Based on a round-up of software suitable for voluntary organisations which was started in 1996, updates include a major revamp in connection with an article in NGO Finance (March 2000). A lot of the issues tend to be put in terms of the charity SORP, which requires tracking of Restricted Funds plus a Statement of Financial Activities rather than a Profit and Loss account. However, most of the same issues apply to any voluntary organisation with project funding. See our Software Intro page for more explanation on this and software trends.
All software runs under Windows unless stated otherwise. Note that consolidation amongst suppliers is growing – contacts, package names and availability may have changed recently.
Also note the move to online versions. When this material was originally compiled this approach did not exist. VolResource updates are now fairly basic and the banding is getting less meaningful.
Many voluntary organisations will use spreadsheets to help them put together budgets. However, these do have problems (see below), and putting budgets into an accounts package is often time consuming. So there is some space for specialist software.
Spreadsheets are often used for creating budgets, producing tailored management accounts (with data linking through ODBC or similar) and perhaps grant or project tracking. Not generally recommended for any but the smallest/simplest organisation for bookkeeping.
As well as the rawness of the basic screen format putting many people off , there is huge scope for errors to creep into spreadsheet design. For example summing functions which miss out lines, or links between pages which pick up the wrong figures, for instance. Error checking isn’t easy, although there are some tools available which help – we haven’t got current links so do a web search.
Accounts for the Mac
We have been asked on various occasions to provide more info on accounts packages for the Apple Mac. Unfortunately, there is a limited range available and none with a sector specialism as far as we know. You can try:
- Do$h Cashbook – see below.
- MYOB is no longer available. Mamut, who have bought the business, have released AccountEdge and AccountEdge Plus.
- My Business has now got a Mac version. See Band 1.
Open Source Accounts
At time of writing (Nov ’03), there isn’t really any open source accounting software suitable for small to medium organisations. GNUCash is for personal finances, while SQL-Ledger is web/server based so for the high-end. Both are American. There are supposedly projects in progress, but its likely to be some time before anything useful appears for UK non-profits.
Update June ’06 – we note that Turbocash seems to have become a bit more established as open source – see ‘Other possibilities’ under Band 1 below.
Band 1 – Entry level
Finance Co-ordinator from Data Developments ‘software for churches and charities’, has been around since 1986. Designed to cope with Fund accounting, SOFA reporting, etc. but not VAT. The double entry bookkeeping convention is visible but doesn’t require prior knowledge. £159 for an organisation-wide licence, at autumn 2013.
– Data Developments, Wolverhampton Science Park, Stafford Road, Wolverhampton, WV10 9RU, phone 01902 824044
DO$H has become part of Mamut – their Cashbook (PC and Mac) is still available. The non-VAT Lite version appears to have gone but still provides a simple receipt and payments package, with a neat export facility (produces an exact replica of reports in spreadsheet, via CSV file) allowing report tailoring. The small business version is recommended by The Princes Trust and Lloyds TSB for commercial start-ups. £29-50 at Jan. ’09 – trial version available to download.
Kubernesis no longer supply their software, written specifically to work with Charity SORP accounting requirements, but will support existing users.
Paxton Charities Accounting With a background in providing accounting software for armed forces service funds, which now have to comply with the charity SORP, Paxton Computing has released a SORP accounting package for wider use, starting from £195 for single user (autumn ’07). It has some nice features, such as Gift Aid management in the Donations section, configurable ‘favourites’ buttons and up to 8 different VAT rates, as well as SORP reporting built in. Plus the type size adjusts automatically with the window size, making it good for those with poor sight. We did find some rough edges in the review copy but annoyances rather than significant issues. The lack of a sales ledger given the good VAT facilities is a bit odd (apparently on its way), and the report export functions could be easier to use (no general export function). Typical user: smallish charity with a need for Fund accounting and someone (treasurer?) trained in traditional bookkeeping.
– Paxton Computers, 15 Kingsway, Bedford, MK42 9EZ, phone 01234 216666.
Quick Books Focus now (2017) on online version, but desktop edition still available, and may be adequate for smaller charities. Following text may be out-of-date! An amazingly complete package for around £250 – just add payroll support and you have everything a small organisation could want. You can categorise costs (and income) in two ways (Customer Job, and Class) which could be adapted quite easily for SORP requirements. VAT rates can be customised. Navigator screens are easy to follow, while the alternative drop down menus suffer from too many options. Export facilities (to Excel) have been much improved in recent Pro versions. As Reports can be tweaked quite easily, most needs can be met within QB, though a SoFA would take time to set up. A customised edition for UK non-profits did appear but is probably no longer available (advanced budgeting, membership, donation tracking and fund accounting features). Don’t get confused (in non-UK reviews) by the American QB extension called Nonprofitbooks which won’t work here. Typical user: small organisation with no finance staff.
– Sales phone line 0845 606 2161. Get a demonstration version, and if you like it, phone/pay by credit card and get a code to turn it into a fully working version.
Systematics Standard edition including payroll, usual price £175, is offered free to charities and the required £95 annual support fee includes any software updates. It doesn’t have the Cost Centre analysis features of the professional edition, which many would want, but a 40% charity discount makes that only £135 for the usual set of modules (Sales, Purchase, Nominal and Cash Book). Work is being done on making SORP reporting more straightforward.
TAS Books is now part of Sage – perhaps no longer available for new customers at summer 2018 as dedicated website has gone.. Haven’t had a chance to look at the actual product for a while, but for its price, very flexible and integrates with Microsoft Office. Slightly more sophisticated than QuickBooks, and has gained various UK awards and accreditations. Started at £150 for single user (incl VAT + p&p). Typical user: Small organisation with someone doing finance part-time.
– TAS Books help pages .
The Big Red Book (based in Ireland and available in Gaelic). Screen layout and reports are based on the traditional manual ‘red book’, so anybody familiar with that approach will find this very easy to use. Not sure analysis will be up to the needs of many charities, but if the idea sounds attractive, take a look. Starts from £95, and have said they will give discounts to registered charities.
– 1 Clonskeagh Square, Dublin 14, Ireland, UK phone 0161 926 8822, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
My Business is an integrated, easy-to-use, Bookkeeping, Diary/Project and Contact Management program written for small businesses. From £39-99 to £149-99 at spring 03, plus support from £39-99 to £69-99 , it is good value. But analysis is limited, and doesn’t appear at all tailorable. May be useful to very small organisations, especially if the non-finance facilities fill a gap on your computer. Payroll module available.
– My Business Ltd, Churchill House, 12 Mosley Street, Newcastle, NE1 1DE, phone 0845 1 20 30 40, email email@example.com
Omni Accounts no longer available in the UK? (there is a South African website).
TurboCash is released as ‘open source’. It can be downloaded from Sourceforge for free.
Band 2 – cost up to £1,000
Sage Line 50 Probably the most widely used package in the sector, but this doesn’t mean it has any particularly relevant features. It is more that it is widely known and available, and has been around for sometime in various guises. Rudimentary department analysis, still has quirks such as 3 sorts of date fields with different default values, and not very friendly report writer (at version 6). But ODBC means you can do ‘live’ links to a spreadsheet such as Excel. Typical user: ‘professional’ bookkeeper and spreadsheet capable accountant or treasurer, to do monthly reporting. Basic cost, without invoicing facility, £395. 30% charity discount.
– Sage, Sage House, Benton Park Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE7 7LZ, phone 0800 447777.
– See Suppliers section below for charity specialist resellers: Intelligent Solutions, Avant-Garde.
Access Accounts – Foundations See Band 3 – Horizons – for fuller details. This is largely a cut-down version of that, with limitations on analysis levels and length of code lists, but still can build up via extra modules, including Project Management, at only £100. Basic cost – £595, 25% charity discount. Note, autumn 03, that a ‘charity accounts production solution’ has been produced, ensuring charity SORP compliance, with full funds analysis and extensive annual report info. Typical user: cash-strapped organisation bent on growth.
– Contact Access Accounting for resellers (make sure you get one with relevant knowledge). The Old School, Stratford St Mary, Colchester, Essex, CO7 6LZ. Phone 01206 322575, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. See charity web pages. Also Edinburgh office, phone 0131 317 7700, email: email@example.com, and Dublin, phone 01668 4991, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Liberty Accounts Cloud accounting and payroll software since 2003, with specialised support for non-profit organisation including:
Pegasus Capital Gold Good analysis features, built-in report writer, strong commercial pedigree, various add-ons. Typical user: small to medium organisation with some commercial activity. £800. Web site Sold via resellers.
Costing more than £1000. Analysis much better than Bands 1 or 2. Allow for some consultancy/installation costs. Ongoing support (preferably including upgrades) is a good idea, otherwise changes in requirements or regulations could be problematic. All are ‘modular’: Purchase and Sales Ledgers, and usually Cash Book, are separate. Prices are for single user unless otherwise stated.
AccountView Team 2 user Nominal/Sales/Purchase Ledger system for £1395, Project Costing £995. Unlimited number of companies, cost centre accounting. Loads of other modules, such as Activity Based Costing, Transaction Import (to link with membership, for instance). This European package seems to have dropped the UK version at summer 2015 – the website redirects to VISMA in the Netherlands.
Access Accounts – Horizons A fully featured package with good reporting, analysis and import/export facilities, but quite a reasonable starting price and winner of awards. As many chart of accounts (= companies) as you like, effective use of Windows and good drill-down. Latest versions run on 32 bit systems Windows or PowerPCs (Macs). Typical user: small to medium organisation with ambitions (as can build up facilities or move on to Dimensions – see High-End). £1495 for single user bundle, including Sales and Purchase ledgers, Nov 99, also 25% charity discount. Extra modules and users at £450 each, including Project Management, KPI. Also Transaction Broker module, allowing interfaces to be set up with just about anything. Crystal Reports Pro is extra.
– Contact Access Accounting for resellers details – Charity/NFP web pages. The Old School, Stratford St Mary, Colchester, Essex, CO7 6LZ, phone 01206 322575, email: email@example.com. Also Edinburgh office, phone 0131 317 7700, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, and Dublin, phone 01668 4991, email: email@example.com
Arrow Financials Comparable with Access Accounts, but claimed to be cheaper, starting at £400 per single user module with support charged at 12.5%. Fully scalable and upgradeable, ODBC and SQL compliant, can define own input and print screens. Used by a number of high profile non-profits in its native Australia. Not sure of current UK distributor with sector experience (at 2014).
Pegasus Opera II, 32 bit software, with 2 analysis ‘segments’. With a new new Advanced Nominal Ledger option (Mar 03) with nominal account, cost centre, project and department analysis, plus user definable views, this may now be a suitable product. Typical 10 user system £2500 for system manager, plus £600 per module (Mar 01). Phone 01536 495000, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sage Line 100 Unfortunately this is not a big brother version of Line 50, but a completely different accounting package. It does have an import facility for Line 50 and increasingly the Windows versions look similar. Has greater analysis capabilities (3 character Department and Cost Centre codes, as well as alpha-numeric nominal). Check for relevant add-ons such as Enterprise MRM – see Membership software page. Note that a complete re-write of the program using Microsoft .NET architecture was announced March 03, which will have impact on the modules – it also adds the electronic eBIS-XML financial document exchange system. Typical user: medium-size organisation wanting safety but some flexibility. Financials ‘bundle’ starting from £2500 including Crystal Reports, 10% charity discount.
– See Software Suppliers list below for specialist charity resellers, including Intelligent Solutions (have developed an Excel-based SOFA reporting facility), Avant-Garde.
With a 2 user special ‘bundle’ for Great Plains Dynamics now starting at £4500, the cut-off from Band 3 is becoming less clear. At this level, it is important to know what modules include and which you are likely to need in the near future. They all require careful setting up to realise their potential and can be extensively customised for different users and areas of activity. Some larger audit firms have specialist consultants, although whether they liaise with their charity experts would need to be checked.
Access Accounts – Dimensions (the next step on from Horizons, under Band 3). From £3900. Client/server version with great flexibility in configuring screens, field names, etc.
Exchequer (now part of Advanced) A full suite of business modules including Commitment Accounting and e-Commerce. Customers include The Samaritans, Wildlife Trusts, Compassion in World Farming.
OpenAccounts The package used by professional accountancy body ICAEW, PDSA, St Vincent de Paul Society, Hospitaller Order of St. John of God (Ireland) and others. Now part of Advanced– see their charity pages.
Microsoft Dynamics (previously Great Plains) Was somewhat taking over from Sun on the more sophisticated/medium to large charity requirements before it became part of Microsoft. Designed totally for the Windows environment and SQL based. Seven analysis segments, plus FRX drill-down reporting tool. Touchstone is a reseller – see Suppliers list below.
Navision Financials Used by Woodland Trust, Archbishops Council, Diocese of London, amongst others. Now part of Microsoft Dynamics.
PS Financials Charity users include Save the Children Fund, Women’s Royal Voluntary Service. Stated strengths are: SORP and SoFA reporting, Automation of partial VAT recovery, Restricted and unrestricted fund accounting, Web reporting for trustees and remote users, Valuing volunteer input, Easy integration to membership, fundraising & other operational systems. Buy direct from the software authors. 7 The Forum, Minerva Business Park, Peterborough, PE2 6FT, phone 01733 367330.
SAP Business One (Baby SAP). Broadgate Infonet reckon they can supply a 2 user solution installed for under £8,000 to the Charity/Not for Profit sector (at Feb ’09). SAP Business One can report on Restricted, Non Restricted Funds, SOFA and SORP, and has up to 5 different levels of analysis against one GL Code – project, cost centre, department, profit centre etc.
SunAccounts Very solid and well-respected package. Loads of analysis features, very powerful recording and reporting once you’ve got it set up, but does require that initial effort. Not for the novice. See Resellers listed under Software Suppliers below. SunSystems now part of Infor.
Well at the top end
Agresso, now part of Unit4. Clients include British Museum, Salvation Army, Wellcome Trust, Age Concern, Jewish Care. Pricing – dependant on modules required, though typically starting at £50,000 +, for an integrated solution. Phone 01275 377340, email: email@example.com
Accounting Software Suppliers
This listing of accountancy software re-sellers for specific packages was a separate page on the old VolResource site.
– Rowanberry Consultancy Ltd, 37 Sandy Lane, Maybury, Woking, Surrey, email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website. They point out that “AccountView is suitable for charity organizations as it is a very flexible accounting package with the capability of users constructing their own summarized financial reports”.
Sage, Sun, Great Plains
Computercraft, a democratic business, has been reselling SunAccounts since 1987. Phone 020 7284 6980, email: email@example.com
Lake Financial Systems SunSystems reseller for more than 10 years. Various charity case studies (in pdf) on the web site. Stable Mews, The Beechwood Estate, Leeds, LS8 2LQ, phone 0113 273 9303, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sapphire Systems is another Sun dealer with charity clients. Head Office: 31 Lombard Street, London, EC3V 9BQ, phone 020 7648 2000. Also in Manchester.