Over the past month, we have taken a closer look at what it means for your nonprofit to go paperless. Last week, we took a look at the positive impact a paperless culture and philosophy has on nonprofit constituents and the tools, including AccuFund software, that are needed to make the paperless dream a reality. For more information about this, visit here. Now that we’ve explored all of these great benefits and impacts of going paperless, let’s take a closer look at getting started with having a paperless office.
This starts by assessing the areas within your organization where a significant reduction in paper and increase in electronic processing could save time and money. There are three common areas to look at first to guide where you begin. These include the paper that comes INTO your nonprofit, the paper that goes OUT of your nonprofit, and the paper that is shuffled WITHIN your nonprofit.
- Documents coming IN:
Vendor invoices, contracts, payments, and cash receipts are just some of the many documents that come into your organization. It is likely that some of these invoices and contracts are received electronically while others are received in physical paper forms. For those documents that come in the form of paper, start by scanning the document into the fund accounting software system or Cloud-based filing system. For those documents that come in electronic form, don’t set out to print those because this is only creating more paper not less! Instead, save the document to the correct system right away, and in the process, you are training your brain and changing your mindset to continue doing this in the future. In essence, your new protocol should be to open and save the document in the Cloud, file it in an electronic (not paper) folder, and distribute it as needed via email. For the more complicated payment and cash receipt transactions, this may require more systems to be in place, but it also offers the benefit of getting money into the system at a faster rate and having a better idea of the current financial reality right away. This is effective feedback for evaluating the status of grants and the effectiveness of fundraising efforts. Be sure to have an electronic funds transfer system to send and receive funds through banks. In order to quickly and easily receive donor funds, be sure your fund accounting for nonprofits system is integrated with your online donor system.
- Documents going OUT:
This is the area where you have the most control and can therefore having the greatest impact in your efforts to go paperless. It starts by identifying, prioritizing, and focusing on the papers you as an organization produce and distribute. Could improvements be made by distributing reports electronically instead of on paper? This could lead to quicker review and reaction as well. See if you can improve how you handle the areas where the most paper is used. These include invoices, membership renewals, service fee invoicing done on a monthly basis, loan statements, purchasing documents, and financial reports. One thing to keep in mind is to be sure that recipients can receive electronic documents.
- Documents WITHIN:
When you consider this area, think about Human Resources, Payroll, and internal reports to give you a better idea of what often gets shuffled around within your organization. The shuffling of paper is inefficient, costly, and stressful. The good news is that doing things electronically means steps are reduced when the information doesn’t have to be passed off in order to be entered but can be entered automatically on the system. In essence, it is all about thinking through ways to use electronic instead of paper forms to use, route, approve, process, and file them all the while saving time and money. One example of this would be using electronic time sheets. Another would be collecting and updating employee information or notifying employees of benefit package changes electronically. If we take AccuFund Software as an example and its Employee Self-Service, Payroll, Human Resources, and Employee Time Entry components, employees can access the system through a web-based portal and enter their time or personal data as well as access organizational news and information. This saves time, energy, effort, and money. Periodic reports generated by your nonprofit (including financial ones, grant management ones, etc.) multiplied by the number of people receiving them equals a whole lot of paper moving within the organization. The reality is that these reports can instead be distributed by email using distribution lists.
As you can see, the opportunities to reduce paper use are many, and a fund accounting for nonprofits system can be used to help. For more information about one such fund accounting software, AccuFund Software, please contact us to learn more.