Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School (“Georgetown Visitation”), founded in 1799, is a college preparatory school rooted in the Roman Catholic faith and Salesian tradition, committed to educating young women from diverse backgrounds. With a mission to empower their students to meet the demands and challenges of today’s rapidly changing and morally complex world, Georgetown Visitation guides students to become self-reliant, intellectually mature, and morally responsible women of faith, vision, and purpose. The school currently enrolls approximately 450 students in the ninth through twelfth grades.
Soon after Roberta Hopkins joined Georgetown Visitation as their new Chief Financial Officer, she recognized the need for a new financial solution to bring her team’s processes up-to-date and better serve their students’ families. “The different systems we used to manage accounting, fundraising, student data, tuition payments, and financial reporting didn’t ‘talk’ to each other,” she explains. “We knew an aggressive system implementation was necessary to modernize our efforts.”
The organization had been using Blackbaud’s Financial Edge to maintain their accounting books and records; FACTS for tuition payment services; Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge for fundraising and donor management; and Veracross for managing administrator, teacher, student, parent, and household contact information and student enrollment data. Hopkins recalls, “Everything we put into Veracross and Raiser’s Edge had to be manually re-entered into the financial accounting system and our systems were never in sync.” In addition, because FACTS and the accounting system were not integrated, the accounting team had to manually post payments to the accounting system, and manually create and mail tuition invoices to students’ homes.
Georgetown Visitation also needed an easier way to prepare financial reports for their Board of Trustees. “With our old system,” begins Hopkins, “the chart of accounts was very outdated. We had to download data from Financial Edge into Excel and then create the financial statements.” She continues, “If there was an error, we had to redo the entire process.” The financial statement preparation process was very manual, time consuming and cumbersome. Hopkins had worked with Wipfli several times in the past and so she knew exactly who could help her to streamline and automate Georgetown Visitation’s accounting and financial management processes.
Wipfli implemented the Intacct core modules and leveraged Intacct’s Non-Profit QuickStart templates that include pre-built and customizable Non-Profit financial statements. To automate inter-fund transactions in the general ledger, cash management, and accounts payable, Brittenford developed automated entries which efficiently and accurately auto-balance the appropriate fund.
Brittenford also implemented SchoolConnect, a billing and integration suite created specifically for independent schools, which enables Georgetown Visitation to manage all their financial and operational data within Intacct. SchoolConnect eliminates the manual data integration of student management and tuition payment systems, which Hopkins estimates was 50% of one of her employees’ workload. Now, tuition payments, address changes, email address changes, donations, etc. can be easily and quickly synchronized with Intacct on a daily basis. Moreover, the elimination of manual data integration processes has increased the accuracy of the financial data and has improved the accounting department’s relationships with parents. “When a parent changes their email address but still gets messages sent to an old account,” Hopkins explains, “they get really irritated, especially when it relates to financial matters.” She adds, “We have eliminated those frustrations now that the systems are in sync.”
SchoolConnect also allows for the creation of flexible invoice formats and easy generation of student charges by household for clubs, activities, and specific fees. Hopkins says this functionality makes it convenient to bill families for special expenses, such as student trips, club dues and other fees. “Now, we just upload the students’ data into Intacct and the system updates their records and emails parents an invoice.” By integrating the FACTS tuition and payment system, Hopkins’ team can e-mail invoices from within Intacct and parents can make their payments online through FACTS, another time-saving automatic process.
Hopkins has found that the financial reports she can generate now are very detailed – and re-running reports takes seconds, not hours. “The process of preparing reports for the board has been great,” she says, “and Brittenford worked with me to understand the extensive reporting capabilities of Intacct.” In fact, one of Hopkins’ favorite things about working with Wipfli is the helpfulness of their team – especially with all of the activity surrounding a significant technology implementation. “They are so accommodating. Their people are smart and always seem to find a way to solve a problem,” she says. “Aside from our weekly meeting, our project manager always checked in to make sure things were going well and asked what else the Brittenford team could do.”
And as for the value Wipfli brings to schools like Georgetown Visitation, Hopkins says, “they take all the pieces and put them together into a package. Different schools have different systems, but the concept is still the same!”
Key requirements included:
• Enhanced financial report writing capabilities so that information is not maintained in Excel spreadsheets
• Ability to easily integrate with Georgetown Visitation’s existing student information, fundraising and donation, and tuition management systems
• Deliver extensive functionality that would increase productivity and reduce manual entries
Key challenges included:
• Georgetown Visitation did not have an IT infrastructure that could maintain or support extensive system integrations
• Georgetown Visitation had a limited budget and needed a solution that provided the lowest total cost of ownership and the highest return on investment
• Limited internal accounting and IT resources to implement a new solution
Now, financial reporting is done within Intacct, not Excel, and there is seamless integration of FACT tuitions payments with Intacct. The new system provides automated synchronization of student information, and fundraising and donation systems. Billing of student charges for programs and activity fees are streamlined.