Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank Fights to Effectively End Hunger

Courtney Kang, Nonprofit Industry Marketing Lead

January 16, 2020

When Jenna Schexnayder accepted the role of CFO at the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank in the summer of 2015, she thought she knew what she was getting into.

The Louisiana-based food bank distributes food to the food insecure in 11 parishes across the state. Of 200 food banks across the nation, it’s one of just a few that doesn’t charge for the food it gives out, relying mainly on community donations and grants for funding.

For years, the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank had been managing its finances on an ERP platform provided by its parent organization, Feeding America—one that was sorely in need of updating.

“When I came onboard, we made a small upgrade to the platform, but it wasn’t enough,” said Schexnayder. “We knew it would take a significant investment to update the IT side of our business.”

Over the course of several years, the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank had undertaken a project to update every piece of IT software within the organization. The financial platform was the last piece of that puzzle.

“Without current IT platforms to support your business, you’re going to be left behind,” said Schexnayder. “There is power in having access to data.”

Schexnayder and her team were finding that donors were asking for more and more information, which they had to be ready to provide. Given that she was living in spreadsheets, when someone asked her a question, it took her a while to manipulate the data and find the answer. Grant allocation tracking in particular was an arduous task.

The management team finally decided it was time to make an investment in a more robust financial platform. And then disaster struck.

In August of 2016, a devastating storm stalled over Baton Rouge for several weeks. The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank was inundated with 4-5 feet of floodwater in the building.

“We lost about 500,000 pounds of food, and every piece of furniture, equipment, trucks sitting at loading docks - the whole gamut,” said Schexnayder.

Up to eight feet of sheet rock had to be removed from the building. The only thing remaining was the building’s frame.

“We spent millions of dollars cleaning and sanitizing everything,” said Schexnayder. “It was an incredible amount of stress.”

Just prior to the storm, Schexnayder had started evaluating a donor management system to connect to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank’s existing CRM system. That process heated up when they went into disaster mode. “We had a ton of support coming in at the time,” she said. “We were very fortunate.”

As she was evaluating both donor management and desktop accounting software, her director of development happened to forward a video about NetSuite. “He came to me and said, ‘Jenna, look at this video. I think this software is what you need,’” Schexnayder said.

Jenna watched several more videos and was immediately taken with the user-friendly interface. NetSuite’s module for nonprofit accounting, with a lot of the intricacies she needed already built in, also made it attractive.

“I wanted a system that would be able to create the reports I needed in a couple clicks - something that would make my job easier, so I could stop living in spreadsheets and look at our information at a higher level,” Schexnayder said. “I wasn’t acting as a true CFO because I had to do so much data manipulation. I never really saw the data in summary form or had the dashboards I saw at other organizations.”

The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank now has three users running the general ledger and payables out of NetSuite. Their time to close the books, invoice approvals for accounts payable, and allocation reporting has been significantly reduced.

Schexnayder appreciates NetSuite’s ability to drill down easily for allocation tracking. For specific grants or programs, she’s able to view data at an invoice level. She can easily see in summary how much the food bank has spent towards that program and click through to see all the expenses.

“It’s very important for us to make sure we stay as close to budget as we can,” she said. “We have a responsibility to our donors to spend their money as wisely as possible. With NetSuite, we can look at different revenue streams and make sure we properly budget. We can look for places to be more efficient.”

Schexnayder also received a lot of value from NetSuite’s Learning Cloud Support. She knows that the best way to get a return on NetSuite is to make sure she is knowledgeable about the system. “I’m pretty comfortable with it now,” she said. “If I need to figure out how to do something, I know where to start. I’m not afraid of trying.”

Going forward, the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank would like to sync its inventory management system with NetSuite, migrate over accounts receivable, add constituent data and both offer and receive electronic payments.

“We can see NetSuite has more potential beyond our current applications,” Schexnayder said. “The movement towards data analytics will be very beneficial for us. Even though we’re a non-profit, we still need to operate like a business.”

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