Choosing accounting software can be hard. Each product comes with slightly different features, looks different and the prices vary. Don’t think that you have to jump right in and purchase straight away – make use of a free trial and you can play around and have a good look at it before you decide whether to go ahead and purchase it. Even if you outsource your bookkeeping, you still need to be comfortable with finding your way around the software and getting access to essential information.
MYOB Essentials and Xero are popular cloud based accounting products in Australia. You also have Reckon One, Quickbooks Online, Sage One and Saasu. For tips on getting started with Sage One head over to Steve Bicknell’s blog and look at: How do you switch over to Sage One.
So I thought I would show you my experience of getting started with the 30 day free trial of Xero.
I went online to the Xero Australia homepage, clicked “Try Xero for Free” and filled in my name, contact number and email address.
From there nothing happened for quite a long time and I couldn’t move on to the next step. I refreshed the page a couple of times, which did nothing. I have “Ghostery” set up in my browser and I noticed it was blocking something – once I selected unblock I was instantly through to the next step. Success!
Entered my basic organisation details in the next screen. There is an option in this screen to convert your MYOB datafile over to Xero, if that is what you want to do. Xero had entered a default conversion date, which was not the date I needed. Not to panic – it also tells you on this screen that you can change the date via the Settings screen once you are set up.
Up and running – straight into my business dashboard.
Watched the 2 minute information video.
Went into Settings / General Settings / Conversion Balances and changed my conversion date.
And that was pretty much it! Ready to get into the finer details of setting up contacts, customising the chart of accounts, setting up bank feeds etc. You will need all your business accounting information handy for the next stages of set-up if you are taking it that far.
Just a side note – I had a question about something which I had typed into the Xero website and less than 24 hours later a representative from Xero phoned me (yes – not emailed, but phoned) to discuss. I thought this was good customer service.
If you are wanting to look at MYOB, then the Student Edition of MYOB is a great way to sample the product – it costs $15.00 at the time of writing and you get the desktop product in CD-ROM format. There is a limit to the number of transactions you can enter (is still quite a lot) but there is no timeframe that you have to finish using it by, which is handy. Students at TAFE use this when studying accounting and bookkeeping.
Alternatively you can try the 30 day free trial of MYOB’s online products here.
Have been using cloud computing to do non-profit bookkeeping for a while, so I thought this was a great article. In particular, being able to access information anywhere, anytime is a great bonus for non-profits. For example, with cloud based accounting software your bookkeeper and Treasurer can both access the business books whilst one is in the office and the other is at home.
You may have noticed I like writing about not-for-profits. How great is it knowing that your hard work is benefiting others in need? Just recently, on behalf of a not-for-profit organisation, I purchased a bull for a community in Bangladesh. The small group of ladies had been fundraising for over a year to raise the funds. I returned home at the end of the day thinking “wow – how many bookkeepers can say they bought a bull as part of their day’s work?” I felt privileged to be able to share in their excitement and sense of accomplishment.
So here are my tips for keeping finances in great shape if you volunteer or work for a not-for-profit organisation…
Have financial procedures in writing and readily available for employees and volunteers to access. Communicate the importance of following these procedures and keep them up to date so that new volunteers and employees can step in to their roles easily.
Financial information such as Profit & Loss, Balance Sheet, Income & Expenditure Statements should be made available to board members prior to meetings.
Protect your financial data. This includes regular back-up of accounting data files, limiting who you give access to online banking passwords and keeping confidential employee information in a secure location. For more on protecting financial data, you can read my previous post Reducing the risk of fraud and error.
Present your financial information in a way that is easy to understand. Encourage discussion and questions in relation to the finances of the organisation. Board members need to understand where the finances of the organisation are at in order to make informed decisions.
Have a budget in place and check for areas that may have blown-out. Budgets may not be exciting, but are a must-have.
If your organisation has employed staff to take care of the day to day bookkeeping, the Treasurer should still monitor the overall health of the organisation’s finances and ensure procedures are being followed. If you are the Treasurer of a not-for-profit organisation, you may like to read my previous post What does a Treasurer do for more tips.
Have your financials audited regularly. For some tips on preparing for audits you can read my previous post Getting ready for an audit.
I hope my tips have helped you in your quest to stay on top of your organisation’s finances.
Working for a not-for-profit organisation can be a great experience – most people involved are contributing their time, effort and money because they believe in the cause and have common interests at heart.
Just because they aren’t operating to make a profit for owners, does not mean they are not financially accountable. In fact there are usually many different stakeholders to be accountable to – including Board members, government, volunteers, staff, members and donors.
I personally love the challenge of bookkeeping in the non-profit sector and have worked with wonderfully supportive board members and volunteers.
I thought I would share some interesting facts about non-profits in Australia.
There were 56,894 not-for-profit organisations in Australia registered with the ATO at June 2013.
At present it is estimated there are approximately 700,000 non-profit/community groups in Australia.
Not-for-profits employed 1,081,900 people in 2012-13 with social services employing the most people.
Charities must have an ABN (Australian Business Number).
To be a registered charity, your organisation must be a not-for-profit that has a charitable purpose that is for the benefit of the public.
A public benevolent institution (PBI) is a type of charitable institution whose main purpose is to relieve poverty or distress (for example, sickness, suffering or disability).
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) is the independent national regulator of charities in Australia.
Have you been a Treasurer, bookkeeper or accountant in the not-for-profit sector? What differences and challenges did you face compared to other sectors?