The case for improving nonprofit document management
Due to the nature of the sector, nonprofit staff often wear many hats. A seemingly small, but crucial role in any nonprofit is that of document manager. While managing documents may not seem like the most exciting of tasks, it’s certainly one of the most important. In fact, in this blog we’ll show you why nonprofit document management is the bedrock of successful project management, stakeholder relationships and compliance.
We’ll also include some actionable advice to help improve the way you manage documents and contracts in your nonprofit so you can see immediate benefits in your funded projects, be they grants, scholarships or other awards.
Digitise and centralise your document management to save your team time
Nonprofit administrators are busy people and are often overloaded with tasks across a broad spectrum of roles. Locating paper-based or disparate digital records are two tasks that drain time away from the impactful outcomes nonprofit exist to create. Minimising the time your team spend seeking out documents is therefore a simple way to immediately boost project management productivity. That’s why it’s always best practice to centralise your nonprofit’s documentation.
We distinguish between paper-based and digital records because ultimately, digitisation should be your first concern. Time is money, and digitisation is a timesaving, cost-cutting option that has become increasingly relevant to nonprofit organisations. You can explore more of the benefits of digitising your nonprofit here.
For those who have already adopted a digital solution stick with us, as we cover off the key features you should be taking advantage of in your document management system to drive project results.
Improve the way you manage incoming documents
One of the biggest benefits of digitisation for nonprofits is in improving their ability to deal with external requests. A 2020 report from Accenture noted that since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, nonprofit service requests had increased by 40% during a period of simultaneous staff shortages and dips in external funding. Unfortunately, the global macroeconomic circumstances wrought by the pandemic are far from over, and for many nonprofits this tremendous volume of requests hasn’t decreased.
So, what can a digital document management system do to ease the burden on managing nonprofit funding requests? For starters, a smart document management system will link attached files to the external submitter in their client record. To break that down, any grant applicant or project delivery agent that requires your nonprofit’s funding should have a clear access point to lodge their request. You can see an example of how applicants use these external access portals here.
Then, on your end of the document management system you should be able to see a clear record of who the request came from, including their contact details, and any files they uploaded to support their request. As you move further through the project lifecycle, you’ll be able to use the same portal to request additional documentation, such as project reports.
But how does the project applicant know what documents to attach, and how do you use those documents to know if the applicant is the right fit for your funding? Let’s now dig into templates and workflows, two essential tools for efficient document and project management.
Get projects moving faster with document templates and workflows
Templates are a great way to maximise the quality of those inbound documents. A quality nonprofit document management system will allow you to configure a range of templates to meet your needs. Configure grant application forms to ask questions in a range of formats, such as rich text, drop-downs and more, and collect documents in specific file types to meet your needs.
The great thing about templates is once they’ve been created, they can be used again multiple times for various purposes, with only minor tweaks. Full lifecycle management systems like Enquire, give you in-depth configuration options to meet your needs and generate new documents with a few clicks. Not only this, but you have the added benefit of creating templates for a range of other essential nonprofit requirements such as email templates to quickly respond to specific requests, or assessment outcomes.
Likewise, document management workflows are a great tool for nonprofit teams to get contracts and other documents signed or reviewed without delays. A document management workflow may include comments against specific project fields to inform external parties of requirements or provide feedback. Again, Enquire’s workflows are highly configurable and can be used for a range of purposes outside of traditional document management. This video, for example shows you how Enquire allows funding teams to quickly configure and streamline their assessment processes using workflows.
Taken together, document management processes such as these allow nonprofit grant managers to capture the exact data they need to award funds faster. Let’s now take a deeper look at the financial management aspects of nonprofit document management software and explore the added compliance you’ll gain from using these functions to their fullest.
Streamline your financial management processes to enhance security and compliance
Like all organisations, nonprofits function at their best with complete financial oversight. Document management systems offer processes that make auditing financial records faster and easier. In fact, a recent McKinsey report noted that only roughly 16% of financial functions cannot be automated using current technology, while around 57% can be automated with varying degrees of investment and technical know-how, and the remaining 27% automatable with relative ease. That 57% figure is quite stark, as it suggests that most organisations could be automating over half of their financial processes with a simple software switch and a few focused implementation sessions.
So, let’s look at some of these processes and see where your organisation may have the opportunity to uplift and automate their financial document management. If your nonprofit is making payments to external parties, or managing incoming funds, it really helps if your document management software allows you to integrate with your financial systems.
This is where a full lifecycle solution comes in handy. These tend to provide standard financial framework integrations, making connecting your financials to your document management a breeze. Enquire, for instance, seamlessly connects document management, financials, project management and reporting processes in one platform.
Here are a few of the security and compliance benefits Enquire provides across your financial document management:
- Role based security ensures that the appropriate functions are performed by the right people in your organisation.
- Document version history is fully auditable.
- Verification checks are in place to ensure external delivery partners are verified prior to having a payment made to them.
- Auditability gives you the ability to track and oversee any changes made across financial and document information by user / date & time.
- Enquire supports the ability to make payments to external delivery partners which can include or exclude indirect federal sales tax (GST, VAT).
- Enquire’s batching capability enables organisations to approve invoices in bulk & integrate this with your Financial Management system for processing.
- Manage payments in different currencies across your projects.
Switch to a full lifecycle management solution to make life easier for your nonprofit team and improve overall project performance.
This final suggestion is possibly the most crucial of all for nonprofit organisations given the current state of the sector. The following numbers illustrate a few key considerations nonprofit decision makers should keep in mind when adopting digital document management solutions:
- Around half of the nonprofit employees surveyed in one study said they’d be looking for new employment in the next five years. Additionally, the voluntary annual turnover rate in nonprofits sits at around 20% – outpacing all other industries.
- Another study found that roughly 70% of nonprofits are considering long-term remote work to accommodate staff.
The first stat largely relates to a sense of burnout experienced by nonprofit staff. Turnover rates are always concerning, given the time and financial costs of replacing staff, including onboarding and training. That’s why we always recommend adopting a cost-effective digital solution that covers all bases for your nonprofit.
If your new staff only need to learn one system to manage your nonprofit’s documents, financials, projects, and reporting, you’ve already won back some of the time it takes to get them up to speed. Features already mentioned throughout this article enhance this learning process, with templates, workflows and auditable processes allowing them to explore your unique business processes step by step. Enquire has the added benefit of running a per-user, per-month pricing structure, so it can easily scale with your operations.
This also means that should staff leave your organisation, all their project related documents will be maintained in the system. Piggybacking off this point and accounting for that second stat, your lifecycle management solution should be cloud-based and accessible anywhere. Not only will this improve your data integrity and prevent lost documents, but it gives your team and external parties the freedom to manage projects wherever they are.
Recapping the top five benefits of effective document management for project outcomes:
- Digitised and centralised documents save your team time, allowing nonprofits to focus on driving impactful project outcomes.
- An effective system for managing incoming documents makes it easier to associate specific contracts, project plans, and budgets with the contacts who submitted them.
- Nonprofit document management templates and workflows make establishing projects and awarding funds faster, so you can see your impact faster.
- Integrating your financial system with your document management system makes it easier to track and manage a range of financial data in an auditable, effective, and streamlined manner.
- Adopting a cloud-based lifecycle management system to manage documents, financials, projects, and reporting helps staff onboard faster and work remotely without losing track of their tasks.
Enquire has been used to manage nonprofit contracts, grants, and impact reporting processes for almost two decades. See how Enquire can help your nonprofit improve it’s document management via the button below.