The second in a three part series on financial trends for NPOs in Canada, this post talks about the changing landscape of technology, reporting, and accountability in nonprofits.
From more streamlined communications and automation, to better performance management and decision making, optimizing internal processes will continue to be a priority for nonprofits in 2023, particularly when it comes to financial management.
Never before has there been so much stakeholder scrutiny or competition for funding, and nonprofits are scrambling to adapt. With limited resources and regulatory requirements, many are turning to technology to optimize internal processes and increase transparency and visibility across the board.
Technology is Core to Optimizing Processes
With the emergence of cloud computing, mobile devices, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, nonprofits have access to a growing number of tools to help manage their operations more efficiently. From donor management and event planning, to fundraising, data analysis and back office functions, nonprofits are saving both time and money that they can reallocate to their core mission.
Core Technology Streamlining Operations and Reducing Costs:
Cloud computing: Generally speaking, nonprofits are moving their operations to the cloud to reduce costs associated with IT infrastructure and maintenance, and to increase accessibility for their remote and mobile workforce.
Online fundraising platforms: Online fundraising platforms help nonprofits raise money over the internet. They can reach a wider audience, reduce administrative costs, and increase transparency across the organization and with donors. They include donor management, payment processing, and campaign creation features, and can be easily integrated with social media platforms.
Accounting/financial management software: Financial management software provides real-time financial data and reporting that help organizations make better decisions and still meet regulatory requirements. These tools automate processes and help to better track and manage financial information, reducing the time and resources required for manual tasks. These solutions provide a detailed view of the organization's financial status, making it easier to track spend, monitor budgets, and detect discrepancies.
Communication and collaboration tools: Tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams help nonprofits communicate and collaborate more effectively, particularly in light of recent trends in remote and mobile work. They enable stronger teamwork, and often can reduce costs.
Overall, technology is helping nonprofits in Canada become more efficient and effective in their everyday work. With the right tools, they can reach more people, build stronger relationships, and create greater impact - all at a lower cost.
Analytics, Accountability, and Financial Reporting
Data analytics and financial reporting are crucial tools that help nonprofits operate more efficiently, and demonstrate the impact of their work to key stakeholders.
Data analytics help nonprofits better understand their operations and make data-driven decisions that can reduce costs and improve outcomes. These days, there are endless amounts of trackable data, but for nonprofits, the real value lies in analytics associated with finances, programming, demographics, volunteers and donors, and social media and online engagement metrics.
Better decision making: More and better data gives nonprofits the information they need to make informed decisions. NPOs are better able to identify trends, understand the impact of their programming, and adjust as needed to better realize their goals and deliver on their mission.
Fundraising and grants: Many funders require nonprofits to report on the impact of their programs. This data helps funders see the effectiveness of the organizations they’re supporting and make decisions about future funding. In addition, by using data analytics nonprofits can better understand their donor base and develop more targeted fundraising efforts. When they understand who their donors are and what motivates them, they can more effectively appeal to them.
Continuous improvement: With strong analytics and reporting, nonprofits can more easily identify areas for improvement and track progress. They can more quickly adapt and refine their programs and services to better meet the needs of their communities.
Financial reporting provides NPO stakeholders with information on the organization's financial stability and use of funds. At the end of the day, consistent, accurate financial reporting helps to build trust between a nonprofit and their many constituents. There are a few key trends that we're seeing in the nonprofit sector when it comes to financial reporting.
Increase in Mandatory Reporting and Compliance: More and more nonprofits are being required to disclose their finances to the public, giving donors and other stakeholders greater transparency into how their money is being spent. There is increasing pressure on nonprofits to demonstrate their financial stability and responsible use of funds which is likely to continue into the foreseeable future.
More Strategic Financial Planning: The second trend is a shift toward more strategic financial planning. Nonprofits are starting to see the importance of long-term financial planning, and are allocating their resources accordingly - many embracing some kind of controllership service or skillset. This allows them to better weather unexpected challenges, and makes them more attractive to potential donors.
Finance Technology Adoption: Technology is playing an increasingly important role in financial reporting for nonprofits. Many organizations are using accounting software like Quickbooks, Xero, Hubdoc and other tools to streamline their processes, reduce errors, and provide more accurate and timely information.
Sustainability Reporting: As the importance of sustainability and environmental responsibility grows, many nonprofits are adding sustainability reporting into their overall financial reporting. This can include their environmental impact, energy usage, and other sustainability-related data.
Transparency and Accountability: Transparency and accountability are becoming more and more critical for nonprofits as they help build trust, ensure compliance, demonstrate impact, improve operations, and maintain public support. Solid financial reporting helps to achieve all this and more.
All of these trends suggest that the nonprofit sector is maturing and becoming more sophisticated in its approach to financial management. This bodes well for the future, with nonprofits continuing to do the vital work in supporting our communities.