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Finance Tech Helping Communities Impacted by COVID-19 Featured

Finance Tech Helping Communities Impacted by COVID-19 Tim Marshall

The coronavirus pandemic hit rural communities hard, and the number of confirmed cases in those regions are rising steadily. Though there are benefits to living in a less populous area during a pandemic, there are several unique challenges: economic and financial vulnerability, limited resources, and most people living in rural communities are blue collar workers and likely lost their jobs at the onset of the shutdown or are risking their lives to go to work every day.

During times like these, access to rapid, trusted financial insight is critical, so The Ford Family Foundation, one of the largest nonprofit grantors in Oregon, set forth to make a difference in the communities it serves.

The Ford Family Foundation began in 1957 with a mission to service the rural communities of Oregon and Siskiyou County, California. Over time our initiatives expanded to encompass scholarship programs, children, youth and family services, and community building. In the last couple of years, we shifted our focus to becoming “changemakers” with more strategic involvement and partnerships in programmatic work. As the foundation expanded, so did our staff, transaction volumes, and financial complexity.

With the rapidly changing requirements and increased demand, our finance team initially struggled to keep up due to the antiquated accounting software we had in place. It wasn’t built for a growing nonprofit organization. Extracting data from the software for purposes of managing budgets and supporting the evolving requirements was nearly impossible without the support of a software developer, which ate up precious time and resources. One of our accounting associates previously spent all her time tracking one department’s accounts payable in a massive spreadsheet, and then tediously copied each item into the Microsoft Dynamics GP general ledger. 

We knew it was time for a change. Enter Sage Intacct.

We wanted a user-friendly solution that was easily accessible to non-finance users. After consulting with our CPA and hearing a customer testimonial from our consulting partner, Clark Nuber PS, it was clear to us that Sage Intacct’s cloud-based financial management software could deliver significant value. After migrating to Sage Intacct, we saw immediate impact. We rapidly gained insights that helped us to redirect funds to struggling communities during COVID-19 and improved the team’s efficiency by 40%.

In addition to improving efficiencies and helping us provide communities with COVID-19 relief, Sage Intacct has made us more agile and freed up our time to focus on making a lasting impact on our communities. Some of the key changes we’ve seen include:

  • Gained agility to triple grantmaking: We expect grantmaking to triple as we funds several emergency projects to meet the needs of rural communities struggling with the current health and economic crisis.
  • Freed up 40 hours of weekly data entry: With Sage Intacct’s intuitive system and end-to-end automation, accounts payable tasks take half the time. In addition, integrations with other business systems within the Foundation have improved data accuracy and saved even more time by setting up simple uploads and downloads from our payroll, grantmaking and expense management applications into Sage Intacct.
  • Reporting and dashboard capabilities: Our team built several custom reports, along with personalized dashboards that include up-to-date budget reports, with data organized across important operational dimensions—such as spending trends by category, and impact metrics for individual programs or events—for the foundation’s president, CFO and each departments’ director and staff. This visibility helps us better track and manage our margins for key initiatives, like child abuse prevention or annual scholarship conferences.

Sometimes one change can have a ripple effect throughout the organization. The simple act of upgrading our financial software to Sage Intacct has made our lives easier, which in turn improved the quality of life for our communities. The seamless automation and analytics provided by the cloud-based platform is instrumental for decision making. In fact, when our staff started working remotely, our finance team did not have to spend any time figuring out how we’d keep operations going. Difficult times or not, we are pleased to have a trusted partner that helps us make a difference.

Jennifer Mitchell manages The Ford Family Foundation’s accounting and payroll systems. She additionally assists the foundation’s CFO with financial reporting, budgeting and investment monitoring; as well as its financial statements, tax returns and audit information.

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