“One of your biggest sources of professional pride is probably also one of its most frustrating parts: You’re doing the work of three people!”

The above, opening sentence of the Guidestar blog post caught our attention immediately.

The article was written for Development Directors, but we’ve seen the same problem among Finance Directors, CFOs, and just about everyone on the accounting team. You’ve been doing more with less for a long time.

The Guidestar article strongly urges avoiding burnout and reducing stress by looking for opportunities to automate workflows. We want to take a look at the benefits of automation from the perspective of a Finance Director.

Take a moment to think about all the repeat activities that are a part of your departmental duties.

Take a moment to think about all the repeat activities that are a part of your duties and make a list. Keep the list for future reference and continue to add to the list as new repeat activities spring to mind. Those repeat duties might center on allocation of funds or the correction of allocations that are miscoded. What about collecting and combining data to get the requested reporting? How often are you importing and exporting into spreadsheets? How often are you creating or updating spreadsheets? How long does it take to compile, create and distribute period-end and grant reporting each month? How often are you tracking down the status of an approval?

All of the things we’ve mentioned (and more) are areas where workflow automation could save an enormous amount of time: time that would be better spent on more strategic activities that would benefit your organization.

Additional benefits

Automation Completes Repeat Activities While You Address Bigger Issues

Without automation, when you are pulled to address an issue that needs immediate attention, all those little repeat activities are put on hold. Not only are they still waiting for you after you’ve dealt with the challenge, you now probably have to rush to get these tasks completed. When we’re in a hurry, there’s an increased likelihood of error. As the Guidestar article points out, “One of the biggest benefits of automating things that need to be done over and over is that, by setting them up to work correctly initially, you ensure they’ll be completed in a consistent manner every time.”

Staff Turnover or Absence Becomes Less of a Disruption

Not only do you have a laundry list of repeat tasks, so does your staff. Ever notice how Murphy’s Law kicks in when someone is on leave, retires, or leaves the organization to take another job? There’s one less person (who was also doing the job of three people) and now those duties must be divided between the remaining staff members. Automation of the departing staff members repeat tasks, means that those activities continue to be executed until the position is filled.

Automation Frees Up Time for High Touch, High Value Activities

How much more impact would you have if you could take your financial expertise and assist colleagues with more analysis? Help them with developing dashboards that keep their real time key metrics a glance away. Assist a program manager and grant writers in determining, based on the organization’s existing resources, which grant awards to apply for. Spend more time analyzing the data that, in the past, you barely had time to compile. You’ve probably thought of dozens of other activities that would be a more valuable use of your time – and hence the title of this article – the best contribution you can make to your nonprofit is to remove the repetitive and mundane from your job in order to deliver your true value and expertise!

What it takes

You need to invest in an accounting solution that:

  • Does what a nonprofit needs done without excessive Excel intervention
  • Doesn’t require a total overhaul of servers, networks, and devices
  • Does integrate with other mission critical solutions in use in the organization (think fundraising, online giving, tuition management, medical billing, payroll, human resources, etc.)
  • Doesn’t require an unreasonable investment, but rather costs less than a part-time employee and provides a rapid return on investment

Massey Consulting helps organizations move from QuickBooks to Intacct on a regular basis. We’ve also helped organizations move from legacy systems to cloud-based Intacct. These organizations have enjoyed the benefits of saving large chunks of time through automation of workflows so that they can focus their attention on optimizing processes and helping program managers become even better stewards of funds in order to serve more constituents.

Other Nonprofit resources from Massey Consulting:

White paper ’13 Questions Nonprofits Need to Ask When Buying a New Accounting System

Monthly webcasts for nonprofits