The Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, Kan., does what it does very well. Almost too well. One of the most successful outposts of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, it boasts one of the highest per-capita participation rates in the country, with 1,500 K-12 students served every day, and more than 3,000 active members.

Over time, that kind of reach brings challenges.

"It takes a tremendous amount of resources to manage and serve that many members," said Megan Hill, director of donor engagement. "It also requires a significant management tool in order for us to effectively manage our entire organization, especially finances."

But the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence lacked such a tool, and as a result, a few years ago it found itself at an inflection point when it came to grant management. In particular, the organization had seen its roster of major grantors (those providing at least $500,000 of the annual budget) grow from one to three, each requiring strict reporting on how its funds were being used.

Upgrading its accounting system would have required significant upgrade fees to improve its grant management, but the club still would have been left with a disparate assortment of disconnected applications, and staff would have continued manually working with spreadsheets to merge data.

Inaction Not an Option

Still, it had to do something. At the time, staff had to manually separate data on matched funds and reimbursed funds, and that task was becoming complex enough to raise the possibility of error.

"We can't risk being wrong," said James Lawrence, director of finance & human resources. "If you report funds wrong, grantors can come back and ask for their money. We weren't meeting the reporting expectations that each grantor had."

What the club really needed was a more comprehensive and integrated system that it could use to run the entire organization. Lawrence had worked with NetSuite at a previous job, and he knew it was up to the task, but he assumed it was out of the club's price range and was looking at affordable options, none of which met the organization's needs.

It was then that he was pointed toward Oracle NetSuite's Social Impact program, which provides discounted software licenses to nonprofits. After a three-month in-house deployment, Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence went live on NetSuite in April 2018.

Organizational Lifeblood

Lawrence and Hill both said the implementation was a great experience, and that NetSuite resources were there to answer questions every step of the way. That said, they did come away with one important lesson: They wished they'd have spent more time with the system before porting all of the club's historical data over, as they would have done this differently once they knew how the system worked.

"Scrubbing the data as much as possible before conversion would be my advice," said Hill.

NetSuite has become the technology lifeblood of the organization. The club uses NetSuite for everything from grant and donor management to workflow of purchase orders to enablement of automated payments to staff and vendors.

Later this year, NetSuite will be integrated with a new member tracking system the national organization is rolling out, and the club also is testing the ability to import bank statements into NetSuite for reconciliation.

A Night and Day Difference

The contrast in the organization pre- and post-implementation is like night and day. Financial reporting is cleaner, donation tracking is simplified, and a paper trail has been replaced by an electronic trail. The budgeting process has been streamlined, grants are growing thanks to the improved ability to record and track them, and reports that use to require days to assemble are now ready in minutes. On top of all that, improved access to quality data has led to improved communication with stakeholders and constituents.

And Hill said it's clear that NetSuite can do so much more.

"We haven't even scratched the surface of what we do," she said.

According to Lawrence, the combined impact on the bottom line, on efficiency, and on the ability to continue improving as an organization has made NetSuite invaluable. And perhaps the greatest benefit is yet to come: He said that NetSuite will free up Hill and the rest of the development staff to spend more time on interacting with donors in person rather than sitting at their desks struggling with technical issues.

And if donors are happier, everything else the club does will be more effective. That, Lawrence stressed, is the whole point.

"We're in the business of changing lives," he said, "and NetSuite is helping us do that."

Learn more about Oracle NetSuite Social Impact’s software donation program.