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It’s About the Money

I’m working with a client who has a custom database application to manage their website and database. It’s actually a pretty slick system. But the problem is that it was designed by web developers who have a great sense of managing web things, but no sense for managing finances.

I see this time and time again from web-development companies that expand into the AMS space. While they may develop great data and website management systems, they frequently overlook one of the most important aspects of a traditional AMS: financial transactions.

Your AMS has to be able to track all money coming in to your organization, and keep track of who actually owes you money (accounts receivable). Too often what I see in custom designs is a simple checkbox that says “Paid” or “Unpaid.” But there’s nothing there to generate invoices, track whether and how payment was made, and track which general ledger account the money should be applied to.

One of the advantages that most off-the-shelf products have over custom products is that they’ve already addressed the issue of managing the money. They have in place the tools to manage invoicing, refunds, transfers, g/l accounts, and the rest of the financial minutiae that most of us hate, but all of us need to best keep track of our financial status.

So when you’re considering off-the-shelf versus custom, make sure either system you consider has the ability to fully manage all of the a/r accounting functionality you’ll need. And of course, as I write here, most associations shouldn’t be in the custom software business anyway.

Full disclosure: EDM is an independent third-party consulting firm. This means we have no financial relationship with any of the vendors mentioned in this blog. We provide unbiased opinions on what we see.

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“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

“We came to Wes because we were very frustrated with our existing AMS and we wanted to improve our capabilities as soon as practicable. Wes very quickly helped us through a process of identifying our needs, identifying potential vendors, and selecting a new system that we’ll be able to move into very quickly. I especially appreciated Wes’s candor about our processes as well as the systems we were looking at. He was a great resource to have in a period of high anxiety for our organization. I would highly recommend Wes for any similar project.”

Jack Chiasson, CMP Executive Director
National Association of Life Brokerage Agencies

“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

“This is the second database implementation we’ve done since I have been at Western Arts Alliance (WAA). The first I did on my own. This time we engaged Wes Trochlil as our database planning consultant. Let me tell you, this process is a whole lot easier having Wes on your team! For a small association like WAA, it’s tempting for board and EDs to question the justification and expense of a database planning consultant. But it’s the small associations that need Effective Database Management the most. Wes strengthened our planning process, clarified our needs requirements, helped us steer around solutions that couldn’t meet our objectives, and saved us money in the long haul.”

Tim Wilson, Executive Director
Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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