-alone credit card terminal from NPC which we got through Techsoup, but when we moved to Quickbooks it was easier to consolidate under one system. One thing to look out with the standalone service is they will charge a $300 early termination fee if you follow the same steps we did.