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Nonprofit Budgeting Survival Guide: How JMT + Vena Can Ease Your Budgeting and Planning Woes

With JMT’s budgeting and planning services, you don’t have to accept the ways of budgeting from the past which involve multiple spreadsheets and wasted time consolidating data from multiple sources. It’s time to innovate and create more effective planning processes that will allow you to spend more time analyzing data and making strategic decisions. In this video, we will show you how:
  • You can be living this new reality by the end of the month with our 10-day implementation.
  • Cloud-based software + JMT’s nonprofit expertise will get board ready re-forecasts done quickly.
  • Vena leverages your existing Excel framework to enhance an interface you are already using every day.

Interested in learning more about how JMT and Vena can help you operate more efficiently?

Megan Mendiola: Hello, again, everyone, and thank you all for joining us today. My name is Megan Mendiola and I am a Regional Marketing Coordinator here at JMT. Today, we're very excited to have our own Andy Harleman with us today to lead us over our webinar on JMT's budgeting and planning services. I'll tell you a little bit more about Andy here in a second.

First, I just wanted to share a couple of housekeeping notes before we turn it over to Andy. If you have any questions during the webinar, please go ahead and submit them into the Q AMP A section of your control panel. We'll go ahead and save those all until the end of the presentation, but don't hesitate to go ahead and submit them as you think of them and we'll get to them at the end.

Also, just a reminder that will send you both the slides and the recording of today's webinar within 24 hours after it has concluded.

And now I just want to introduce Andy Harlem to you all. He lives in St. Louis and is the Director of Sales here at JMT. He has an extensive nonprofit background as well. He helped found a social Social Services Agency and serves as an administrative director there. He also served on the governing board of a nonprofit in St. Louis. He has been consulting to nonprofits since 2006 as well.

And now, Andy. I'll go ahead and turn it over to you to get us started.

Andy Harleman: Thank you, Megan. Really appreciate it, confirming, you can see these slides. Great, thank you very much, everyone. So obviously, we do have chat functions here. So if anything happens if my audio goes and I don't realize it or anything like that, by all means, please let us know. But look forward to questions at the end as well.

I want to start by just making sure everyone understands who JMT is and in a nutshell JMT is an independent consulting firm, who was created to work only with nonprofits. So your mission at your nonprofit is our business. We have thousands of happy nonprofit clients. We're really known for rapid and affordable implementations of different technology solutions. Today we're going to be talking about one of those, but we're essentially small enough to provide exceptional and personalized customer service, but we're large enough to handle any scope or size of project for your implementation.

So we were built with the express purpose of helping nonprofits achieve their missions and we've assembled a team of people like myself who have some nonprofit background. We were founded by Jacqueline M. Tiso, hence the name. Those are her initials.

Jackie was herself a nonprofit finance executive and I think four different nonprofits in the first part of her career she served as CFO, controller. She worked in the New York City area and she was a customer for quite a few implementations of software solutions at that time. Frankly, she wasn't all that impressed with the service. She got as a customer and she founded JMT with the idea that nonprofits deserved better. And that she could do better than what she received when she was a customer. So we've been around, we will be celebrating our 30th Anniversary next January. So we're very excited to be in our 30th year here at JMT consulting.

She started the company up in the New York area and we've now gone all over the place. You can see we have offices, even as far away as Australia and we have clients everywhere, but mainly we come to you. Wherever you are, we can work with you and with the zoom technology and everything that we've got these days. We literally can work with you, no matter where you are, and hopefully we'll get back to normal after this COVID crisis. And we can even come and see you in person.

Just always good for you to get a sense for the kinds of organizations that JMT has worked with and does continue to work with in our 10 years helping nonprofits. So these are just a few. And it's always also good, you know, I can tell you how great we are all day long, but one of our happy clients here had a nice quote about us. And he basically said, Look, it's that background that understanding of nonprofit that is exactly what you want in a consulting group. And that's how we do what we do is we understand nonprofits. And we go out and find the right tools for nonprofits to help them.

And so we're going to talk about that today. And we're going to talk about why the fact that JMT is actually an independent firm and not a software publisher is important to you.

First, our commitment is to you not to any software that we're, you know, building like software companies do and we go out and we look, we know our nonprofit. We know the nonprofit world we know how nonprofits work. And so we're constantly looking in the marketplace and finding the best solutions that fit nonprofits. We assemble the perfect solution for you from our ecosystem of the partners that we work with. And we work as you can see sort of across all of these areas.

Today we're going to talk about budgeting and planning, but we have other areas that we work with, as well. So some of the solutions that we work with, you can see the vendor is the one we're going to talk about today on budgeting and planning, but we work with others. And the bottom line is, there's nobody out there that knows nonprofits better than JMT.

We go out and we check the marketplace and work only with products that we believe are a true fit for nonprofits. So, you know, it's not just software, though, it's how you set it up and how you achieve.

And again, another great quote from one of our clients who talked about the onboarding process that we worked with him on and so this is exactly what we're here to do. Software is worthless if you don't set it up right, and if you don't have someone who can help you get it going. And that's exactly what JMT is all about.

So one of the things that all of us here I think are discovering just how important technology really is, especially in light of what's happened over these past few months.

There really is no excuse for working with outdated technology and I know for many of you on this call that that could be a painful thing that you're going through right now. And so we want to talk today about specifically the nonprofit budget process and how current modern technology can help really make this process better for you. But let's start with talking about what we have witnessed and observed over our nearly 30 years in business, working with nonprofits.

The typical nonprofit budget process is an average of four to six months now. That means there are outliers. There are others that take eight 9 10 12 months that bring up that average. There is a lot of collaboration. In other words, a lot of people involved in getting budgets into the system and your average nonprofit, but the quote collaboration that we see mostly is emailing spreadsheets around. And I'd like to put up this lovely pic from Oprah talking about hey everybody gets the spreadsheet and that pretty much sums up what we've seen in terms of collaboration among you know program people outside of finance and others that may have a budgetary responsibility in your average nonprofit.

So we'd like to try to keep this a little bit interactive and so I'm going to pause here and have Megan do our first poll question that day, which is, I believe, Megan is this first poll question about just how many people are involved in your budget process.

Megan Mendiola: Yes, it is. And I'm going to watch it now. So you should see it show up on your screen here now. And it is how many people in your organization contribute to budget creation? So you can answer just 12345 plus or 10 plus so we have a couple votes coming in here. Now we have two 10 pluses and we have a five plus.

Andy Harleman: Whoops, I actually hit end polling that was my fault. Sorry about that.

Megan Mendiola: No worries. I'll share these results that we have. You can see them.

Andy Harleman: Anyway, I think the point is we like to have a little interaction here. But the point I think this backs up what we're saying we hear a lot of our organizations talking about the fact that that there are a lot of people involved. I mean, you're sort of prototypical nonprofit example is you have finance who's ultimately responsible for assembling this budget, but you have lots and lots of different program people.

In fact, Megan and I just yesterday had a call with the Community Action organization who talked about how all the different programs in their organization have you know budgetary responsibility. They're not just responsible for seeing how they're doing against budget as the year's going on, but they have responsibility for inputting what their expenses are going to be throughout the year. So as they build that budget, they get emailed a spreadsheet and all of a sudden you got multiple spreadsheets floating around, and then usually, the people who come to these webcast webinars are the people who are the lucky ones who get to actually assemble it when it's over.

So they're the ones who have to pull it all together. And as it says here on this cartoon, instead of budgeting to our strategy, let's spend our time determining which spreadsheet cell is not linking correctly.

We make light of this, and some of you may be nodding and smiling because it's funny to joke about, but really it's not so funny. Because, in fact, we hear so many nonprofit finance people say they spend hours and hours and hours of their time fixing broken links finding more formulas are messed up, realizing that there's three different versions of the same spreadsheet floating around, and on and on and on.

And so ultimately, what that means is that you find yourself spending probably 80 plus percent of your time collecting data and leaving you with 20% or less of your time to actually be strategic and analyze that data.

On top of that, in this last year, or these last few months really, you've had to deal with COVID and you've had to deal with the fact that you've got to recast that budget in light of COVID in many cases.

A great example I heard was actually some somewhat good news that came from one of our clients who said, hey, we actually got some emergency COVID funding. But that money we use, we had to use it for certain things that we already had a grant allocated to pay for and so I had to move pots of money around and I had to change my plan and go back to my executive really quickly and show my executive how we were going to deal with that. So they had a nice problem in that they actually had more funds than they needed and they got extra funds, but it still was very hard to assemble the plan. And in fact, that was a person who was at that moment, deciding to go forward with Vena, but was, you know, again, a great example of how you have to replan.

So your board needs a new plan immediately I mean on your regular nonprofit year you've got your annual budget process and then every but now you've got COVID you've got all these changes, they're constantly going on. Your board needs a new plan immediately. You in finance have to be the people who quickly change all of the previous assumptions, who suddenly are trying to collaborate with people who may be remote and working from their homes. You can't. You don't have time to waste on data collection and entry. And yet, you've got to try to make strategic decisions and recommendations on that data. And the assumptions may change even hourly and you have to do it all over again.

So this is what we're trying to help you eliminate, this kind of headache, and that's where Vena comes in. Vena Solutions is a tool that JMT started working with a couple of years ago. We're very excited about it, because, like a lot of technology, it used to be that the only organizations that could afford a tool for FP&A as they say, financial planning and analysis were the big organizations that could spend millions of dollars on technology.

But like any tech anything, as technology has become more prevalent, the price comes down. So Vena has now become something that JMT is proud to bring to the nonprofit world, because it is now affordable when things like this didn't used to be.

And so what essentially Vena does that we really like is it takes all the good of Excel and gets rid of the bad. Everyone on this call presumably knows how to use Excel already. You have a head start on Vena already because that probably 60% of the onboarding that you need. What it does is it locks out all of the problems of version control and everything else that we talked about, and it keeps the good stuff, which is hey excels familiar friendly, easy to use. And if I didn't have to worry about formula errors and the like, I would stay in Excel all day long. Well, that's exactly what Vena has allowed you to do essentially. You're using Excel on the front end, but behind it, instead of storing stuff and cells in Excel, it's actually tying to a secure cloud database.

So it also allows you to make it easy for your staff, because with Vena you're able to actually route out and plan out your budget creation process, all the steps, making it very easy for them to understand them for you to understand and create workflows.

And it even enables board-ready reports, such as the one here. This is an actual screenshot from Vena of a statement of activities report, complete with charts and graphs and everything else. So I'm going to get into the actual system now and show you what I mean.

What's nice about it is it is actually a cloud-based tool. So I just went to the Vena Solutions com, I click on login, I logged in, I have my tab already opened where I logged in. You can see I am logged in as myself. I happened to land on this nonprofit budget creation page. But what I want to do is go over here to this contributor tab.

So the first thing I want to do is I want to kind of show you where I'm headed. Imagine your typical nonprofit. Again, going back to the example I gave where you've got 10 plus people that you're emailing spreadsheets to and they've got to enter their expenses for their particular area. And then you have to assemble it all.

So I'm just going to show a little bit of how that works today in the limited time we have. Obviously Vena does a lot more than that, but I think this is the real eye-opener for most nonprofits who are living in Excel hell as we'd like to say.

I'm going to start with this. Imagine you're doing the forecast a re-forecast even and you want to look and see how it's going. So you've got this. I'm going to use this particular report. I'm going to open it up. And what happens is when I do that, you can see down here in the bottom left, it actually downloaded a spreadsheet. Now what it really did was it turned on my Excel on my machine and filled it with data from the cloud.

So the only difference - this is actually Excel - but you see there's a vendor tab here at the top. And so that is really all. It's using Excel as the front end, but the data comes in is secure and it comes from the Vena cloud. So what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna look at this particular report as a forecast report is loading, and I'm going to go down here and just give you an example because I'm gonna show you where I'm headed. So if I look at these expenses and I'm going to go over to my recruitment expenses here this line, you could see I don't have any data here and that's for a reason. This is a demo database and just let's look at this one here, this month we're going to look at forecast Q3 and all that. And so you can see this is blank. So to keep that in mind. I'm going to close out of this report and I'm going to go back to Vena.

And now I'm going to actually do an input. So, what, what I'm going to do is I'm going to take this input screen and again I, what I do is I check it out. It's almost like the library. When I check this out. That means no one else can touch or change the cut of data that I am now pulling out. And so I checked it out. It is again it just simply quickly loaded it into Excel for me, which I'm now pulling up, and here it is. And I just have to pick which section of the organization. I'm going to enter it into and I'm going to pick. Oops. Come on, now I'm going to pick San Francisco. And I'm going to pick it in my scenario here is the forecast scenario. I hit okay. it's loading that data exactly as I wanted and now we're going to go down and look at those expenses that I was talking about in here. Actually, it's up here. So, here again is recruitment expenses.

You can see these are numbers that were already entered on that other report, but now I want to put in for this other period. So let's just do that. I'll put in at 8888 make it easy to remember it and now I'm just going to save it. Actually, I'll try that even close out of this particular report. So do you want to save that to the Vena database. Yes, I do.

And it's giving me a warning that there is a soft warning in my security here that you can't just change things by more than 20%. And I'm going to say, well, I'm going to override that and say yes. Normally, you probably wouldn't give someone the right to override it. But this is a demo database.

So it's committing those changes to the audit trail, and now I'm going to check that file back in. So now that file is loaded. It's in the data. You can see it says check out again. So if I go back to that report, which is a completely separate report, my expense various analysis report, you can see after as I pull it up here. Go down to recruitment, there's that at 8888 it is now shown up.

So imagine if you had emailed me a spreadsheet, and you'd also emailed 10 or 15 or 20 other program people and said put in your amounts for your recruitment expenses for your department of your program.

In this simple example, it was just one person and I had 8888 for this example, but imagine then that they all fill out their spreadsheet. And they all emailed their various spreadsheets back to you. And now you are trying to take all of their individual spreadsheets and assemble them into this report, which is your master copy of your forecast. Well, you don't have to do that because it all shows up as it's supposed to show up here.

So that right there in the limited time we have today. That's the big thing I wanted to show you, is how you can eliminate that nightmare of all that Excel stuff with this kind of data. Enter using the Excel tool. Now there are some other really cool things that will scratch a little bit of that surface by showing you.

So for example, if I go to something like let's say this cell here and you might have noticed along the top under my Vena tab in my Excel, because this is actually Excel using the Vena tab, that it gives me all kinds of other cool things including drill down. So let's look at this, the actual transactions. So this is now loading the actual transactions that make up that number. These are because you can feed data to inform your general ledger, whatever your ledger is. Some of the ones out there, like Intacct, have built pre-built integrations with Vena where the data flows seamlessly over. But any of them we can quickly and easily build a bridge and pull that data in and then you've got yourself actual details that are populating your reports from your general ledger, that would be one example. And you can see what it did was it opened another worksheet on this workbook with that information.

And you can do other things such as look at an audit trail to see the actual changes involved in - I'm going to do something different than that. I'm going to use this one instead. I'm going to just look at the saves as an example of an audit trail. Some of the other details that you can drill down into to see the different saves and the different values that were added or changed on that particular cell. So all of this, you could never do in Excel, as an example.

But these are some of the other really cool things you can do with the Vena tool. Again, in the limited time we had today, I just wanted to give you a sense for how this could make a big difference in your organization.

But I want to go back. Finally, to a couple of other things here that you can see in the actual event cloud itself. And so if I go over here. My manager that I talked about, this is the workflow. And these are the steps that I actually set up for the budget creation process.

And then there are other activities and there are even file libraries, but this is the thing I like the most, which is this actually keeps track of the people in the system and who's doing what. And it shows you where they are, whether they have actually done their job. And you can see things like, Hey, who are these people? And did they submit it yet? Is it approved yet? And then here on the status tracker even will give you date information, how much is left to do in your budget process. And again, more on whether somebody's done anything and you can then have the ability to reach out to your program, people who maybe didn't get back to you yet. You can see where they are in the process, whether they've started whether they've completed, and so forth. So there's a lot of power here that is so much better than your typical Excel-based process that you go through in a typical nonprofit budget process.

So that concludes what I wanted to show in the actual software today, but I want to get back to what we were saying about the value of this to you. I talked about the 80/20 rule earlier. Imagine if none of your time was spent on these things. You see here, all those Excel gymnastics, imagine if you didn't have to put off your executive director or the board because you were able to quickly get the data you needed and spend 80% of your time actually being strategic and actually doing analysis. That can be your reality with the Vena tool.

And so I want to also tell you that what we've done at JMT is we've realized that, particularly in this crisis time that we've been in and hopefully this crisis is waning, a little bit here, but a couple months ago a lot of people had a lot more uncertainty about it.

But we've come up with a way to do this all for an affordable monthly fee where JMT handles the actual admin of your system. So traditionally what we might have done is we might have said, hey, we have a system. We'll help you implement it, we'll train you, not just on how to use it, but on how to do your own changes, change security, build your own new models, change your assumptions, all those kinds of things, create new reports. Well, that's the hardest part for most nonprofit finance people, because you already have 40 or 50 or 60 hour work weeks, and to have to not only learn how to enter data into your new Vena tool, but how to really own it and use it is the part that slows everything down.

And so what we've done now is we've come up with a way that you can for one affordable monthly fee, we can do all that for you. And all you have to be able to do is know how to enter data into cells and click on Reports to view them and understand and analyze them so we can have people up and running in as soon as 10 days.

So we literally could have you up and running and have you at a point where you're using this thing here by the beginning of August.

So before I get to our closing, I wanted to open it up for questions and find out if anyone has any questions they would like to chat into the chat window. Megan, are there any coming through?

Megan Mendiola: So I don't see any questions that have come through yet, but we do so have a few minutes here left. So we'd like to welcome it up as Andy said for question time. If you have any questions at all, you can submit them into our Q&A portion on your control panel and there's also the chat feature. So if you have any questions now would be a great time to submit them.

Andy Harleman: And while we're waiting to see if any come through. Actually I do see one now. So let's see. The question is, does Vena integrate with accounting software? The answer is yes, it does. And I mentioned earlier that there are a couple of software tools out there. We work with one called Sage Intacct that has a pre-built integration that literally you know the data pushes over sort of automatically. But any accounting software we can integrate this thing with, because what we do is, there's a way to point the Vena database to, like, for example, a CSV file from your General Ledger if you printed one if you were to create one. So, yes, we can pull data from any general ledger out there. Some, the data pull itself is more automated than others, but it doesn't matter even if you have a really old system with on-premise technology. You can just get your good stuff, all your general ledger, into a CSV or Excel file no problem.

Megan Mendiola: Great, Andy. Did you see the chat? We had a chat question come through as well. I'll go ahead and read it to you. It asks, Do you serve in India?

Andy Harleman: We do. We can work with anyone, anywhere. We want to make sure there were considerations such as obviously, wherever you are, this being a Cloud tool, you have to have reliable internet. We have had some organizations where there are remote outpost in very remote parts of different continents were Internet access is just not reliable, so that's a little bit tricky. And so I'd want to be upfront about that. The other thing is, in some I'll have to check to see if Vena. I don't even know the answer to this question, but some software we work with is only in English. And I'm not sure if Vena is only in English, or if it can be in other languages and we'd have to make sure we talked to someone in another country. We'd want to make sure that they were okay with it being in English, and if not, we would want to check with Vena to see if there was another possibility, but the answer is yes.

I see two more questions. Follow up to the one about integration and that would be, can the budget be imported back to the accounting server? Yes, it can.

And again, as long as your accounting software can import data that is, but most of them can these days. Although once in a while we still come upon a nonprofit who's using an old like mainframe system from the 80s where importing might be a trouble. But usually, that is not the case. =

A question from another attendee is are there leasing options available? Yes, that is essentially - it's not an actual lease - but there is a financing option available, which is how we are able to work this in as a monthly fee. So absolutely, and it keeps cash considerations right at the forefront. So you don't have to worry about large amounts of money expenditures out of your cash flow upfront.

Are there any other questions that I've overlooked Megan?

Megan Mendiola: Great. No, I don't see any more that have come in. You have about a minute left. So if we get any last-minute questions then we'll definitely read them out. But Andy, I wanted to thank you for showing us some of the really cool features that Vena has to offer and telling us more about JMT's crisis planning services in relation to Vena.

And as you can see on the slide that Andy has up there now, you'll be hearing from us soon. I'm really looking forward to connecting with everyone following today's webinar for just a more personalized discussion on how we can get you up and running quickly with Vena and see if it would be a good fit for your particular organization's needs.

So, like the slide says, I have some time slots starting this afternoon, but I'll be planning to reach out to all of you via phone, just to get your thoughts on the webinar and just have a more personalized discussion over that. So we're looking forward to connecting with all of you and looks like we are about right at time so we will end.

And just like that says, By August this could be you. And that sounds amazing. We would all want that. So we'll go ahead and bring this webinar to conclusion. Andy, is there anything, any last-minute things you want to tell all of our attendees today?

Andy Harleman: No, I just want to, I guess I'll just say that we were just really excited about the Vena tool because accounting software has been around for a few decades. And everybody's got accounting software right but Vena is something that - and tools like Vena - are newer to the marketplace. And so it's really exciting for us, because so many nonprofits, I'd say 95% are all in Excel right now and to be able to help you really eliminate that awful manual process, we think it's just a game changer, a real game changer for the entire nonprofit sector. So thank you so much for your time today. We hope we can help all of you.

Megan Mendiola: Great, well thank you Andy and thank you all of you, for joining us today. Like I said, I'm looking forward to connecting with all of you here soon to talk about this some more. But in the meantime, we just hope that everyone has a great day.

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