Nonprofit organizations, like any organization, need efficient reporting. In addition to being easy to use and up to date, reports should be easily accessible. One way to provide easily accessible reports is to offer them via the web.
The solutions described in this article collectively provide these features:
- Azure-based dashboards, reporting and budgeting
- Multiple security levels
- Integrations with multiple systems, including enterprise resource planning and membership applications
- Data warehouse for combining data from multiple systems for single-source reporting
Nonprofit Organization Needs
Nonprofit organizations have needs that are usually met by multiple systems. Each system handles a different need of the organization. Because of the multiple systems, there are multiple silos of information. Multiple applications mean some users must learn multiple applications and combine data from multiple systems for reporting and budgeting.
Examples of needs include grants, events, membership, payroll and financial. Membership data could be captured in systems such as customer relationship management (CRM). Donor data might be tracked in applications like Raiser’s Edge. Payroll might be handled by ADP. Sage Intacct could be used for financial data. That’s four systems plus any other data tracked in spreadsheets or Microsoft Access databases.
In addition to reports, nonprofit organizations have budgeting needs. Budgets may need to be tracked by department or program. Multiple budget sheets could be used for personnel, capital expenditures, revenue and other expense types. Tracking line item details and entering comments are features that can benefit budget users.
To complicate matters, the data from these disparate systems feed each other and drive financial activity. Therefore, reports need to incorporate data from these systems and budgets should be prepared based on these disparate systems.
Microsoft’s Power BI is a visualization solution. Visualizations, unlike classic reports, are items such as bar charts, line charts, heat maps and waterfall charts. Visualizations are grouped together on pages. You can then select individual visualizations and pin them to dashboards.
The below images are examples of Power BI reports showing visualizations for a nonprofit organization.
You can see in the above examples that these reports present membership information (CRM), donor information (Raiser’s Edge) and financial information (Sage Intacct). In addition, the reports include information on events and budgets, and multiple data sources are displayed together on a secure website. In addition, Power BI offers mobile applications for tablets and phones. Thus, a manager can access information anywhere.
Microsoft offers multiple ways for nonprofits to get started.
- Available templates for nonprofits
- A marketplace for additional visualization types
- Power BI Desktop, a free download, for creating reports
The steps to create Power BI reports are as follows:
- Get data
- Drag the data into the report canvas
- Create filters for the report
- Publish the report to Power BI online
- Create dashboards
The data can be imported from a host of applications. Power BI provides a large list of sources, some of which are SQL Server, Excel, Google, Salesforce and OData.
Once you have the data, you can use a template or start with a blank canvas. The following image shows a free template from Microsoft.
You can see the Filters option on the right side of the chart. Filters also can be shown as slicers, which are represented by buttons at the top of the below image. Selecting buttons that represent the type of data the user wants to see is an intuitive approach to filtering data. In addition, it makes the report interactive.
Solver Corporate Performance Management
As aesthetically pleasing as visualizations are, there are times when you need classically designed reports, such as tabular reports with rows, columns, headers and totals. For example, a published profit and loss (P&L) report is typically considered a tabular report. In today’s parlance, you also may hear the term “paginated.”
In addition to these reports, organizations can use a corporate performance management solution to create budgets and forecasts. These items may need to incorporate these features:
- Multiple types of data
- Multiple periods or years
- Multiple companies, programs and departments
- Line item details
- Top-down and bottom-up budgeting
- Multiple scenarios such as baseline budget and revised forecasts
Solver is an Azure-based solution that supports the above features. From a security perspective, Solver supports multifactor authentication and multiple levels of security within the application. For remote users, Solver supports multiple browsers including Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari and, yes, Internet Explorer.
The report and budget template design experiences are the same because they use the same tool. Microsoft Excel is the tool, and a Solver add-in provides users with access to the data warehouse, where all the disparate data can be housed for reporting and budgeting. Put simply, Excel handles the layout, formatting and formulas and Solver handles the connection to the data. The Solver add-in also provides functionality for period filters, KPI creation and Drill-To definitions.
Using a data warehouse, the data from multiple systems can be combined and used within reports and budget templates. For example, while reviewing a P&L report, a user can drill down on membership revenue to view member information for the period. Similarly, when creating budgets, personnel data from the payroll module can be used to drive the amounts that will hit the expense accounts.
Here’s a visualization of the Solver environment.
In the above illustration, imagine the cylinders at the bottom as your silos of information. The data from the silos would be loaded into the data warehouse. At this point, you can use Solver’s reporting and budgeting functionality with the data. In addition, data can be combined in reports. Moreover, Power BI can be used to create reports and dashboards from the Solver Data Warehouse. The images shown in the Power BI section are Power BI reports based on the Solver Data Warehouse.
Shown in the next images are reports and budget templates in the Solver web portal.
For nonprofit organizations that need to provide users with options for working with and reporting on data remotely, Power BI and Solver provide secure, browser-based reporting and budgeting functionality. The applications can be used together or separately. They can incorporate multiple types of data to provide organizations with a single source of truth.
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