As a nonprofit accounting services and software reseller company, we are asked many questions regarding the software nonprofits use, the systems they have in place, and best practices for improving financial management and reporting. Of these questions, questions pertaining to dashboards and their purpose and role within nonprofit financial management software are increasingly becoming the most common – and most intriguing. In this article, we’d like to give you a little background information about dashboards and explain how you can use them to improve your financial management.
What is a Dashboard and Why Do I Need it?
First things first: what is a dashboard? A dashboard, to put it simply, is a visual representation tool designed to provide you with the meaningful information and data you need to help you achieve your desired results. Often shown in graph and chart form, this data is pooled from your nonprofit financial management software and gives you an instant snapshot of your organization’s financial and nonfinancial health. The original purpose of software dashboards was to provide people outside of finance (such as a Board member or program director) with a way to simply and quickly understand the financial and nonfinancial situation of the organization.
Over time, however, dashboards have evolved into a much more significant tool and even the financially-savvy are using them in the daily tasks of nonprofit financial management. Many nonprofit accounting software packages have dashboards built into them and ready to use. For example, Abila MIP Fund Accounting (formerly Sage 100 Fund Accounting) has an optional module called the Visual Analyzer that generates important information about the organization and displays it in a dashboard within the software. Users can customize the information displayed to answer important questions, provide them with budget to actual comparisons, see a snapshot of their accounts payable and accounts receivable status, determine their financial position with key ratios, and more. Other dashboards commonly used by nonprofit organizations are built into Excel using the software’s extensive graphing and formatting tools to track important financial and nonfinancial metrics.
How Can I Use Dashboards to Meet My Financial Management Goals?
For the purpose of this article, we will focus on showing you how to use the dashboards already built-in to your nonprofit financial management software. We will be using the Visual Analyzer contained within Abila MIP Fund Accounting as our example, as that is the solution with which most of our clients are most familiar. While the inclusion of built-in dashboards may not be the reason why you purchased the software initially, they are certainly a value-added benefit that will pay for itself when used correctly. The dashboard in Abila MIP Fund Accounting presents a number of pre-defined views that display financial information in graphic or other visual forms. Users can configure the dashboard to display a snapshot of information as it stands today, or they can set pre-defined parameters to display a snapshot of their financial situation over a set period of time.
Using the Abila MIP Fund Accounting Visual Analyzer, nonprofits can manipulate financial information, drilling down into transactional detail and segmenting the data into meaningful categories. The Visual Analyzer Module comes with a variety of preformatted dashboards that address the following functional areas:
- General Ledger (Budget Dashboard, Analysis Dashboard)
- Financial Management (Financial Dashboard, Cash Management Dashboard, Net Assets Dashboard, Trend Analysis Dashboard)
- Accounts Payable (Payables Analysis Dashboard, Open Payables Dashboard)
- Accounts Receivable (Receivables Analysis Dashboard, Open Receivables Dashboard)
If you’d like to purchase the Visual Analyzer module for Abila MIP Fund Accounting, or would like to learn how to better utilize the dashboards you are already using, contact us today. We’d love to help you do everything you can to improve your nonprofit financial management and meet your nonprofit goals.