Managing Group Finances in an Ever-Changing Economic Climate
Pamela Okopny, BillHighway
In today’s economy, maximizing and organizing group finances is becoming increasingly crucial. The days of chasing down dues and gathering checks from multiple members are becoming a thing of the past. Technology has made web-based accounting software available and, best of all, easy to use. With the changing economic times, it is essential that organizations of all shapes and sizes are able to manage their finances efficiently and accurately. What once seemed overwhelming can now be simple, organized, and, most importantly, manageable.
There are many financial management tools and services available for small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Products range from complete financial management packages to resources that assist with billing and collecting. Some services, like Billhighway, GreekBill, or Omega Financial, have been designed specifically for fraternities, sororities, and other member-based organizations. Others, like QuickBooks and Blackbaud, have been designed for all types of businesses or organizations both small and large.
Determining Which Product is Right for You
Each financial management software provider has a unique set of products offering different features and benefits. Some are flexible and customizable while others are ready made. Organizations interested in using financial management tools should first determine their specific needs, including problem areas or areas in need of improvement. For instance, some organizations may need a product that can help with accounts receivable and payable, while others seek support for the collection of dues from members and year-end tax preparation and filing.
Once the organization has determined where to increase efficiency or improve accuracy, the organization should research the available services. This can be done by asking other fraternal organizations. The Internet is also a great tool for learning more about the available products and costs. An organization looking for a financial management tool should always compare their top two financial service providers to see which best fits their needs.
Most financial software is now available as a hosted or web-based service. This is an important differentiator because there is no software to download, install, or update. A web-based provider’s online software is typically updated frequently with new features and functions. Some services use feedback directly from their customers to make improvements to their products. In addition, some financial management providers will offer promotional pricing at the start of your relationship. Do not be afraid to ask if there are any promotions available, and be sure to get information about what the pricing strucutre will be once the promotional period concludes.
From an executive level to a chapter level, the benefits of adopting a financial management program are endless. Most software packages use electronic billing, meaning all statements are sent via email. Eco-friendly electronic billing makes it easy for members to view their statements and even easier to make payments.
Accounting tasks are time consuming, and if accounting entries are entered by hand, there is a greater margin for error. Using a financial software package greatly reduces the time spent keeping chapter finances in check.
Increasing the organization’s collection rate is a priority for all organizations. This can be done by accepting credit cards, offering monthly installment plans, or an automatic payment draft option.
Some software providers even make the dreaded year-end preparation, information gathering, and tax filing a snap. There may be a small fee for actual tax filing, but that small fee could save a lot of time and eliminate the stress that comes with the organization’s end of fiscal year routine.
The Importance of Online Safety and Security
If your organization decides to use a web-based financial partner, it’s important to make sure their online software and Web site is secure. To do this, check their Web site for a section dedicated to online security. Look for popular verifications like a TRUSTe® or the Hacker Safe logo. When transmitting personal information or making online payments, users want to make sure the session is secure.
10 Tips to Implementing a Financial Management Plan in Your Organization
1. Determine the financial areas the organization needs improvement upon or that pose a challenge.
2. Do your research.
3. Ask other organizations about their experiences.
4. Compare options – features, benefits, and pricing.
5. Look for a provider that is willing to take the time to answer questions.
6. Request references.
7. Ask about the customer service and support provided.
8. Verify online security.
9. Ask for statistical data to see the results other organizations have achieved.
10. Communicate the positive changes to chapters and their members.