Software4Nonprofits Bookkeeping Software Survey

Hello DONATION beta testers and advisors.

I have been considering for some time whether it would make any sense for me to create a fairly simple bookkeeping program. It’s not at all clear that it does make sense, given how many programs are out there, but I do keep getting asked about this by my users. There are also some things that I know existing standard programs (like QuickBooks) do relatively poorly, lilke fund accounting, that I think I could do better.

So what I’m planning is to send a link to a web-based survey to all registered users of DONATION, asking them (or whoever does the overall bookkeeping for their organization) to tell me what they are currently using, whether they would consider switching, and what features would be required for them to switch. (If they say they wouldn’t consider switching, they don’t have to fill out the rest of the survey.)

Before I launch this survey, though, I would really appreciate some feedback on the current draft. You can see a printout of it in this PDF file:

What I’m interest in is your comments on things like:

  • Do the questions, and the options for the answers to those questions, make sense?
  • Any suggestions for improving the wording?
  • Am I missing asking about anything important?
  • Am I asking about anything that I don’t need to ask about?

One thing I should make you aware of is that in the question about optional features, where I ask the survey respondents to tell me how important each one is, there are features there that I absolutely will not do. In particular, payroll calculations – they are just way too complicated, with too many variations by country and I believe even in some cases by state or province. So, if a large percentage of users said that payroll calculations were a required feature, I would almost certainly not create such a program. I’m also quite unlikely to be willing to include handling investment accounts, accounts receivable, or accounts payable.

My feeling is that I should not mention this in the survey, so as not to bias the responses. Any thoughts?

Many thanks in advance for any comments you have. Obviously, if I’m going to launch this survey to my now over 4,500 registered users, I want it to be as clear as possible before doing so!

8 thoughts on “Software4Nonprofits Bookkeeping Software Survey

  1. Hello Dan,

    I think you would be re-inventing the wheel. The people who have asked you for an accounting program obviously (I think) have not researched what is available or have not explored all the possibilities of the package they are using.

    The wording of your survey seems OK. I can’t see a program without AP being useful for any but the smallest charities. We can do without AR.

    I have used many different accounting packages over the last 25 years. Currently I am using Quickbooks Pro since the businesses/charities I work with do not require anything more powerful. I’ve used Quickbooks for over 10 years now and the latest versions (2010, 2011, 2012) do pretty well everything on your survey. With a well-thought-out set-up of the chart of accounts and using classes, you can do fund accounting – I have to track up to 10 funds – although it may not be as slick as a program specifically written to do so.

    One thing would get me to switch to a program written by you, provided the features are much like Quickbooks, is to get away from the Corporate arrogance and greed of Intuit. For example, they removed the manual payroll feature and now the only way you can get payroll reports is to subscribe to mtheir expensive payroll package. Complaining does no good.


    • Klaus, I fully understand that I would be reinventing the wheel. But perhaps there is a market for that reinvented wheel, from people who already like DONATION, or new churches and charities looking for something simple and affordable.

  2. Appears to be a good survey to me. I would be a willing participant as it covers areas that I have found are specific to two different software packages I am using. One for St. Andrew’s and I also do the books for our local Horticultural Society. If there would be software out there that is developed to be much more user friendly and less expensive with technical support, then I would highly endorse it. I hope this gives you some feedback that you may be looking for.

  3. Dan,
    One that comes to mind is number of users and whether there needs to be a networked version or an online version so that database could be accessed by multiple users. This would be a key issue for me as a Quickbooks Online Edition user. Also auditors need access and possibly multiple persons entering data.. thus the multi-user question.

    I guess it can get covered in question 5, but I think the multi-user aspect needs some thought and some appropriate questions.

  4. Dan,

    A couple of further thoughts. When listing current programs used, you might want to list Quickbooks and Quickbooks Online Edition as separate choices. Similar functionality, but quite different in terms of access. Also a monthly fee based program vs an outright purchase. Gives you a better feel for what features current users are used to and what they are paying.

    Also.. I use equity accounts for each fund.. classes are used to designate other things that I need to keep track of. Don’t be fooled into thinking that all Quickbooks users use classes to simulate Funds.. some do, some don’t.. Intuit recommends using classes to simulate funds, but it is (In my opinion) not the best way to use the program for Fund Accounting. So.. if your assumption is that you can use classes to simulate funds and everyone will be happy.. may not be so.

    • Thanks, David, good points. I’m dubious I would do an online version (at least initially) so that’s another important question, too many “This is required” answers to which would be an indication not to do this project.

      I have emailed you separately to ask you to explain how you do fund accounting with equity accounts rather than classes.

  5. Dan:
    I have reviewed the survey and feel you are covering most of the important areas which you will require to think about moving ahead or not. The idea of an online version is important as I have just become familiar with at least three of your clients using online accounting packages. Two of them are using PowerChurch Plus Online (only a portion of its capabilities) which you have not included. There are also many “cloud computing” options which are starting to show some promise.
    Fund accounting is important if it is truly a part of the ministries of the church. If the Fund is just a flow through then it can be handled as well in the Liabilities of amost any program.
    As was mentioned above there is very little need for A/R within our current set of churches and charities however A/P becomes alot more important but not fully necessary. Many operate on a straight cash basis.
    Sales Tax accounting is important and if programmed fully can be a major time saver for the treasurer. With charities there are various sales tax rebates available depending on the province of residence.
    Don’t under cut your costs when setting your price point but yes it has to be the major draw when compared to Sage Simply, Quickbooks, PCP, and all the others.

  6. Dan

    As expected, your responses are all over the map. I am a long-time quickbooks user and find it more than adequate to combine with your software. For a new person I can certainly see an opportunity for something much less cumbersome than quickbooks, better support, and more reasonable pricing structure. For me to switch, I would want it to import all my historical data from quickbooks, but I doubt that would be feasible for you to do.

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