The Cesar Chavez Foundation, a non-profit organization that operates numerous entities and focuses on social issues that range from education to affordable housing, must use its money and resources wisely. It has 10 radio stations that reach upward of 500,000 listeners, along with offices and other holdings scattered across California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico.
Given the size and complexity of its operations, the foundation’s accounting system is essential. “We require an accounting system that can handle a high level of detail,” explains chief financial officer Clifford Timmermans. “Managers require accurate and immediate information about accounts payable and receivable, along with other information.”
In the past, reports were often haphazard and lagged the organization’s business requirements, so handling basic accounting tasks was sometimes time-consuming and irritating.
“Things had become extremely cumbersome and often frustrating,” Timmermans recalls. “We were attempting to use a combination of paper reports and electronic documents, and it wasn’t working well.”
In fact, tracking down essential information could be difficult. For example, if a manager wanted to determine whether an invoice had been paid, he or she was forced to log into the accounting system, print a report, grab the desired information, find the original check and make a photocopy of it, scan the copy into the computer and create a PDF. Finally, the manager had to email the pdf to the right person or group.
“The process was burdensome,” Timmermans points out. “It was extremely slow, costly and inefficient.”
Migrating to Cloud-Based Accounting and Reporting
After surveying the vendor landscape, the Cesar Chavez Foundation selected ERP vendor Acumatica to migrate to a cloud-based accounting and reporting framework. It went live with the new platform in July 2016.
Electronic reporting and a more flexible digital framework have helped the organization move faster and address issues sooner. Tasks that previously required minutes or hours now take place in seconds. In addition, the software has helped managers route strategic information to the right hands, so employees in remote offices can make better decisions.
“Everything is recorded and available in the system,” Timmermans says. That has led to more cross-entity and consolidated reporting.
The cloud-based system also has reduced time demands on the organization’s IT staff. In addition, it has helped the foundation ensure that it is using the most current version of software at any given moment.
Timmermans says that the biggest challenge was converting the data to the new software. “The two systems did not speak to each other,” he explains.
The foundation partnered with Nims & Associates, a technology consulting firm, which migrated the data to the Acumatica application over the period of about two months. In addition, employees required education and training on the new system. “We had to get users up to speed on the interface, as well as on how to manage and manipulate data and generate reports,” Timmermans adds.
The Cesar Chavez Foundation hasn’t looked back, and it is well-positioned for the future, Timmermans reports. “Making the move to a new software platform was a major decision,” he acknowledges, “and the process turned out to be somewhat more complicated than we had envisioned. But we’re now much better prepared to handle accounting tasks and address financial and business concerns faster and more efficiently.”