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!