GnuCash for Non-profit FUND based accounting ? olpc $100 laptop & GnuCash?

Treasurer - TU SouthWestern VT treasurer at
Wed Oct 25 15:54:32 EDT 2006


We are currently running Money Counts for DOS (a fund based accounting
product that was originally from Parson's Technology). Money Counts was
donated to our TU Chapter many years ago by Parson's Technology when we
called them up and they sent us a free copy (nice of them)! 

FYI - Interesting History of Money Counts and Parson's Technology:

Parson's Technology provided various software for churches at one time. 
Since then their product line was acquired, and in the end it seems that
Intuit ended up with the accounting software and has done nothing with it 
at all.   This might be because Intuit now has a version of QuickBooks for 
non-profits!  We don't run very many transactions per year at all, 
so to buy Quickbooks for Non-Profits, and keep it upgraded seems 
pointless due to the expense of keeping up with Windows and Intuit version
schemes! And also there is another interesting factor that eliminates Intuit...
Due to the fact that Quickbooks will not run on LINUX and we might like to 
use the $100 olpc laptop as a permanent accounting device that could be
affordable and could hopefully run a LINUX GUI based and easy to use
Fund Based accounting application. ).

For the next person that handles the chapter's bookkeeping, I don't think
that he or she/they will be able to handle the learning curve of a non-GUI based 
application that is not like the Windows ones that they are used to!

So - Can GNU Cash be used for FUND Based Accounting (for non-profits and

See these links with regard to fund based accounting.

>From one url above: 

"Software Features
The items listed here are features that distinguish a good fund
accounting system from a commercial application. Items like general
ledger, accounts payable, etc. are not mentioned because both commercial
and fund accounting systems need these capabilities. 

      * Is it a TRUE fund accounting system or is it a modified
        commercial application? A good fund accounting system needs to
        be developed from the ground up. Some vendors offer commercial
        systems with fund accounting "overlays". If this is what they
        are selling, be leery of the product.
      * Can it handle both cash and accrual basis funds concurrently?
        Many operations require this ability. Example: a museum gift
        shop needs to be on an accrual basis, but the general fund needs
        to be on a cash basis.
      * How large can the amounts be? Some low end products cannot
        handle the large figures required for fund accounting. The
        system should be able to handle numbers up to 1,000,000,000.00. 
      * Can the system handle the number of funds required? A good fund
        accounting system should not have a limit on the number of
      * Does the software offer security? Application access should be
        regulated by program and user. 
      * Is it portable? It should be upgradable or movable from system
        to system without conversion. 
      * Can invoices be paid from multiple funds using a single check?
        Many commercial and low end fund accounting systems fail this
        test. It is a very important feature. It can drastically reduce
        the number of checks being written. 
      * Can multiple checking accounts be used, if necessary? Some
        organizations need to be able to maintain multiple checking
      * Is Grant/Project tracking available? Grants and projects often
        require different reporting requirements. They must be reported
        for different periods. They also require reporting on a to-date
        basis for the life of the grant. 
      * Does it process encumbrances? This is an absolute must for many
        government operations. And, if you encumber, the system should
        definitely have real time processing. 
      * Does the budget planning allow for global changes? Fund
        accounting operations tend to have a very large number of
        accounts. Global change capabilities allow the user to quickly
        create and change budgets with a minimum of input. 
      * Do the available reports meet the needs of a fund accounting
        operation? Fund operations need revenue and expense reports in
        addition to the standard reports offered by commercial systems.
        They depict comparisons between actual revenues and expenses
        versus budgets. 
      * If you are a nonprofit, does the system support FASB 177
        reporting requirements? 
      * If you are a government, does the system support GASB 34
        reporting requirements?  "

"Fund Accounting Software Provider
Check out the firm. Don't make assumptions. 

      * How long have they been in business? 
      * How long have they been providing fund accounting solutions? 
      * Did they develop the product or do they merely modify and resell
      * Is fund accounting their main product or is it just an adjunct
        to another piece of software? Some firms main focus is on fund
        raising software. They offer fund accounting only because they
        need to compliment their flagship product. This is an indication
        that the fund accounting will be of a lesser quality. 
      * How does the company provide day-to-day support? 
      * How often do they update the product? 
      * Do they provide high quality documentation? Documentation is a
        complex and time consuming process. It is very important that
        good documentation be supplied. It is also highly desirable that
        the documentation be available on-line in an easily searchable

***As you can see... 

***  FUND Based Accounting is different than regular accounting.  

I have looked and looked and there is no non-profit FUND ACCOUNTING package for
LINUX at all?  Do you know of one?

I was hoping that a FUND BASED non-profit ACCOUNTING system could be
designed for the ultimate personal accounting machine that is being
developed at the OLPC ($100 computer) project that was born at MIT.

This $100 laptop computer would be perfect for a treasurer of an
organization to use (and pass along to the next person to hold the
office of treasurer).  

Based on a FLASH DRIVE
it would operate like an accounting calculator (we have very few transactions 
per year so I don't think that it would fill up the flash drive.

I know of several churches that are looking at this kind of software
need as well (who don't currently have an accounting package to use
since Money Counts for DOS is no longer available to buy or get support
on)!  Fitting such a software with the $100 laptop would be perfect.

Also - the CFO for the National Trout Unlimited organization approached
Intuit to see if they could arrange a volume deal with them for the
Quickbooks Non-Profit version use by all the US chapters of Trout
Unlimited and Intuit said, no way, "no discounts".

Some of the rules that TU Chapters must follow are found in part of an email 
from the National CFO...

"A nonprofit can charge for advertising in any publication produced by
the nonprofit, but you need to keep the following in mind.

1.  As soon as a nonprofit has $1,000 of unrelated business income,
which advertising is, the nonprofit must file form 990T.  This is a
rather complicated form, so I would recommend that your chapter line up
an accountant who has filled out the form for other nonprofits to do
this for you.  So I would really recommend evaluating if charging for
the ads is going to produce net income for the chapter after factoring
the additional cost for a tax preparer.

2.  Unrelated business income cannot exceed 33% of total gross income
for a nonprofit.  This can cause the loss of nonprofit status.

3.  Advertising on the web is currently treated by the IRS as being
identical to advertising in a newsletter and is therefore considered
unrelated business income.

4.  The chapter needs to keep good detailed records on all the costs
related to the newsletter and website to help offset the taxable income.
To keep your tax return preparation fees down, the records should be
kept in accounting software".

We even have to keep track of volunteer hours doing newsletters, and
other volunteer projects (like planting trees, etc)!  This tracking
would be nice to have built in to the non-profit accounting application.

--> Do you know of any accounting package for LINUX (or the $100 laptop
computer from OLPC) that will do proper non-profit FUND based accounting
with the graphs, do the tracking and reports that we need?  

GnuCash has no information as to how to set up GnuCash to set up and a 
volunteer non-profit FUND BASED accounting that would equal our old
MoneyCounts DOS application?  

Best regards,

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