Bookkeeping Software Features List

Hello again Software4Nonprofits advisors on the upcoming bookkeeping software.

I want to share with you the provisional list of features that will, won’t, and might be included in the program (at least, the first version!), and invite your comments. All of this of course is still subject to change, based on my and my colleague Jason’s best judgement, and input from all of you.

I do fully realize that this list of features will not satisfy everyone. And particularly because it has become clear that it is impossible to import transactions from QuickBooks or Simply Accounting, and the majority of the respondents to my survey are currently using one of those two programs, it may appeal more to new organizations than to existing ones.

OK, here we go:

1) These are the set of features the survey said would definitely be done, with my further comments on what they would look and/or work like:

  • The ability to track basic bank, credit card, and other asset and liability accounts. (The standard chequebook register interface will be used for entering most transactions to these types of accounts.)
  • Specifying your fiscal year (i.e. if it is not the same as your calendar year). This would give additional options for reporting.
  • Assigning named income and expense categories to transactions. (Income and expense categories will be called accounts, just like assets, liabilities, and equity accounts.)
  • Splitting transactions between multiple categories / accounts.
  • Transfers between accounts. (Any transaction involving multiple asset, liability or equity accounts will be viewable in all of affected registers.)
  • Have transactions affect funds. (Each fund will have an associated equity account, and specific income and expense accounts that belong exclusively to it.)
  • Tracking of fund balances without having to make special manual entries. (The program will automatically allocate income and expenses that belong to the fund to its equity balance, without actually showing it as a transaction on that equity account. Direct transfers can also be made to or from those fund equity accounts though.)
  • Basic standard reporting for financial statements, including balance sheets, trail balance, income statements, and year over year comparisons.
  • Bank reconciliation based on your data entry (i.e. not based on transactions imported from online banking systems). Need report on your reconciliation too.
  • Backups and restores.
  • Multiple sets of books (databases) for multiple organizations.
  • Searching for transactions in one or all accounts.
  • A single password for each database/organization. (Or, do we need to be able to specify multiple users, for audit trail purposes?)
  • Keep data for as many years as you want, or delete older years’ data as desired (and roll up balances from them as needed to keep everything correct).
  • An optional multi-user network version.

2) These are the features asked about in the survey that should clearly be done, based on the responses:

  • Special features for Accounts Payable (setting up details for vendors, handling purchase orders, bills, debt aging reports etc.)
  • Multiple levels of sub-categories under basic income and expense categories. (All types of account will allow for a maximum of two levels of sub-account. Transactions can only be posted to the lowest level, not to accounts that have sub-accounts.)
  • One level of sub-funds under top-level funds (e.g. sub-funds under a main Restricted fund).
  • Specialized fund accounting reporting for your various restricted and non-restricted funds. (E.g. a report for each fund showing opening balance at the start of the selected reporting period, income and expenses for that period, surplus/deficit, and closing balance.)
  • Importing existing data from your current bookkeeping software. (It turns out that importing transactions is not possible, because neither QuickBooks nor Simply Accounting provide ways to export transactions. Your chart of accounts and list of funds will be imported, as accurately as possible.)
  • General Journal entries, for transactions that cannot easily (or cannot at all) be entered using one of the asset, liability or equity accounts’ registers.
  • Cheque printing (possibly limited to a very limited set of cheque styles/vendors, at least initially)
  • Memorized transactions
  • Customizing standard reports, based on selecting certain categories and/or funds
  • Completely custom reports (have to clarify what this really means).
  • Memorized reports (to replay custom or customized standard reports)
  • Budgeting (specifying budgets for the income and expense accounts for a fiscal year, and budget vs. actual reports). Need several variations of these reports, with 1 or 2 years of budgets, 1 or 2 years of actuals included.
  • Integration with DONATION via importing of bank deposit information (based on the donations within a certain range of entered dates, or possibly other ways of selecting the included donations). (Will also think about whether there is a way to do some form of reconciliation/checking between the two programs.)
  • Sample charts of accounts for a church or a charity (different for the U.S.A. and Canada)
  • Optional use of 4 or 5-digit account numbers for data entry and reporting.

3) These are the features from the survey that I’m not sure about doing:

  • Special features for Accounts Receivable (setting up details for funders etc., handing invoices, payments, creating statements etc.). Many responses said they needed this, but when I double-checked with more detailed question to a sample of respondents by email, most said they were confusing it with Accounts Payable. Some do need it, do send invoices, statements etc. (Definitely will not include this in the first version.)
  • Importing transactions in your bank accounts, from online banking websites (lower priority, possibly not in the first version).
  • Special handling for sales taxes on purchases (i.e. not just done manually, as in Quicken, by splitting an expense transaction total into an expense category and a tax category). Users want this for sales tax rebates, need special formulas (at least for Canada).
  • Locking transactions before a specified date, so they can’t be changed without supplying a further password. (Medium demand, probably pretty easy.)
  • A calendar, with bill payment reminders.
  • Graph-style reports (e.g. pie charts of income or expenses)

4) These are the features asked about in the survey that I will definitely not do:

  • Payroll calculations, tax tables etc. (instead, recommend 3rd party online payroll systems, with exporting into my program). Can certainly track payroll liabilities etc. using standard features that the program will have. (It just isn’t realistic for a tiny business like mine to research and keep up with all payroll rules for both Canada and the U.S.A., including variations by state or province!)
  • Tracking investment accounts (for bonds, stocks, mutual funds etc.)
  • An online (Internet-based) version of the program.
  • Handling accounts in multiple currencies.

5) These are some of the special requests from users’ text comments on the survey, that may or may not be done:

  • Match accounts/categories to “tax form” line numbers, including the T3010 in Canada, 1099, 941, W2, 990, state forms in the USA (will do this)
  • Distinguish receiptable from non-receiptable income (relates to T3010 tax form in Canada, probably will automatically fall out of the previous point).
  • Login security (varying capabilities for different users?)
  • Audit trail (will do this)
  • Emailing reports as PDF or Excel (will do this, as in DONATION)
  • Exporting to Excel for graphing / touching up reports (will do this)
  • Powerful “find” feature (not sure what this means)
  • Budgeting must be by fund. (Since funds consist of sets of income and expense accounts dedicated to them, with an associated equity account, there should be no additional complication in doing this.)
  • If doing invoices (e.g. for Accounts Receivable) be able to customize & add logo. (Will use the same type of mail merge capabilities as in DONATION to do this.)
  • Install on multiple computers (like DONATION – will do).
  • Accessible to the accountant at year end. (Have to clarify what this means – obviously the accountant can come into the user’s office and use their program, or install their own copy. The database will absolutely not be compatible with existing programs like QuickBooks or Simply Accounting though.)
  • Auto-fill for account names, vendor names, etc. (Pops up matches as you type – will do this.)
  • Comparative reports (e.g. year over year) showing dollar and/or percentage differences.
  • Print reports with or without account numbers.
  • If year-end entries are required (I hope they won’t be!) have them be automatic as much as possible. (Need input from users to explain this.)
  • Cash flow reports. (Need input from users about the distinction between cash flow and accrual-based reports.)
  • Cash vs. accrual accounting (isn’t that just in how they choose to make the entries?)
  • ODBC access so you can view (but not change!) the accounting information from other database software like Microsoft Access. (Do like DONATION, with a read-only ODBC DataSource set up.)
  • Drill-down in reports, as in Quicken/QuickBooks, from totals to transactions making up those totals. (Maybe for later versions.)
  • Ability to make unneeded features invisible.
  • Handle GIC’s. (Should be doable as regular assets, like bank accounts.)
  • Make sure it is tested by accountants
  • Have consultants available for accounting / setup advice.
  • Option to import DONATION’s donation categories into Income accounts when setting up the chart of accounts for this program.

So, please send me any comments you have on anything in this, either by Commenting on the blog post, or by email if you prefer. Many thanks!

16 thoughts on “Bookkeeping Software Features List

  1. Is this next line even possible?
    A single password for each database/organization. (Or, do we need to be able to specify multiple users, for audit trail purposes?)
    I think you should delete my address, I am not helping you.

    • Peter, I’m happy to delete you from this blog if that’s what you want. But if you could explain your question “Is this line even possible?” about the passwords / use of users, I’d appreciate it.

  2. Pingback: Bookkeeping Features List and Interviews | Software4Nonprofits Bookkeeping Software

  3. Dan, sorry not to comment sooner.
    Your list of what you will include sounds pretty good. I am concerned though about the fact that apparently you won’t be able to import Quickbooks data – you say that transactions can’t be exported (so in that case you can’t import them) but It is definitely a drawback not to be able to compare a given month’s activity to the same month in a previous year, for example. Could at least the year-end balances (or better, monthly balances) in each account be imported? – otherwise that’s quite a barrier to deciding to switch to your program – and as you point out, it may limit your sales to new organizations – something I doubt you really want to do. It’s not clear to me exactly what you could and could not import from Quickbooks.
    I’m also concerned that you say you may NOT do special handling of sales tax on purchases. I upgraded my Quickbooks to a newer version, specifically to be able to split my HST into 4 separate accounts (for rebate purposes) and certainly would not try to revert to doing this manually. Quickbooks doesn’t handle this elegantly either but at least it can be configured to do it.
    The drill-down reports are also very useful (from totals to the items making up the total) and you say you may not do those.
    I think creating an accounting program is very tricky and I admire your willingness to take it on. People have so many different requirements and you are trying to meet most of them, and sell it at an affordable price-point – I’m worried you may put in a lot of work and still end up with a product that fails to find a sufficient market to cover your cost of development.
    – Lis

    • Unfortunately there is also no capability to export any sort of balances (month-end or year-end) from QuickBooks or Simply Accounting, Lis. However, I could probably give some instructions for running appropriate reports (income statements and balance sheets) in those programs to determine those balances, and then putting in journal entries in my program to get year-end or even monthly figures for the prior year correct, so that you could do comparative reports.

      Although I said that there might not be special handling for sales taxes, you could certainly still create whatever accounts you needed to split up the sales taxes, and allocate them as desired on each transaction. However, there might not (at least at first) be any feature for doing that sort of allocation completely automatically.

      I completely agree that this project is a somewhat frightening prospect, and there is no guarantee that it will be successful in terms of sales. The reasons this does not concern me unduly include that DONATION doesn’t actually keep me fully busy, except during the busy times (late December, January and February), so I have spare time I can put into this, and also, I just love programming!

  4. The list of what Fund will do is great an extensive and I believe would cover 90% of what most non-profit organizations would need.

    My concern would be the payroll portion, we switched from Microsoft Money four years ago because it didn’t do payroll, so it may be hard for me to convince my Elders Board to go back.

    Other than that I am excited to see the program.

    • All I can say is you’re right – those who are used to having payroll calculations in the same program will be much less likely to decide to switch. Unfortunately it’s just completely unrealistic for me to include it, so I have to accept that potential significant loss of users.

  5. Hi Dan, I apologize for my late response. We are a new C.B.O. and don’t have an accountant on staff as yet. So we need ACCOUNTS to be able to send the data to an accountant, including whatever payroll options you can include. Is it possible for ACCOUNTS to have the ability to allow me to enter in the tax rates etc. for my region? Also we would need to be able to track Unrelated Business Income and expenses. If you have the time would you be able to recommend programs that will play well with ACCOUNTS in regard to payroll and other options that you leave out? Regardless we anticipate using ACCOUNTS as we will be using DONATIONS and expect the two to be tightly integrated.

    • The payroll will be handled either by you doing your own calculations, or using a 3rd-party web-based program. I will recommend 3rd party programs (probably one for Canada, and one for the USA), and if you choose those ones, you will be able to import the payroll transactions that you calculate in that program into ACCOUNTS.

      I don’t know yet how sales taxes will be handled. They may be somewhat automated, allowing for you to enter rates and have the program calculate them. Or that may be a later enhancement.

      You will have to explain a lot more about unrelated business income and expenses. If it’s truly unrelated, does it even go in the same set of books? (Maybe email me to continue this particular conversation.)

      Actually, DONATION and ACCOUNTS will be only very losely integrated. You will be able to export the totals that make up one bank deposit from DONATION, and have them imported as a bank deposit transaction into ACCOUNTS. Overall I want to keep the programs separate, so that organizations can choose to use just one or the other, or both.

  6. Hi Dan, My apologies on the delay and thank you for the reminder. Sections 1 & 2 are great. Please confirm that the chart of accounts will be customizable so that we can specify the order that we want our accounts to be listed and we can change them down the road? This would change all the history in the account as well. I see the asset accounts (banks, investments, etc) will be reconcilable please confirm that this can also be done with long term liabilities (lines of credit and credit cards)? Importing data from another software program is not a big deal in my opinion. Anyone changing from one program to another may run up against this. I tend to do this at the start of a new fiscal year to keep it neat as well as keep both systems available in case I need to refer back in a previous year. Passwords and what accounts each person can access would also be good (section 5) but not imperative. This is a function in most systems however if you can do fund accounting well then perhaps others would let the password and payroll stuff go….Budgeting per chart of account as well as per job (program) would be beneficial. Filtered reports is mandatory (searching account history for 3 months or the history on a specific project and time frame, etc.) Regarding section 3-None of this is important to me or the agencies that I work with however the card detail for A/R is pretty important. To be able to produce invoices in the system, track them, set up terms, contact information, etc. is important. WRT taxes most of my clients are either exempt from tax or receive 50% back. The balance 50% is expensed and needs to be coded to a job (program). I tend to have to break this out anyway as any of the software I’ve used does not allow for the GST to be coded to a job or broken out 50%. Section 4 is fine except, as others have mentioned, lack of payroll may be a hard sell. All of my client’s use Ceridian however I still insist that their bookkeeping records match Ceridian’s reports. This can be done by general journal however to source the history of one employee you need to have the capability to do that. Also, I see in this section that it says “tracking investment accounts”. I need this for reconciling to statements and adjusting interest or changes. The auditor relies on the systems reconciliation reports and matches them to the statements. I would LOVE it if we could combine DONATIONS software with our bookkeeping software. This would eliminate the extra work.

    • Thanks, Shaune. Yes of course the chart of accounts will be completely customizable. If you choose to use account numbers (which I see as optional) the sorting will be based on your account numbering, which you could change at any time. If you choose not to use account numbers, I’ll have to think about how to let you change the sort order.

      Yes, you can reconcile liabilities as well as banks. But I really don’t see doing complex investment accounts at this time, with buying and selling different financial instruments, dividends, etc. Those who really need that will probably not want to choose my ACCOUNTS program.

      You talk about jobs or programs. I am not planning to have those concepts in ACCOUNTS, only funds. (Perhaps that will cover the same needs?) Budgets will be by income and expense account, and since an income or expense account can be set to belong to one fund, that means that budgets (and actuals vs budget reports) will be available by fund as well.

      My impression is that for the majority of churches and charities, they just don’t have Accounts Receivable much, so I think it’s a reasonable simplification to exclude that, at least for now. I do understand that will mean it’s not suitable for those minority of charities who do have a need for serious tracking of A/R.

      If you are using a payroll system like Ceridian already, you will certainly be able to copy those transactions into ACCOUNTS manually. And as long as you enter employee names consistently when you enter the transactions for their pay cheques, you should be able to filter on that to get reports. (But can’t you also get per-employee reports out of Ceridian?)

  7. Hi Dan,
    Your features “must do” list (sections 1 and 2) looks great. I’d certainly love to see the “GST rebate” tracking ability (section 3) in the very first launch, as this was a major bonus once we moved onto a software platform (as the previous Treasurer had handled this all manually), and I’d be very reluctant to work without it; as a church in an HST province (BC), being able to collect back 50% of our Federal portion of HST plus 57% of our provincial portion of HST is important, and without proper tracking I won’t change programs. Like one of your other commenters, I’d also be reluctant to change platforms mid-year, and would likely want to move onto ACCOUNTS only for the start of our new fiscal year (i.e Jan 1, using our “final” December 31 reconciled balances). I might want to run Quickbooks and ACCOUNTS in parallel for a few months; but if DONATIONS can “export” the weekly Sunday batch entries (or indeed, every entry) back over into ACCOUNTS, that’s a good portion of my Quickbooks work right there! I regularly run the “summary by category” report out of DONATIONS and match it to my Quickbooks Rev & Expense, just to ensure I’m balanced between the two, and I’m sure you will make that an automatic feature of your new offering (or at least some kind of exception report or alert showing if the two are out of balance…much easier to fix if the out of balance is 2 days old that 3 months old!).
    Keep up the great thinking!

  8. Something I did not notice on the Wish List is budgets. Our church approves a budget at the beginning of each fiscal year and all revenues and expenses during the year are measured against the budget so that Stewardship folks and each program director are up to the minute with how they are doing.
    It is likely this cannot be done for the first version but the architecture and hooks to accomodate a budget system should be looked at from the very beginning.
    Our church also produces reports comparing this year with last year. We use these reports primarily to get a better handle on cash flow knowing that donations do not come evenly and expenses are skewed toward spring and fall.

  9. Dan
    I am wondering if ACCOUNTS will have a Bank Reconciliation feature to cross reference bookkeeping entries with entries on the bank statement(s). This is a great time saving feature when the bookkeeper is having one of thse days when things don’t seem to balance.

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