Improving purchasing & accounts payable for everyone

For most people outside finance, purchasing (especially if there is a formal order process in place) and invoice approvals are, at best, a necessary evil. The more bureaucratic the process, the more it is disliked.

As for finance, they are trapped between a rock and a hard place; running their monthly marathon of capturing and processing all orders and invoices to deliver timely month-end reporting, statutory returns and supplier payments (all whilst constantly fielding calls from both staff and suppliers on the status of everything). 

There is also the challenge of maintaining financial control over what is being bought and correctly accounting for it. This also needs to be balanced against the level of bureaucracy required to achieve it, ultimately to satisfy the auditors and protect against fraud. The more robust the processes, however, the more time-consuming the bureaucracy.

But at the end of the day, almost every accounts payable department functions successfully within their defined parameters of what “success” is.

So how do you improve the purchasing and accounts payable process?

Let’s start by redefining what purchasing and accounts payable “success” could, and arguably should, look like:

1. Make life much easier for everyone outside finance

  1. Ensure purchases are so simple and convenient that everyone involved welcomes the change
  2. Make it incredibly easy for everyone to get “best value” on their purchases
  3. Allow them to track the progress of an order from creation to approval
  4. Enable a straightforward invoice review and approval process
  5. Undertake all of the above from any device
  6. And – as a result – save a huge amount of time so that everyone can focus on what matters to them

2. Make life much easier for finance

  1. Ensure every purchase has the appropriate level of approval before it is sent to the supplier
  2. Have everyone using the preferred suppliers every time
  3. Automate common GL coding wherever possible, and make it very simple and fast when human intervention is required
  4. Never touch an invoice, (they just arrive automatically)
  5. Take comfort in the fact that every invoice is automatically checked against the order value to highlight exceptions
  6. Identify every duplicate invoice and stop duplicate payments
  7. Route every invoice through the correct approval process every time
  8. Answer every query from suppliers in moments, because you can see the status of every order and every invoice, including queries, wherever you may be
  9. Stop most of the staff queries, because they can see the same information on their suppliers and answer the question themselves
  10. Remove the time to post the invoice to your accounting software and the time to file it
  11. Take comfort in a comprehensive and complete audit trail of every step for every invoice

So how can you achieve this and improve the purchasing and accounts payable process? 

The answer may surprise you –  as almost all of us are already doing it – because it is so convenient.

Just buy everything online.

You enable your staff to buy everything they need from Amazon Business (and other online supplier websites) by implementing purchase order automation and accounts payable automation.

To head off the usual immediate responses of  “too hard, too much time, too expensive, other more important priorities, no need to change” and so forth, here are some facts:

  • with the right purchase order automation and AP solution, most businesses can be live in just a day or two, 
  • it costs less per month than it costs for around four hours work from a junior member of staff,
  • once up and running, it is simple and easy to use for everyone involved 
  • the productivity gains will enable staff to do what they do much faster, enabling them to focus on important priorities sooner 

In terms of Amazon Business pricing, it is an extremely competitive marketplace with thousands of vendors fighting for your business, all of whom are measured on the quality of their products, services and value for money. Most businesses will save at least 10% overall on their spend, even if a few things may be a little more than elsewhere. This usually means there is more money in your bank account after automation because the savings more than cover the costs.

All that is left is your other suppliers and that can be fully automated, too.

Purchasing and accounts payable automation – including online buying

In today’s uncertain world, every business needs to take control over spend before it happens, reduce costs by paying less on what they must buy and increase productivity to achieve more with less. Cashflow is King.

Can you think of a faster, better, lower cost and more effective way to achieve these key objectives and improve your purchasing and accounts payable process?


Neil Robertson

Neil has a 39-year track record of building successful direct and channel global software businesses predominately in the financial software market place. Neil Robertson is Executive Chairman of Compleat Software. A 39-year veteran of the financial software marketplace, Neil has a long track record of building disruptive start-ups into successful businesses, including his time as CEO EMEA of Great Plains where he built the business outside of the USA from 1995 – 2001. Compleat is no exception and perhaps the most disruptive of them all.

To find out more about 1st Choice Workflow for MIP Fund Accounting, email

Amp Up Your Reporting & Prepare for Frequent Asks



Particularly during a nonprofit’s growth periods, its finance team may be asked to generate reports on the health of the organization at any given moment. And, although most manage and prepare reports quarterly, bi-annually, and annually, the preference is to have the ability to provide reports based on current state. How can you be ready when the ask comes your way?

Before we jump in to potential solutions for more frequent reporting, see below for a few charts we garnered from our “2018 Nonprofit Finance Study” where your peers share their perspectives:


It’s reassuring to learn that a little more than 40 percent of responders don’t feel the burden of frequent reporting to funders. For those who do feel the burden, here’s what they’re saying they must do to respond to funders’ requests:


You can see from the keyword cloud, there are many types of changes getting incorporated to respond to funders during growth periods, even when reporting requirements may be different by funder and/or by grant. Users need more efficient and effective reporting on data. A good place to start is to increase emphasis on program assessment and evaluation – capture metrics to show program impact.


Laura Reifschlager, Community Brands’ Implementation Consultant, recommends the following:

  1. As you increase services, your chart of accounts grows with you. Add the codes you need and budget for those new services.
  2. Growth is planned – that means strategically planning. Use a good a budgeting tool to include money for new services and use that to determine the new funding needed to support the plan.
  3. Make sure your organization and team use a tool that contains powerful reporting capabilities that include:
  • Visual dashboards to help you spot trends instantly
  • Drill down of data with filters, permitting you to see details for your key performance indicators (KPIs)

Producing accurate reports to convey transparency with your finances inspires confidence, which is the foundation to maintain funding.

  1. For careful planning for staffing growth, leverage an employee management tool or module, connected to your accounting software to enable efficient management of new employee requirements.
  2. Finally, for quick access to your financials and reporting (for example, anywhere, anytime login), seek out a cloud solution for your accounting system.
Other methods you can incorporate:
  • Create general ledger (GL) groups for payroll tax analysis or benefits analysis.
  • Set up groups by budget manager or set up groups by managers and department for easier reporting.
  • Manage reports with executive view licenses. These license types allow additional users to run their own reports and assist with budget preparation, freeing you to focus on your management tasks.

At the end of the day, reporting should not be painful or burdensome. With an automated solution, you can replace that stress with ease.

If you have interest in learning more from your nonprofit finance peers, we invite you to contact us below for a download of the full study, “Nonprofit Finance Study: The Dynamics and Challenges of Growth,” and take a deeper look.

Why Use an Abila Business Partner?

1st Choice Advisors is a Select Business Partner for Abila products and services. Our consultants also have over 30 years of experience working with nonprofits; real-world experience with a variety of different types of fundraising needs and requirements as a result. We rigorously train on Abila products, hence spending up to 90 hours each year reviewing new functionality and training procedures. We are your go-to for service, providing user groups, both online and in our offices. All things considered, your satisfaction and ability to get results is our main goal!

How to Know When Your Nonprofit is Ready for the Cloud

Abila’s How to Know When Your Nonprofit is Ready for the Cloud by Michelle Garcia, August 17th, 2018

How do YOU know when your nonprofit is ready for the cloud?

If you’ve been in a professional setting at any point within the last 20 years, you’ve heard about “the cloud.” You don’t even need to be a member of the IT department to have heard about it. Everywhere we turn these days, whether to an app, a technology partner, or our cell phone provider, we’re being encouraged to save our files to “the cloud.” Why? Why is migration to cloud computing a growing movement amongst individuals and especially organizations, such as nonprofits? And, how do you know when your nonprofit organization is ready to move to the cloud?

The good news, according to the 2018 State of the Nonprofit Cloud report, is that cloud computing has become less intimidating, more beneficial, and nonprofits are migrating to the cloud at a steady clip:


And, although challenges to cloud service implementation still exist, there are many ways to overcome them to enable an efficient, flexible, and secure cloud migration experience.

First, identify and weigh the benefits of moving your nonprofit to the cloud:

  • Accessibility anywhere, anytime
  • Reliability on vendor expertise for IT support
  • Recovery from disasters
  • Security protection
  • Exceptionally performing software programs
  • Flexibility with scalability
  • Accountability and uptime

Next, recognize potential risks, as it is important for nonprofit professionals to discuss and anticipate for preventative actions.

  • Training and support are crucial for a successful implementation. Make sure this step is added to the migration roadmap, with names, titles, and responsibilities clearly outlined.
  • Long-term support is another key factor and will guarantee there is a team available in times of need.
  • Contingency plans if the migration is not running as smoothly as expected. Nonprofits should be clear with their cloud vendor if there is a desire to move back to on-premises management. Your nonprofit should have a choice when it comes to moving to the cloud. Nonprofits should not be forced to migrate if their organization is not ready for the implementation.

Once benefits are agreed upon and risks are recorded, the next step is to establish a strategy that will provide the nonprofit’s executives and board members the confidence in the migration plan. Here’s how to accomplish that:

  • Cost – Establish a cost analysis between on-premises software and cloud-hosted software. This can be completed through a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) comparison guide.
  • Strategic Planning – Your nonprofit plan should include how the migration will support the bottom line and mission of the organization. Highlight the benefits for cross-discipline groups – IT, finance, marketing, research, development, and support. By sharing this information, and gaining input from leaders of each department, you will help establish buy-in before an implementation starts.
  • Research Documentation – There are several good resources a nonprofit can leverage as support for a migration, such as case studies from like-organizations. The ability to demonstrate successes with your selected vendor and/or their customers will elevate confidence across executives and staffed teams.
  • Compare Services Available – A well-rounded business case typically includes criteria-driven vendor selections, such as:
    • Reputation – Conduct online searches via trusted technology publications, channel partners, and news outlets for the vendor brand and reviews. Instinctually, you’ll be able to eliminate and/or add to your list of choice vendors.
    • Technical Documentation – Request access to vendors’ technical instructions and system performance analysis for organizations that match your nonprofit. Ask them about their mitigation plans for nonprofits.
    • Vendor Team Structure – Gain a clear understanding of who would be working on your implementation and the hours for which they will be available. Particularly for any potential outages, ask them to share their processes and average recovery times.
    • Security – What steps and guarantees will the chosen vendors provide to ensure your data is secure? This is one of the biggest concerns nonprofits have when it comes to moving to the cloud. Since cloud migration has been happening for years now, this should not be difficult for vendors to address.

By comparing vendors and services, apples to apples, you will be able to quickly assess those you want to request an RFP from, versus those you may want to eliminate.

Migrations to the cloud don’t have to be overwhelming or scary. However, any software vendor you’re using should offer you the choice when it comes to your preference for either on-premises or in their cloud. By following the recommendations shared in this blog, you can equip your nonprofit with the necessary information to effectively migrate with confidence!

For more information on using a Business Partner with Abila Software, please check out 1st Choice Advisors!

2018 Review of Abila MIP Advance Fund Accounting
2018 Review of Abila MIP Advance Fund Accounting

2018 Review of Abila MIP Advance Fund Accounting

CPA’s 2018 Review of Abila MIP Advance Fund Accounting by Mary Girsch-Bock, Contributing Writer on July 23rd, 2018

2018 Review of Abila MIP Advance Fund Accounting: MIP Advance from Abila is cloud-based fund accounting software that is a good fit for small to mid-sized nonprofit organizations and government entities. Users can also download the mobile app for mobile system access.

The 2018 of MIP Advance offers a variety of dashboard enhancements as well as the launch of the brand MIP Idea Portal which allows current users to submit ideas and suggestions on how to improve the product.

Abila offers a flexible, table driven chart of accounts structure, with users able to configure an unlimited number of segments in varying lengths to better track organizational data. Support personnel work with all new MIP Advance users to configure the chart of accounts structure properly during the setup process. The product easily handles all types of transactions including standard accounting transactions such as AP, AR, and GL entries, as well as bank reconciliations, cash receipts, cash disbursements, allocations, encumbrances, purchase orders, and order entry options, as well as extensive budget transactions.

Users can create an unlimited number of fully customized budgets in MIP Advance, with the budgets reflecting any time frame desired, including across fiscal years. A robust forecasting feature allows users to easily forecast future expenditures, and users can also create a variety of ‘what-if’ scenarios to determine the best option for the organization. Warnings can be implemented if users are close to going over-budget, and the budget view allows users to see the status of any budget during the transaction entry process.


Abila offers a variety of optional fundraising modules including Fundraising 50 and Fundraising Online. Fundraising 50 is designed to manage donor cultivation and retention, while Fundraising Online is a good option for organizations that wish to implement online giving platforms, manage events and create peer-to-peer fundraising opportunities. Users can track individual grants using the flexible account structure, and the product includes fund-balancing capability, to ensure that all funds are in balance at all times. The optional Allocations Management module allows users to record both direct and indirect allocations by percentage or transaction.


MIP Advance Fund offers solid system security and the Advanced Security option offers database encryption and the ability to limit access to sensitive data such as employee salaries or budgets.

MIP Advance includes a good selection of preset reports that can customized to suit the needs of the user. A series of built-in reporting tools assist new users in creating new reports as well. Reports can be created across fiscal year, and the product easily produces nonprofit specific reports such as Statement of Revenues and Expenditures, and Statement of Cash Flows. Add-on reporting modules such as Accounts Receivable Reporting allows users to easily create customer invoices and statements, and Drillpoint allows easy customization of financial statements, including the ability to add graphs and formulas. All MIP Advance reports can be displayed on screen, emailed to recipients, exported to Microsoft Excel or Word, or saved as an HTML file or PDF.

As a modular system, all MIP Advance Fund modules work together seamlessly. MIP Advance core modules include GL, AP, AR Reporting, Bank Reconciliation, Budget, Data Import/Export, and Forms Designer. There are also a variety of payroll and employee management modules, Electronic Requisitions, Encumbrances, Fixed Assets, Purchase Order, Advanced Security, Allocations Management, and various reporting modules including Drillpoint, GASB Reporting, and a Data Consolidation module. Optional fundraising and donor management modules are available as well and the Abila Marketplace offers users easy access to Abila business partners, implementation partners, and product partners.


The Abila Support Center offers access to a variety of user tools and resources including access to the Abila Knowledgebase, Community, and Subscription Center. Users can access product support via email or chat and toll-free telephone support is available during regular business hours. There are also a variety of training options available, including a variety of whitepapers and access to Abila product training options which include online, classroom, and instructor-led training options. Just added is the Abila Resource Library, which provides access to a variety of informational webinars and documents, with users able to search for content by Topics, Types, and Products.

MIP Advance Accounting from Abila is an excellent solution for small to mid-sized nonprofit organizations that would like to have a strong core system, as well as an opportunity to add additional product functionality when necessary. Pricing for MIP Advance varies, depending on the number of system users and the modules licensed. A monthly subscription that includes the core modules is $200.00 for a single user and includes hosting fees. Implementation is typically completed by Abila or authorized partners and is extra, with pricing dependent on the cost of the software.

2018 Rating – 5 Stars

Thanks for reading the 2018 Review of Abila MIP Advance Fund Accounting!

Why use a Business Partner on MIP Advance?

1st Choice Advisors is a Select Business Partner for Abila products and services. Our consultants also have over 30 years of experience working with nonprofits; real-world experience with a variety of different types of fundraising needs and requirements as a result. We are rigorously training on Abila products because we spend up to 90 hours each year reviewing new functionality and training procedures. We are your go-to for service, and we also provide user groups, both online and in our offices. All things considered, your satisfaction and ability to get results is our main goal!

To learn more about a formal quote, data conversion and training:

Nonprofit Internships
Four Golden Rules of Nonprofit Internships

Four Golden Rules of Nonprofit Internships:

Is your Nonprofit Giving your Summer Interns a Great Experience?

In nonprofit organizations, college interns can be a tremendous resource. Not only are they unpaid, but more often than not they are energetic and eager to contribute. In return for their efforts, they should gain a valuable learning experience from your program. Are you giving your interns the best experience possible? And is your organization getting the most out of nonprofit internships?

The four guidelines below are widely considered the golden rules to make the internship experience mutually beneficial to both your intern and your organization.

Rule 1: Assign a point person to be the intern’s mentor.

This point person should be available for everyday questions and concerns, and should also meet with them regularly- at least weekly- to check in, discuss how things are going and give feedback. Interns need support and supervision just like paid employees, and it’s important for organizations to provide this. If your nonprofit internships involve counseling or other services that can be emotionally charged, allowing interns to discuss and process what they have experienced is especially important.

Rule 2: Provide an orientation process at the beginning.

This should include an overview of your program and basic training on providing services. Although this may take an initial investment of time for your program to develop, it can be used over and over as an orientation for interns, other volunteers, and board members. On the intern’s first day, the point person should also introduce them to everyone and make them feel welcome. Welcome kits with your program logo on them are a small way of making them feel special and part of the team.

Rule 3: Give interns a variety of tasks both large and small.

Of course, this will usually include things like copying and collating, but it should also include skill-building tasks. To think of ideas for intern duties that can be beneficial to both the intern and to you, simply think of things that you wish you could get to. Do you need to research funding opportunities? Is there a community collaboration meeting you don’t have time to attend but could send them to? If they sat in on program services, can you have them complete the required documentation (for you to review and sign) so you don’t have to? Can they write an article for your newsletter? (Don’t have a topic? How about “My Experience as an Intern”?) Can they help with the design and execution of a fundraising event? College students at nonprofit internships may also have skills that your paid staff members don’t; for example, they may be able to expand and update your program’s social media presence better or faster than your staff can.

Rule 4: Show your appreciation.

An important part of showing appreciation for your interns’ efforts is to end with a ceremony that acknowledges their hard work. Thank them for their contributions and review their experiences in a way that gives them a chance to reflect on what they have learned.

Internships are a two-way process: you are there to pass knowledge and experience on to them, and they are there to contribute to your program, not only through their work but also through their fresh perspectives. The more you put into supporting interns, the more you will reap the benefits of their participation in return.

Why Use an Abila Business Partner?

1st Choice Advisors is a Select Business Partner for Abila products and services. Our consultants also have over 30 years of experience working with nonprofits; real-world experience with a variety of different types of fundraising needs and requirements as a result. We rigorously train on Abila products. Why? We spend up to 90 hours each year reviewing new functionality and training procedures. We are your go-to for service, providing user groups, both online and in our offices. All things considered, your satisfaction and ability to get results is our main goal!

To receive more free info on HR management software training:

Avoiding Nonprofit Accounting Software Mistakes
Avoiding Nonprofit Accounting Software Mistakes

Avoiding Nonprofit Accounting Software Mistakes

A recent LinkedIn conversation related to new nonprofit accounting software system implementations and the various systems on the market, brought out many ideas on this topic. Clearly several users had their favorites. But after many indicated which system they liked best or had used, the real issue came out. That is that no nonprofit accounting software system will perform satisfactorily without proper design and implementation. Avoiding nonprofit accounting software mistakes is as important as ever.

Whether implementing a new nonprofit accounting system or improving an existing one, there are several design and procedural issues that need to be addressed.

Inadequate Codification for Nonprofit Accounting Software

One of the most important issues is coding, particularly the chart of accounts in a nonprofit accounting environment. If transactions are not coded in a way that allows for easy sorting and selecting for reporting, you find yourself extracting (or rekeying) data into spreadsheets and manipulating it there. In fact, one of the symptoms of an inadequate or poorly designed system is over dependence on spreadsheets. If you’re using spreadsheets for routine reports (weekly, monthly, quarterly), that is probably an area you should look at automating. Look at your reporting and work backwards to make sure your account code can support your reporting needs.

Beyond the chart of accounts make sure vendor and customer ID’s are consistent and make sense for the end-user. For instance, if your system looks up vendors by alpha numeric codes, don’t use numbers to identify them. Use a consistent variation of their name so they are easier to find. And use the same logic with employees.

Not reviewing processes/procedures

One if the greatest misconceptions’ regarding software is that it will fix broken business processes. It will not, but it may bring them to light! As an example if you are entering invoices AFTER the checks go out, most software will NOT accommodate your process (I actually have encountered this scenario). Please don’t blame the software! Avoiding nonprofit accounting software mistakes involves effortful attention on your part. Review your process and see how it might be changed to allow the software to improve your accuracy and efficiency.

Not taking advantage of nonprofit accounting software features

Oftentimes software is purchased with the intent of utilizing advanced features, but inertia takes over and things revert back to the “old” way. Areas like auto reconciliation, reporting, automated budgeting processes, workflow, and document management all sound great, but are indeed HARD to implement. On the other hand, there is certainly a cost/benefit to the time and effort it takes to accomplish these tasks. It is very much like a “mini-conversion” of that task you are undertaking. So first, make sure it’s an effort for which you’ll realize a return on investment. Indeed, some features may not work as demonstrated. Talk to other users who have already implemented that feature, and can validate its usefulness. Then make sure that you are clear on what is required for a successful implementation, and then properly plan and execute on it.

Not creating documentation

We’re not talking about User Manuals here. We’re talking about customized documents for every transaction and process you execute throughout the system, from GL entries to system backups. While these procedures are time consuming to create, their value in insuring consistent processes and results is invaluable. In addition, they make great training references for new staff as well as reference guides when filling in for someone on vacation.

Inadequate Training

Whether it’s a new system or a new version release, learning how to fully use them system insures optimal return on investment. Training also allows your staff to ask questions of the system that they may need clarification on. The key to avoiding nonprofit accounting software mistakes is in your preparedness.

Overly Complex Systems

A nonprofit with a single revenue source and a single program area may be able to use a fairly simple system like QuickBooks. However, as transaction and reporting complexity increases (allocations, cross fiscal year reporting, multiple Net Asset classifications, etc.), the need for a system that offers those features and benefits increase. Avoiding nonprofit accounting software mistakes for companies with multiple revenues is more important than most these companies will realize until it is too late.

Conclusions Regarding Nonprofit Accounting Software Systems

The discussion brought to mind some of the favorite comments heard in 20 years of consulting on non-profit system implementations. My top 6:

No. 6 – “I’m not too concerned about reporting. I do most of mine on Excel.” (The same ones you designed on VisiCalc?)

No. 5 – “I won’t need any help implementing, I’ve done several. In fact I’ve implemented three different accounting systems here in the past 5 years!” (Say no more.)

No. 4 – “We won’t need to involve any staff in the process. I’ll tell them what to do and they’ll do it.” (The beatings will continue until morale improves!)

No. 3 – “We don’t need any SOP documentation. It’s all up here (points to head).” (While I prefer to use “what happens if you win the lottery” scenario, staff keep referring to an unfortunate bus
incident…while smiling.)

No. 2 – “Just show me how it works and I can teach everyone else what to do.” (Because nobody knows their job better than you, and you obviously have tons of free time.) And the No. 1 Comment – “I’d like to keep my chart of accounts / vendor coding / employee ID because that’s the way we’ve always done it!” (At least that explains your “vintage” wardrobe.)

Yes, intense planning, procedure review (including staff input), training, documentation, and a willingness to accept change are critical components of a successful implementation. Nonprofit
accounting software itself will not fix broken business processes, but it will often bring them to light! There is no better time to start avoiding nonprofit accounting software mistakes through 1st Choice Advisors!

About the Author

John S. Francis graduated with his MBA from Southern Illinois University – Carbondale in 1985. Since that time he has worked in various accounting professions. From 1996 to 2009, he was founder and President of one of the country’s leading accounting software implementation firms. Acknowledged as a “Top 100 Technology Pacesetter” and a “Killer VAR” by Accounting Today magazine, and a “Top 100 Value Added Reseller” by Accounting Technology magazine, his firm successfully managed accounting system implementation and training engagements for thousands of clients worldwide. In 2009 he began working on, a site dedicated to assisting accounting professionals with their search, selection, implementation and use of accounting systems. He now heads up 1st Choice Advisors, a value-added reseller service organization who works with various technology solutions.

Why Use an Abila Business Partner?

1st Choice Advisors is a Select Business Partner for Abila products and services. Our consultants also have over 30 years of experience working with nonprofits; real-world experience with a variety of different types of fundraising needs and requirements as a result. We rigorously train on Abila products. Why? We spend up to 90 hours each year reviewing new functionality and training procedures. We are your go-to for service, providing user groups, both online and in our offices. All things considered, your satisfaction and ability to get results is our main goal!

To receive more free info on prevention, assistance and software training: