Katie Bascuas is an associate editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC.
How one small-staff association aggregated its complicated financial reporting process using the cloud. (Titled "Silver Lining" in the print edition.)
Imagine you are a small-staff association with more than 6,000 members and 15 chapters in the United States and Europe, and you need to file financial status reports jointly under one tax ID. What's a small association to do? Use a cloud-based accounting system, of course.
That's exactly what the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association did in 2009.
"Prior to us going to the cloud computing environment … we were really doing all of our financial reporting on a spreadsheet basis," says Nikki Jones, director of finance and administration at HBA. Compiling information, checking the numbers, reviewing the documents for accuracy, and other tasks "demanded a lot of human power."
The spreadsheet system also created logistical problems. At HBA, 15 volunteer chapter treasurers manage and report their chapters' finances. They cut the checks for event venues, food, and printing costs and record that information, Jones says. It was a decentralized system with each of the 15 volunteers filling out their own Excel spreadsheets, which were then combined into one financial reporting package.
"We've empowered our volunteers, particularly the treasurers, to have fiduciary responsibility," Jones says, but "we still needed to be able to access the information and make sure that it was accurate."
Moving to the cloud-based system created greater access—volunteers can now log in to the system anytime day or night; better document retention—all financial records are now stored in the cloud, which is important for an organization that experiences volunteer turnover every year; and more control for HBA.
"We no longer have to wait to find out when the bank statement comes out at the end of the month that somebody has drained $25,000 from the account," Jones says. "We can immediately get to that and cut that off."
For the IT staff, the new system simplified upkeep. "This is all in
the cloud, so there is no maintenance," says HBA Director of Information Technology Leena Gademsky.
She advises other associations to consider system integration when moving to the cloud. "You might pick a good AMS system, but if it can't talk to your accounting system, it's not going to work for you," she says. "It's very important that when you evaluate these systems, you make sure that they can talk to each other."
"We no longer have to wait to find out when the bank statement comes out at the end of the month that somebody has drained $25,000 from the account."
Katie Bascuas is associate editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC. Email: [email protected]