Running QuickBooks in Nonprofits Excerpt – Chapter 15

QuickBooks Fundraising Tools

QuickBooks contains tools and features that can help you raise money, especially from donors and members. These constituents are the primary sources of income for many small nonprofit organizations. In addition, you need to track all your fundraising efforts in QuickBooks transactions.

It’s possible to track individual members and donors in QuickBooks, but you need to be careful about keeping the number of entries within the size limits imposed by the QuickBooks structure (see the next section to learn about file size limits).

The more information you keep about members and donors in QuickBooks, the easier it is to create targeted fundraising campaigns. Sending a fundraising letter, or creating a fundraising event and targeting people who have a known interest in some specific angle of the fundraising topic can sub- stantially increase the amount of money you raise.

In this chapter I’ll show you how to track information about members and donors in ways that are useful for fundraising, and for tracking participation in activities. I’ll also explain the QuickBooks  configuration settings you need for tracking the income and expenses involved with fundraising.

QuickBooks File Limitations

If you want to track members and individual donors in QuickBooks , you have to be aware of the limits QuickBooks imposes on the number of entries you can have in the QuickBooks names lists, which include the following lists:

  • Customer:Job
  • Vendor
  • Other Names
  • Employee

There are actually two limitations—one for the combined total of all names lists, and another for any one list.

  • The combined total of entries in all the QuickBooks names lists cannot exceed 14,500.
  • No individual names list can exceed 10,000 entries.

Once you have reached 10,000 names in a single QuickBooks list, you cannot create any new entries in that list. Once you have reached 14,500 names in your combined lists, you can no longer create any new names in any names list.

 If you think the limitations will get in the way of tracking members, or individual donors (or both), you can track member and donor information outside of QuickBooks .

Create a database or spreadsheets to track information about members and individual donors. You can post the financial transactions (dues and donations) in QuickBooks in batches, without linking the amounts to discrete names.

Managing Members

Membership dues are a consistent, dependable, and predictable source of income for any nonprofit organization. Many small nonprofits create memberships for the organization, for specific programs they offer (sports, classes, and so on), or for both.

Membership fees for programs are often accompanied by fees that vary depending on the costs required to run the programs. For example, a membership fee for your education programs could be nominal, and then be supplemented by classroom fees to cover the costs of supplies, instruc- tors, or overhead connected to supplying the room.

If you have a manageable number of members, you can track their names, their activities, and their membership renewal dates in QuickBooks . QuickBooks  offers features to help you manage all aspects of membership.

Creating Member Records

If you’ve decided to track your member list, enter each member as a customer in the QuickBooks Customer:Job list. Use a naming protocol that’s consistent, such as last name-first initial or last name-first name (use hyphens or spaces, not both).

Using the Customer Fields Creatively

The fields in the Customer dialog aren’t designed for membership records, but you can use them to match your information needs. For example, here are some of the uses I’ve applied at client sites:

  • Ship To is the work address.
  • Company Name holds the parents’ names if the membership list is made up of children (perhaps you run sports teams or after school activities).
  • On the Payment Info tab, the Account No. field holds membership numbers (if you use membership numbers).

You can use this list to jump-start your own imagination to match fields with the information you want to track.

QuickBooks TIP: To make it easier to build reports and track renewals, make your membership renewal dates either the first of the month or the last of the month, regardless of the date you received the first payment.

Using Custom Fields to Track Members

QuickBooks Custom Fields are extremely useful for tracking members (see the instructions for creating custom fields in Chapter 5). For members, you can track membership information, and the activities the members participate in, by creating the right custom fields.

For example, I have clients who use  QuickBooks custom fields to track committee membership. The fields are named Committee1, Committee2, and so on (using real committee names). To indicate membership in a committee, data is entered in the appropriate custom field—usually an X. Filtering a report for an X in the appropriate field provides all the committee member names.

If you have more than a few committees, create a single custom field (in this case, named Committee), and enter the appropriate committee name in each customer’s record.

You can use either of these methods to track any type of membership information, such as teams (for sports), volunteer days (e.g. Thursday), and so on.

Custom fields don’t have a drop-down list, so you must be sure to type entries exactly the same way each time you add the entry to a QuickBooks  customer record. For example, if you’re tracking team membership for a team named Tigers, you won’t be able to find the team members for whom you entered “Tiger,” as the data.

QuickBooks TIP : The most efficient way to enter data in custom fields is to create a list of acceptable entries and make sure everyone who enters data in QuickBooks has a copy of that list.

You can also create custom fields to track membership dues renewal information. For example, you can have two QuickBooks custom fields: RenewalMonth, and RenewalYear. Those fields even work for grantors, and donor agencies to track contract renewal dates, in addition to helping you track membership renewals and “in memoriam” donations.

Some organizations create a custom field for the renewal month, and use that data to generate letters or telephone calls every year, to remind members that their dues are payable. The problem they encounter is that when a member sends a payment for two years, the yearly reminders are annoying. The solution is to make sure you have a field for the renewal year.

QuickBooks TIP : If you’re tracking renewal months, use numbers for the month instead of names. It’s easier to create a report if you’re looking for “9” instead of guessing the way users might have entered the name (Sep, Sept, September).

Making the decision about whether to create a QuickBooks custom field for each discrete category (such as creating a field for each committee), or create a generic field that requires you to enter specific data (the committee name) depends on how many custom fields you need for this and other purposes. See the next section on custom fields limitations.

QuickBooks Custom Fields Limitations

When you open the QuickBooks  Define Fields dialog, you see fifteen custom fields on the list. The same dialog, with the same defined fields, appears whether you open the dialog from a customer, vendor, or employee record. Enter the name of the field, and specify the list, or multiple lists, that should contain this field.

You can use all fifteen custom fields, but you cannot assign more than seven custom fields to any individual QuickBooks names list (Customer:Job, Vendor, or Employee).

If you assign one custom field to all three names lists, then each names list can contain another six custom fields (whether those fields are shared among lists or assigned to one list).

Using Customer Type to Track Members

The QuickBooks Customer Type list is a convenient tool for tracking members. You can use subtypes for levels of membership. For example, Figure 15-1 shows a Customer Type List that’s extremely useful for a nonprofit organization that raises substantial funds through membership fees.

Membership levels (subtypes) are handy if you have a variety of dues levels to differentiate among membership fees. You can produce QuickBooks reports filtered by subtype to generate fundraising letters or telephone calls that are designed to be of interest to each subtype.

Tracking Family Memberships

Some organizations that offer family memberships track individual family names. This gives them a way to track activities on a person-by-person basis. For example, the parents may be members of committees, and the children might participate in programs the organization offers. Tracking individual activities for the members of a family provides a couple of excellent benefits:

  • You can easily create reports on the members who participate in a particular activity or program.
  • You can create customized fundraising letters that are targeted to members who participate in certain activities.

Use the QuickBooks Customer Type List to Track Memberships






Figure 15-1: This list makes it easy to generate reports about who gives what, and why.

If you charge membership dues for each member of the family, even if you have different rates for different age groups, you should track each dues-paying family member as a customer in QuickBooks .

If you have a special family membership rate, create the family as a customer, and then create a job for each family member. When you create the job, you can enter the custom field data (such as activities, if that’s what you track) that’s specific to each family member. As an example, Figure 15-2 shows the Additional Info tab for a member of one family (the family is a customer, each individual family member is a job).

Enter custom field data in the QuickBooks Job record













Figure 15-2: This family member has her own data, tracked as a job.

Creating Items for Memberships

The item, or multiple items, you create in QuickBooks to track membership dues should reflect the way you charge for memberships. If you have different types of memberships, create a parent item named Membership, and then create subitems for different types of membership (Family, Individual, Corporate, and so on). Enter the rate for each subitem.

QuickBooks TIP : If you use subitems, don’t attach a rate to the parent item—only the subitems have rates.

Make your membership items QuickBooks Service items, and link the items to the appropriate income account. If you’re using the UCOA, use the account named Membership Dues-Individual, which is a subaccount of the Earned Revenues account. If you’re not using the UCOA, create an account for membership dues if you don’t have one. (Chapter 5 contains complete instructions for creating items.)


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