- Center City operates six charter schools in the District of Columbia, primarily servicing underprivileged kids from lower socioeconomic groups.
- When Jennifer Loi, the Director of Finance, arrived three years ago, they were running complicated accounting software no one on their team understood.
- Since switching to QuickBooks Enterprise nonprofit software, they’ve been able to make better financial decisions based on clear data and reporting.
Growing up as a daughter of an elementary school principal, Jennifer Loi learned early on how crucial education is in shaping a child’s future.
So it’s no surprise that today she works as the Director of Finance for Center City, a public charter school in the Washington, D.C. area serving kids from pre-kindergarten to 8th grade in underprivileged communities.
Center City operates six schools in total, priding itself on building a tight-knit, family-oriented environment for the attendees and their parents. “Our goal is to get these kids ready to go to high school and be very successful in life,” says Jennifer.
How quality financial data can influence students’ lives
Operating a non-profit public charter school has some unique challenges, especially because the primary goal is to spend funding wisely, rather than turn a profit. This means trying to keep the bottom line close to zero while making sure all funding is put to good use, with as little waste as possible.
Yet when Jennifer first arrived at the school three years ago, there wasn’t much financial data on which to base Center City’s spending decisions. The school was using complicated accounting software that no one really knew how to use. Even worse, the software didn’t have reporting capabilities.
Having worked with QuickBooks before, Jennifer convinced the school to make the switch, knowing she could tailor the software to fit the school’s needs. Because it was easy to use, she knew she could set it up herself without outside help. Plus, its compatibility with other applications made it that much more convenient to use.
“I needed something that was compatible with other systems and apps that exist today. And I needed something that was affordable because it just isn’t worth it to be spending thousands of dollars on an accounting system when I don’t need to,” Jennifer explains.
The value and time savings QuickBooks Enterprise nonprofit software offered allowed Jennifer Loi to channel funds into other parts of the organization where the money could really make a difference for their students while keeping operational costs at a minimum.
How QuickBooks Enterprise helped Center City make smart investments for their students
Within months, the new accounting system was up and running. “We did the implementation ourselves, between me designing how I wanted it to map and our Director of Technology quickly importing data from our old system into QuickBooks Enterprise,” Jennifer recalls.
Armed with new data, Center City was able to make smarter spending decisions, confident they’d be good investments. The granular data provided through the QuickBooks Enterprise’s class system showed Jennifer where she could shift surplus funds for departments that needed additional cash.
For example, Center City determined purchasing buses was more cost-effective than renting them on an as-needed basis, as they had been doing.
“Within our class system in QuickBooks Enterprise, I have field trips by campus set up as an area of analysis that I look at, and I also have a general ledger line item in the chart of accounts for transportation,” Jennifer recounts. “So it was very easy to look at our current spending patterns, and see if it was worthwhile for us to make a purchase.”
When it came to extracurricular activities, having accurate, up-to-date information on how much money was leftover in the second half of the school year helped them direct those surplus funds to the right place at the right time.
Smoother operations translate to better education
QuickBooks Enterprise wasn’t just useful for Jennifer. It made things easier for all internal and external stakeholders involved with the school. As a public charter school, Center City frequently applies for grant reimbursement––for that, they need customized reports.
Similarly, department heads often need spending trends data to see how they can be more efficient the following year. With QuickBooks Enterprise, pulling up these reports is now quick and easy thanks to the ability to tag expenses with jobs.
“I can tag expenses to match revenue streams. A fine example is our ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) grants, which are all federal grants,” says Jennifer.
Jennifer can also isolate costs going to general education versus student activities, field trips, and extracurriculars, so she can see exactly where funds are going at all times. s.
Another benefit of using QuickBooks Enterprise was the flexibility it offered for the team, particularly for working parents. “We value having a product that allows us to work from home when we need to and still be engaged and continue to do our job well,” Jennifer attests.
Accounting software that grows with your nonprofit
Center City’s experience with QuickBooks has been so positive, the finance department has been changing all other systems to be compatible with QuickBooks Enterprise. “We have done this purposefully because we know QuickBooks Enterprise is a system that will grow with us,” she explains.
Thinking long-term is essential when a student’s future is in your hands. QuickBooks Enterprise nonprofit software enables Jennifer to make smart spending choices that will have a powerful impact on Center City students’ lives.
“If we didn’t have the kids, we wouldn’t be here,” says Jennifer. “There would be no need for the accounting system, payroll, purchasing department, or HR. We’re just systems that facilitate providing an experience for the kids. And we need to make sure we’re using tools that can help us get there.”