Ask any donor who supports small NGOs about their top headaches and the odds are high that “donor reporting” and “proper accounting” will come up.
Whether the issue is timeliness, accuracy, or format, most donors will agree that they have had issues with getting their portfolio organisations to send them clear, easy to understand reports that answer what should be a simple question: “Where’d the money go?” .
Even as a highly engaged donor in constant contact with our grantees, ADMCF has spent hours (more like days) pouring over confusing financial reporting and collaborating with our grantees in the hopes that the spreadsheets can bring some clarity.
As a result of our engaged approach and a constant feedback loop, we learned that internal and external reporting is just as frustrating and stressful to small NGOs as it is to donors – especially if the reports are a main criteria for additional funding.
Even if the NGOs have the desire to prepare timely, accurate reports, the individuals responsible for financial reporting often lack basic accounting and computer skills and will be the first to admit that they could use a hand.
After training many of our portfolio projects on Excel templates designed to assist with financial management, we realised that a simple template would not be a reliable long-term solution. We found that many users still struggled to update the templates with major changes.
We searched for reliable no-frills software that provided basic non-profit accounting without a high price tag and we came up empty handed. In partnership with the Firetree Foundation, ADMCF decided to fill this gap by building our own accounting, financial management, and impact reporting software, which we have named POWALI.
The software was designed by ADMCF’s finance director, Ryan Glasgo, and developed by Synechron Technologies. Many of ADMCF’s network partners have generously shared their feedback and continuous improvements were made thanks to these contributions.
Powali includes three core components:
– Accounting: Bookkeeping; Bank Reconciliations; Reporting by Donors (External) AND by Cost Centres (Internal)
– Financial Management: Budgeting Expenses; Revenue Forecasting; Cash Flow Reportin
– Impact Reporting: Setting Impact Targets; Reporting Actual Impact – based on metrics determined by the users; Performing Impact Analysis
The entire software incorporates the following “SAFE” principles:
– Simple: the software is easy to use and requires minimal computer and accounting skills
– Accurate: the software incorporates automatic checks and balances to increase accuracy and facilitate internal
– Functional: the User Interface is easy to navigate and the functions are intuitive
– Empowering: the software empowers users by indirectly teaching basic accounting and financial management concepts
The name, Powali, was taken from an ancient Mayan word meaning “the account”. The software is tailored for small non-profits and social enterprises and will be available free of charge to external users and other intermediaries via www.powali.org.
Currently, both Mac and Windows versions are available as bundled software (fully downloadable and hosted on the user’s machine). The software is also capable of handling multiple users over a shared network server. In order to facilitate understanding, full instructions are included and YouTube training videos are available on the website.
For now, the initiative is managed in-house: ADMCF and Firetree Foundation have committed to funding the ongoing development and software support costs during 2014 and we will seek additional partners to ensure the sustainability of the initiative in the future.
ADMCF plans to spin Powali off into a sustainable initiative by charging a small monthly fee for a similar cloud based solution tailored for larger organisations while still giving the original version(s) away for free to smaller NGO’s and social enterprises.
NOTE: The software is currently undergoing Beta testing before being released to the public.