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How to Choose a Time-Tracking Tool for Nonprofits

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that one of the biggest challenges nonprofits face is to utilize the minimum funds to maximum efficiency. Limited resources make human capital even more important of an asset in a nonprofit organization.

At the same time, ensuring accountability and complying with strict accounting standards would eventually bring a nonprofit organization to a point where it would need certain help with managing internal processes, and a time-tracking software might come in quite handy in this regard.

Luckily, IT vendors made sure there is a great variety of time-tracking software on the market; the question just narrows down to choosing the correct one. What should one pay attention to when selecting a time-tracking tool for a nonprofit organization?

1. Allocation of spent time

Salaries are generally the largest expense of the organization, Nonprofit Accounting Basics reports. Diligent allocation of spent hours on a regular basis is the key to reflecting the work of a not-for-profit organization. Different time-tracking tools allow entering time in various formats: some track it by tasks and projects; others just offer one time-entry level. Since it is important for non-profit organizations to allocate time against grants and sponsors accurately and in detail, it would make sense to search for a tool that structures the data by sponsor-grant-task.

It is also vital that employees enter time in a comprehensive and easy way. Some timesheets also allow registering vacation, holiday, and sick leave in addition to work hours.

2. Reporting Functionality

Since nonprofits are subject to strict accountability, they must provide distinct proof to funders that their donations are being used as supposed to. In order to be reviewed in a convenient way, accurately tracked time still needs to be gathered into reports. Therefore, reporting functionality is a key factor that nonprofits should pay attention to when selecting a timesheet. Depending on the accounting period, the system should allow generating reports within a user-defined date range. Ideally, reports should be customizable, allowing users to choose such parameters as grantor, project, employees and volunteers, time period, etc.

3. Timesheet approval by a supervisor

To comply with mandates of FASB 117, all timesheets should be reviewed by both the employee and their supervisor and then approved by the latter. There are many ways of doing it, from simply reviewing the timesheet in a printed form and putting one’s signature on it to sophisticated multiple-level approval processes. Whichever way, when choosing a time-tracking tool for nonprofits, it is important to make sure that it has some approval functionality that would allow a supervisor to review and approve timesheets easily individually or en masse.

4. Estimates and forecasts

Apart from accountability and payroll, nonprofit organizations can use time tracker for predicting future workflows and allocating volunteer and employee resources accordingly. Since nonprofits are sometimes tempted to underestimate the time a project will take to demonstrate their efficiency to their donors, advanced estimation tools can come in handy in this regard. It would also make sense to choose a tool that allows generating a report for reviewing the estimates with the actual time that was spent.

5. Flexibility

With a vast variety of time-tracking software on the market and just the same great variety of companies out there it would only be fair to say there is little hope to find a solution that would be suitable for all at once. However, one thing that nonprofits have in common is the necessity to adapt a tool to their organization’s individual needs. Software should be customizable, allowing its user to choose which features they need at the moment and which ones can be turned off for the time being. At the same time, time tracker should be easy-to-use and implement, allowing nonprofits to spend their time doing important things instead of figuring out how to work with a tool.

6. Price

For-profit companies understand the importance of supporting nonprofits, and software companies are not an exception. When choosing a time-tracking tool for your nonprofit organization, don’t forget to inquire about discounts and special deals. For instance, some vendors offer up to 25% off for nonprofits, which would allow spending limited resources wisely not at the expense of functionality.

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