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How the right technology can be a game-changer for non-profits

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Michelle Taggart

Feb 12, 2020

We’re a country of do-gooders here in New Zealand. We ranked third on last year’s World Giving Index and we have 27,800 charities for a population of just under five million.

There are around 115,000 organisations in New Zealand’s not-for-profit (NFP) sector. These are a mixture of incorporated and unincorporated organisations, depending on their income, the tax they pay and the standard of required reporting1. These organisations do not carry out activities for the profit or gain of any member. Roughly 60 percent of the sector are small, unincorporated businesses who are mostly volunteer based.

Charities and NFP organisations are no different to any other small business. They have a mission, a budget, and a strong desire to deliver great results for their donors. 

Xero’s two cents

Just like all successful businesses, charities and NFP organisations have a strategy to achieve their goals. Technology should be integrated with strategy to maximise the return on investment from donations. 

Our thinking is that charities and NFP organisations already do so much to help out the community, so we want to try and help them out in return. Xero offers all charity and NFP organisations worldwide, a 25 percent discount on their Xero subscription to make accounting simple, seamless and smart.

Using technology to run your not-for-profit

Using an online accounting software to run your charity or NFP organisation will make it easier to focus on your mission. The old way of managing accounts with spreadsheets and paper files is only going to slow you down. Whereas, a secure, cloud-based system makes it quicker and easier to share information, collaborate and make decisions across the organisation. 

Many charities and NFP organisations have teams of volunteers, who don’t have a lot of time to spend on the books. The beauty of cloud-based technology is that it is accessible anywhere, at any time to users. It means organisations can easily share expenses and donor information with board members, employees, and volunteers. As well as this, by using a mobile app managers can stay on top of workflow and send invoices or reimburse volunteer expenses on the go. 

Additionally, one of the biggest headaches for many not-for-profits is compliance requirements. Whether it’s reporting to the charities register, or meeting tax obligations, a secure accounting system will help you stay compliant. Through Xero HQ,  Xero Partners are able to access NZ Service Reporting Templates that help NFP deliver compliant reports to the Charity Services.

Making life easier for volunteer treasurers

Playcentre Aotearoa is made up of more than 420 not-for-profit early childhood learning centres around New Zealand. They believe parents are the best teachers for their children. With parents as volunteers, families can learn and grow together.

The centres were recently consolidated into one group – Playcentre Aotearoa – and are now live on Xero nationwide. Before using Xero, each Playcentre managed their accounts with paper files and offline spreadsheets. Different Playcentres were all managing the accounts in different ways. Now, there is one consistent view of all 420 plus centres in Xero, providing better visibility of each centre.

The role of treasurer changes hands pretty often at Playcentres. Having all the financial records online allows for a smooth transition from one treasurer to another, with historic records all in one place.

Using data to make decisions

To make the best use of donations, charities and not-for-profit organisations need to evaluate what’s working and what’s not. Clean data is crucial in these organisations. Every donor needs to feel like they’re making a difference, and every dollar needs to be accounted for. 

If you can show results through data, you can bring your donors closer to the impact you’re making with their help. A great example of this is The Fred Hollows Foundation’s impact calculator, which gives examples of what a certain amount of money can be used for.

There is benefit to charities and NFP organisations running like a small business. Streamlining operations to be more efficient, setting clear goals, and ensuring accountability can help them make good decisions. People want to feel more connected to the charities and NFP organisations they support. Xero supports greater financial visibility and governance in NFP reporting using our budgeting and reporting tracking features to match expenses to their revenue and funding origins.

Partnering to maximise your impact

Partnering with other organisations to build on Xero’s great tools can only help to make your impact bigger. To really achieve change, collaboration is key. 

One way you can do that is by leveraging any of the 800 app partners that integrate with the Xero platform. It could be using Spotlight for end of financial year reporting. Or using Mailchimp to send marketing emails to your database, helping to spread your message, attract donors and volunteers.

Spotlight Reporting’s tools automatically create powerful reports, dashboards and forecasts, using data from your Xero account. It provides Xero accountants, small business owners and not-for-profits with a range of reporting options that save time and effort. Organisations can customise reports to suit their needs. For example, using financial and non-financial data sources. Spotlight creates beautiful visual reports that are easy to understand, and can be sent to the Charities Register if or when required.

Streamlining NFP organisations with Xero

The Fred Hollows Foundation was started by eye surgeon and Professor, Fred Hollows, who dedicated his life to ending avoidable blindness. The Foundation now operates mobile clinics in developing countries training doctors and nurses to strengthen health systems. It also drives innovation and research. 

Working in the Pacific, Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste is challenging. Many places have varying facilities and technology, especially undeveloped areas where banking and paying people is complicated. 

When the Foundation moved to Xero, it was a real game-changer. The Foundation’s Chair, Craig Fisher says, “Getting our administration team onto Xero was a huge success story. All of a sudden our accounting team in NZ had visibility of what’s going on for the first time.”

We’re pleased to support amazing organisations, like the Fred Hollows Foundation, to become more efficient and maximise positive impacts on communities.

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