Fall event highlight - how DonorsChoose crowdfunds for teachers in need with Sage Intacct

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed November 22, 2019
Next up in my fall event highlights series - an award-winning non-profit on a push to modernize their financials. Here's how DonorsChoose is automating workflows and changing finance with Sage Intacct.

Donors Choose, Alliah Mohamed

Hear from a nonprofit about its world-changing mission? Count me in. That was certainly the case with DonorsChoose, a non-profit that gives individuals a platform to donate directly to public school classroom projects.

A modest agenda? Not when you consider that as of 2018, DonorsChoose had funded one million(!) school projects.

In the process, DonorsChoose became a trailblazer in civic crowdfunding. This year, DonorsChoose was named to Fast Company's 2019 Most Innovative Companies list for the non-profit sector.

But non-profits don't add up to much if they aren't financially sustainable. At Sage Intacct Advantage, a big topic for non-profits is getting to better results by modernizing finance. And results are something DonorsChoose can speak to. With Sage Intacct's cloud financials, DonorsChoose:

  • Cut out 50 hours a month in manual reporting, bill payments and revenue recognition.
  • Improved overall finance team efficiency by 20%.
  • Cut month-end close by 60%.
  • Reduced accounts payable, by cutting the time from five to eight hours per week, to one hour.
  • Eliminated manual check-writing via the Intacct Check Delivery Service with American Express, saving ten hours of work each month.

ERP results are always good to document - after all, the history of ERP has plenty of projects that never got there. What I'm most interested in is the journey: how did you get to quantifiable? At Sage Intacct Advantage 2019, Alliah Mohamed, Director, Accounting & Financial Operations at DonorsChoose, filled me in.

The DonorsChoose process is straightforward for users: teachers post projects on DonorsChoose, requesting needed materials. Once a project is fully-funded, DonorsChoose gets the materials or the resource directly in the hands of the teacher. The teacher doesn't have to get involved in the payment logistics.

Mohamed has worked for DonorsChoose for almost seven years. She was on hand when Sage Intacct was selected; she helped with the initial data imports into Intacct. And why Intacct?

We wanted a robust system. We also wanted to go on a cloud, because the system we were using before Intacct was offline; it was really hard to do any API integration... We wanted to find ways to streamline our processes, by integrating our website platform to our financial system.

And did Intacct live up to its billing?

Yes - that's why six years later we're still with the product.

DonorsChoose is also a Sage Intacct customer award winner. I asked Mohamed: why does she think they won?

Because I think what we've done with our AP process was amazing.

Okay - you've got me. How?

I think we reduced our AP process from a four day process to a one day process, complete end-to-end. Basically, we integrated our internal back-end to Intacct. Automatically, when something is approved on our back-end, creates a bill for us in Intacct. And then we partner with American Express to print the checks for us.

Workflow automation - you can't transform finance without it. And there's more:

We've cut all of the paper. We're 100% paperless.

Another key to modern finance: reduce your auditing chores.

In fact, Intacct helped our audit to be faster too. We're not going into file cabinets to find invoices. We're able to have auditors directly in our Intacct environment, and they're seeing everything that they need.

That's a pretty big reduction:

Our audit used to be one month to two months. Now our audit is, I'd say, seven days max.

I've talked with Sage Intacct MD and EVP Robert Reid about his goal: Sage Intacct customers will eventually shift their finance work from 80 percent administrative to 80 percent strategic. I asked Mohamed: with the time saved from less audit prep, should that be classified as efficiency, a means of headcount reduction, or a chance to do more cool stuff?

I'm able to do more cool stuff.

All right - like what?

It allows us to do cool integrations we wouldn't have spent money and investment on. One cool thing that we did was we got an engineer to help us build - this is before bank feed was released recently - we got an engineer to build a direct integration between our Citibank platform to our Intacct environment.

On the fly, every day, we're able to see a listing of all the transactions that happen, so we're able to do daily reconciliations instead of monthly reconciliations. (Editor's note: at Advantage 2019, Sage Intacct announced bank feed integration as a generally available feature).

We already covered results - but there's more of those too. The integration of Intacct Accounts Payable with the DonorsChoose donations process lets teachers check their own receipt reimbursement status. That led to a 73% reduction in teacher inquiries in six months, saving an additional 30 hours a year.

Sage Intacct dashboards have also had an impact. Each member of Mohamed's finance team uses their dashboard daily to view performance cards on metrics they are tracking. Their past grant tracking system didn't have the same visibility. Now they can view partner-specific revenue for each individual grantor. Via their Intacct-Salesforce integration, the same is true for the DonorsChoose fund development team. 

So what's next for Mohamed and her team? Yep, fun with revenue recognition:

The revenue piece is what we're trying to tackle, revenue recognition for not-for-profits. Right now, we're doing that because revenue is not directly in our Intacct environment. We're doing that offline in an Excel spreadsheet. It's not too complicated; it takes us maybe three full days to do it during every audit. So every year, once a year we're doing that. We want to figure out some way to get that into Intacct.

Yes, Sage Intacct already has quite a bit of revenue recognition functionality. But there are some non-profit nuances to how DonorsChoose does this. That's why Mohamed checked out a custom interactive report session during Intacct Advantage.I'll look forward to hearing how she solved that issue with Sage Intacct next year.

I asked Mohamed about some of the next-gen finance concepts and features Sage Intacct put on stage this year, from predictive billing to the "intelligent GL." What stood out to her? The "continuous close."

When Aaron Harris said removing the entire close, I was like, "Really?" But yes, that's where we need to go.

Given what the DonorsChoose team has accomplished so far, I wouldn't bet against them on this one either.

Updated November 23, 12pm UK time, with a few additional stats and resource links.