Global Disaster Charity Lowers Costs, Works Toward $1 Billion Grant Goal with NetSuite

Hayley Null, Manager, Alliance and SDN Marketing

February 13, 2023


QUICK READ:

  • Emergency Assistance Foundation, Inc. (EAF) distributes more than $100 million in grants annually to people around the world.
  • Overhead is about 5%, so 95% of the funds raised are distributed to those in need.
  • When a donation is submitted, it’s automatically uploaded with all associated fees and bank reconciliations handled.
  • COVID-19 forced EAF to scale from processing 600 applications a month to handling 60,000 a month.
  • An “automation productivity department” is focused on using NetSuite to further reduce EAF’s operational costs.
  • With NetSuite’s help, EAF has avoided raising its basic fees for years, equivalent to 25% cost savings.

 

Emergency Assistance Foundation, Inc. (EAF) partners with large companies to help their team members who are struggling through difficult times. It does this through the administration of more than 350 disaster and hardship relief funds.

Following an unexpected disaster like a hurricane, or personal hardship like a serious illness, EAF’s funds award tax-free grants that provide essential financial assistance on the path to recovery, while also allowing team members to help their colleagues in need. Over the last three years, EAF has provided more than $205 million in financial assistance to 295,000+ individuals and families.

As a 501(c)(3) public, nonprofit organization, EAF must respond to evolving and emerging needs while reducing its own administrative costs, maximizing the dollars sent to eligible individuals in need. 

Technology helps EAF keep the costs of fund administration down and shortens the time between application submission and grant award. As a financial first responder, EAF developed a unique approach to disaster response by remaining adaptable, harnessing technology, creating scalable platforms and procedures, and constantly evaluating processes for improvement opportunities. 

“If we don’t spend the money on administrative costs, it can instead go to someone who really needs it,” said Doug Stockham, president and co-founder. “Our overhead is less than 5%, so more than 95% of the donations received are distributed to those in need.” 

In 2017, EAF found itself in need of a new technology infrastructure. It had been using Aplos for accounting plus Excel spreadsheets but wanted better visibility into its global data as it was called upon to assist a larger group of grant recipients.   

“We’re always trying to be more efficient, consolidate our data, and get our worldwide team members collaborating and working together,” said Stockham. “In the middle of that global storm season in 2017 we needed improved reporting and visibility into our global data. We needed a tool that would help us catch up.” 

Getting Out of the Perfect Storm

Having outgrown its current software infrastructure, EAF went looking for an enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform that would help the organization manage its current business and scale up to accommodate future growth. 

“We had to find something that would help us scale up, with a primary focus on getting accurate data into everyone’s hands,” said Stockham. 

The organization had also been seeking visualization tools that its major donors around the globe could use to view EAF’s data in real-time. And Stockham wanted to fold more automation into EAF’s operations and integrate its existing software platforms on a single system. 

“We use a lot of cloud-based applications and wanted to integrate them in a way that supported a higher level of automation,” he said. 

With that automation, EAF would also be able to eliminate the many manual processes that the organization relied on.

Tapping NetSuite’s Capabilities

After learning about NetSuite via a referral from Oracle, Stockham got connected with Allied Cloud, a NetSuite Alliance Partner that has implemented the ERP for 130 nonprofit organizations operating in 16 countries.[bm1]  His early conversations with Allied Cloud focused on automating more of EAF’s processes to free team members to work more closely with Fund Partners, applicants, and grantees. 

“With NetSuite and Allied Cloud, we automated a significant number of accounting functions,” said Stockham. For example, when a donation is submitted, it’s automatically uploaded to EAF’s system, with all associated fees and the bank reconciliations handled. The organization also uses its ERP as a central repository for regulatory documentation, grant applications, and grant payments. 

“Everything is in NetSuite, if possible, which makes it easier to search or simply just know the information is there, where we put it,” said Stockham. 

To manage consolidated finances, EAF uses NetSuite OneWorld, NetSuite’s global business management module for organizations that manage multinational and multisubsidiary operations. The organization has also used OneWorld to establish foundations in additional countries. 

“We can run numerous organizations through the system, even using different currencies,” said Stockham, who is always excited to see what NetSuite can do next. “We know the ERP probably does a lot more; we’ll just keep pushing its limits.” 

Fast Reaction Times

In February 2020, EAF started receiving an unusually large volume of grant applications from people living in Wuhan, China. 

“People were getting sick, and we could see that there was something clearly going on over there,” said Stockham, who within a month would have a much clearer vision of exactly what the problem was: COVID-19. “We had to scale from processing 600 applications a month to handling 60,000 a month.” 

Had it not been for NetSuite and some of the other tools that EAF had put in place, the organization may not have been able to scale up and manage the strains that the global pandemic was placing on its operations. 

“Big events can happen overnight, and we have to be able to react quickly,” said Stockham. 

NetSuite has been invaluable in these situations because it allows EAF to automate many of its business processes. It was not only able to process the 60,000 new applications it was receiving per month, it also simplified its bill creation, automated its payment emails, and now has a virtual paper trail that’s easy to review, audit, and report on. 

NetSuite not only made it possible for EAF to provide $100 million in financial assistance to individuals and families throughout 2020, but it has also been an essential tool in the organization’s response to large scale disasters since, including $8 million granted so far to those impacted by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and more than $500,000 following the recent devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. 

“With NetSuite, we’re able to track it all,” said Stockham, who wants to see EAF get to the point where it’s distributing at least $1 billion in grants to one million people annually. This will represent 10 times the organization’s current grant volume. “NetSuite will help us scale to that level,” he said. 

Lowering Operational Costs to Near Zero

The organization’s team members are also working to help EAF achieve that $1 billion goal. Using what Stockham calls a “giant suggestion box,” team members are encouraged to share their thoughts on which aspects of their jobs or departments would benefit from more automation. In 2022, the company also created an “automation productivity department” that’s focused on using NetSuite to further reduce EAF’s operational costs. 

With NetSuite in place, EAF hasn’t had to raise its basic fees and has even eliminated some, which means the cost to its donors has decreased. The organization has been able to scale up and serve more grant recipients while also decreasing its own costs by 21 percent. “We do everything in NetSuite, which is our backbone,” said Stockham. Going forward, our goal is to never increase our basic fees and therefore drive our costs down to almost zero.” 

Get the guide to structuring YOUR business for growth(opens in new tab) with the right technology, people, and processes.

NetSuite has packaged the experience gained from tens of thousands of worldwide deployments over two decades into a set of leading practices that pave a clear path to success and are proven to deliver rapid business value. With NetSuite, you go live in a predictable timeframe — smart, stepped implementations begin with sales and span the entire customer lifecycle, so there's continuity from sales to services to support.