SuiteWorld 17 – Cloud enabling charities to focus on what’s important

SUMMARY:

Non-profit organisations took to the stage at the NetSuite event in Las Vegas this week to talk about how cloud systems support the work they’re doing.

NetSuite was keen to show its caring, sharing side on Thursday, the last day of its annual SuiteWorld event, inviting various non-profit organizations to the keynote stage to highlight the role technology plays in furthering good causes.

Bob Dixson, CFO of Rise Against Hunger, explained that while his organization has benefitted from rapid growth – the average growth rate over the last 10 years is about 50 percent – it is having difficulty keeping up with the expansion. He said:

We try to scale but then our donations go up. If there’s 20 percent growth in activity we try not to have 20 percent more accounting process in transactions.

The firm has turned to NetSuite to help support the growth. Previously, forecasting and budgeting was managed via a single spreadsheet, which went back with 10 years of data and three years ahead in forecasting. The firm also relied on 45 different forms to manage donations and financing, which were sent out to 40 ground level departments to fill in and return, a challenge for Dixson’s team to keep a handle on:

We ran into a little bit of a barrier we didn’t expect and that is at 70,000MB of data, we had to go some place where they could scale the data and we wouldn’t have to take the last five years of data out to make sure our forecasting spreadsheets worked. [Using NetSuite], the turnaround time where the team can look at the numbers and say that’s not going to work, we’re going to have to cut some budget from the expenses has gone down by about 80 percent.

Rise Against Hunger has also made good use of the shared dashboard to improve processes, according to Dixson.

As we reassign work to different people – let’s say the payroll clerk is going to be the backup of the accounts receivable as they go on vacation for two weeks – we just slide the dashboard over and they just go to the dashboard and they proceed with the activity.

The next stage for the organization is to get more detailed information out about donations to the people on the ground. Rise Against Hunger is lucky enough to have several hundred thousand volunteers, who attend 3,000 meal-packaging events, and they would like to know what their activity is going towards. Dixson added:

We package 60 millions meals a year, which go to 20 warehouses and on to 25 overseas partners in 45 different countries. What we’d like is to get to the point where we can go to the village level in all 45 different countries and be able to explain exactly what impact they’re making on the starving people of the world.

Healthy dashboards

Brightpoint Health controller Philip Gunraj was also on hand to discuss the problems the organization was having before moving to NetSuite in July 2014, explaining it was struggling with billing and collecting donations.

Brightpoint Health is a multi-faceted healthcare organization serving 40,000 clients and 175,000 visits each year, including healthcare and dental for those who are under insured.

Gunraj is a particular fan of the KPIs for revenue, letting him easily compare finances to the month before, break it down by location and have access to a dashboard with the top 20 transactions, their dollar value and what they are. He said:

It’s allowed me to enhance my role. Instead of us having to spend so long trying to close the books and waste man hours, I can sit down and analyze the data, be able to give advice to the CFO about what the data means and help make decisions on how to grow the business.

We’re now able to produce reports that can tell what’s happening in certain departments or locations, and we can go as far as a borough or line of business. Maybe there’s an opportunity to expand on a line or slow down and see what’s happening in the next month or quarter. We haven’t had that opportunity before, we couldn’t get that level of detail.

Gunraj also worked with the finance team and CFO to develop a month-end checklist, showing what’s been done or hasn’t been done.

We’re able to see in NetSuite itself where we are compared to last month or the previous quarter. We can tell if we are so far ahead of last month, if something in expenses doesn’t look right. It makes sure it’s as correct as it can be. If you spent so much in a particular line in January, and in February it’s gone up by 10 or 20 percent, you know something is wrong, especially if there are no outliers to explain it.

Peggy Duvette, director, Social Impact, Oracle + NetSuite, was also on hand to talk up the firm’s good work in the non-profit sector, both through giving away its technology for free or at a highly discounted rate to non-profit organizations of all sizes, and also via its NetSuite.org Pro Bono programme, where the firm teams up employees with grantees to help them solve problems.

So far, NetSuite has donated 12,866 volunteer hours, has splashed out more than $70m in software donations, and over $744k in pro bono work. The firm now has 1,000 non-profit customers globally, but Duvette said she has ambitions to raise that to 10,000.

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Disclosure - NetSuite is a diginomica premier partner at time of writing.

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