Bookkeeping Features List and Interviews

Hello again Software4Nonprofits ACCOUNTS program advisors.

I’m a bit concerned that there has been only one small reply/question about the blog post on my proposed features list, which was at https://software4nonprofitsbooks.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/features-list/.

Although I’m feeling pretty firm on the features I have decided not to include (but would still listen to counter-arguments) I’d really like as many comments as possible on this list (detailed or general, even if it’s just “looks OK”) to make sure Jason and I are on the right track.

In addition, I would very much appreciate hearing from any of you who would be willing to have a perhaps 10-15 minute open-ended conversation with me about your feelings about your current accounting software (or method), and your dreams for a better solution. (This would be as if I had not made such a specific proposal already in that previous blog post.) That will help me make sure I am concentrating on the right things to appeal to the right audience. (Addressing the right “pain points” with your current solutions.)

If you would be willing to have me interview you briefly like that, please email back with some good days and times, and the phone number you’d like to be reached at.Many thanks!

10 thoughts on “Bookkeeping Features List and Interviews

  1. Looks good. I have found that I’ve needed at a minimum 3 levels of hierarchy in the chart of accounts.
    Also, can vendors at least be deaignated as 990 vendors to make it easier at year-end to sort them out to print 990’s.
    When viewing ledgers are the transactions linked to the original detail entry of that trasaction?

    • Could you please give me an example of where you would need 3 levels of account hierarchy?
      I’m sorry, what’s a 990 vendor? (Clearly an American thing – I’m in Canada.)
      And I’m not sure I understand your third question. By ledgers do you mean the standard chequebook-register style data-entry windows? And then what exactly to you mean by having them “linked to the original detail entry of that transaction”?
      Thanks.

  2. 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.) NEED TO INCLUDE GENERAL JOURNAL FACILITY TO ANY ACCOUNTS WITH DEBIT AND CREDIT BALANCE
    Transfers between accounts. (Any transaction involving multiple asset, liability or equity accounts will be viewable in all of affected registers.) THIS MIGHT BE HANDLED WITH GENERAL JOURNAL
    Have transactions affect funds. (Each fund will have an associated equity account, and specific income and expense accounts that belong exclusively to it.) WILL FUNDS BE SUB-ACCOUNTS OF THE CASH ACCOUNT? I.E. THE CASH ACCOUNT COULD CONSIST OF 50000 IN TOTAL CASH, WITH 5 FUNDS OF 2k APIECE AS SUB-ACCOUNTS, OR WILL THEY BE LIABILITIES? i PERSONALLY DON’T LIKE SEEING FUNDS AS LIABILITIES BECAUSE THEY ARE ASSETS TARGETED FOR SPECIFIC PURPOSES. BUT QB HANDLING OF CASH SUB-ACCOUNTS IS MESSY.
    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.) SEE ABOVE
    Basic standard reporting for financial statements, including balance sheets, trail balance, income statements, and year over year comparisons. IF DB IS VISIBLE, REPORTS COULD BE CUSTOMIZED USING OEM TOOLS
    Bank reconciliation based on your data entry (i.e. not based on transactions imported from online banking systems). Need report on your reconciliation too. NOT HAVING IMPORT IS SERIOUS DRAWBACK – AGAIN, IF DB IS ACCESSIBLE (WRITABLE) I CAN IMPORT CSV FILES AT WILL.
    Backups and restores. PREFER HAVING STD MYSQL FUNCTIONALITY HERE
    Multiple sets of books (databases) for multiple organizations. DOES THIS MEAN MULTIPLE DATABASES, OR MULTIPLE COMPANIES IN ONE DATABASE?
    Searching for transactions in one or all accounts. WOULD PREFER CUSTOMIZABLE QUERY FUNCTIONALITY TO ACCESSIBLE DB
    A single password for each database/organization. (Or, do we need to be able to specify multiple users, for audit trail purposes?) SINGLE PASSWORD, SINGLE DB, MULTIPLE COMPANIES IN DB, AUDIT TRAIL
    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). NEAT – I’D HAVE TO GET USED TO THE IDEA OF A NEW OPENING BALANCE EACH YEAR
    An optional multi-user network version. NOT AS IMPORTANT TO ME, BUT IF THE APP IS WEB-BASED AND THE DB IS OPEN SOURCE WITH LOCKING, THIS WOULD GO WITHOUT SAYING. IS THE APP BEING ENVISIONED IN A WEB-BASED CLIENT-SERVER DESIGN?

    • Wow, there’s a lot there Alan. Some responses:

      Funds (e.g. their balances) will be equity accounts, not cash or liability, which is the way I strongly believe they should be from an accounting standpoint.

      There will definitely be a General Journal facility – I believe that’s mentioned somewhere.

      In terms of direct access to the DB, this program, like DONATION, will be aimed more at users who need something simple than power users who could access a SQL DB directly. (And it’s Firebird SQL, not MYSQL.) There will be read-only access to the DB, which could possibly be used for custom reporting, but how you store transactions, balances etc. in an accounting system in SQL is bound to be complicated – you would probably need serious instruction from me to figure out how to access it correctly.

      I might at some point build an import for data that you have in Excel, but since the vast majority of the DONATION users who answered my questionnaire about this are using either QuickBooks or Simply Accounting, and neither of those has a facility to export transactions, an import facility on my end would be of no benefit to them. That would only help people who are currently doing the whole accounting job in Excel or something like that!

      Multiple sets of books for multiple organizations will be in one database per organization.

      Like DONATION, there will be a SQL Select window where you can do your own selects, and if that will help for searching, fine. But again, that would be for power users, and you would have to have a serious understanding of the SQL structure as I designed it. For the vast majority of users, a reasonably powerful but easy to use built-in search feature will be needed.

      The program will not be web-based, but rather installed locally on your computer, with the database on your computer (just like DONATION).

  3. Thanks for the information Dan. I would appreciate a report that gives account balances. Also some basic help with some accounting processes – we have only volunteers do our bookkeeping. While I personally am familiar with accounting principles, many of our volunteers would not be.

    • Of course there will be all the expected basic reports, like a Balance Sheet, the standard report that shows account balances. I will have to think about the extent to which it is reasonable for my program’s Help to explain accounting basics to volunteers, including whether or not that is my job, and whether there’s any liability issue in doing so, when I’m not an accountant.

      • When I said account balances, I actually meant bank account balances, without other balances. However, we can learn to present the information in new ways as well. (New to congregation that is)

      • My plan is that you will be able to filter any report to select whichever accounts you want to include on it. So you could selet a balance sheet report, and select just your bank accounts to include. HOWEVER, that would probably still show headings for Liabilities and Equities.
        Is there a reason not to show your entire balance sheet (Assets, Liabilities, and Equity), if you are already showing the bank account balances?

      • Hello Dan,

        We have had a fairly simple reporting system, with very simple monthly reports. So our account balances is simply bank accounts, term deposits and accounts payable/receivable.

        We haven’t had depreciation accounts or asset accounts set up ever, as we haven’t used anything but Quicken.

        Joanne Green

      • In bookkeeping terms, bank accounts, term deposits etc. are all “Asset” accounts, Joanne. And accounts payable is a “Liability” account.

        Could you email me separately about what you use accounts receivable for in your church, though? I’m still planning not to include that, at least initially, because I think most churches and charities don’t need it, so I need to know when users do need it, and exactly why.

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