As charities contend with a drop in donations and remaining financially viable, they’re increasingly looking to technology to help. In fact, eight out of ten chief executives say they would be “investing in IT/new technology and online solutions”.

Getting the right accounting software can help charities to manage gift aid, understand the most successful sources of funding and get more detailed data to show their impact. We offer some advice about how charities can choose the right software and get the most of their investment.

Investing in software

Charities are always under pressure to keep infrastructure and administration costs low and any purchases need to be carefully considered.

However, a lack of investment can be equally problematic, as charities miss out on valuable data that could help secure new funding sources or provide information to help show their supporters how their donations are helping.

Accounting software can also help to minimise the impact of some of the key challenges facing charities today:

  • Financial sustainability: accounting software can help you to understand the financial status of your charity and to make better informed decisions thanks to the data it provides.
  • Drop in public and government donations: while the software can’t create more donations, it can help you to analyse your most successful sources of funding, so you can focus on areas that are working well and minimise your costs in acquiring new donors.
  • Administration time and costs: many tasks that need to be handled manually can be automated with the right software, freeing up your team for income generation or managing services.
  • Measuring impact: with the increased focus on demonstrating the positive effect that charities make, having access to the right data is essential. The Charity Finance Group said that “public trust and confidence are essential for an effective and successful charity sector, and high standards of financial management and performance reporting are an important part of maintaining this.”
  • Legislation: keeping up to date with the volume of charity regulations takes time. The right accounting software ensures you’re compliant and helps you report your figures correctly.

Choose the right software

With so many advantages, it’s clear that the right software can make a big difference. But there are a growing number of packages available, so it’s important that charities follow the right process in choosing one that suits them.

From developing a specification through shortlisting and trials to making the purchase, it pays to be clear about what you are looking for. Each charity’s needs will be different but here are the key things that will apply in most cases.

Designed with charities in mind

Charities have different needs from general businesses and need to be able to track donations, gift aid declarations and ensure their accounts comply with Charities Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP), including providing a Statement of Financial Activities (SoFA), which replaces the Profit and Loss statement used by companies.

Choosing software that has been optimised for charities ensures you’re complying with legislation and have the information you need.

The right data

It’s important that you understand the data and reports you need for your organisation. Any software you choose should be flexible enough to fit your requirements, and simple to use.

Available anywhere

With many fundraisers out at events or with supporters, choosing charity software that lets them stay connected is really helpful. Choosing software that is available through the cloud means they can update information from anywhere with an internet connection.

Other employees can make use of this feature too. From your finance director to your chief exec, everyone can be assured that they will always have access to the figures they need.

Trusted provider

You need to know that your data is safe and your software provider can ensure that you stay compliant as new legislation is introduced. Choosing an established charity software company means they’ll be there to support you, now and in the future.

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Many times we have found ourselves wanting to ‘test’ entering transactions, running reports and adding new accounts without using our ‘real’ data but not implementing it on our live Sage 200 company.

This is where a Test Company comes into play! 

What you need to know…

This is essentially a company where we are able to test, play, amend and delete data that we have entered into Sage.

Whether you are:

  • Questioning the end result from a transaction
  • Unsure of the result from changing a setting
  • Carrying out training with new employees
  • Experimenting with a new process
  • Trying to improve on your Sage knowledge

A test company is a great resource that enables you to cover all of these and more.

Setting up a test company is easy. If you don’t already have one, we highly advise that you set one up.

Fortunately, we will be covering that today.

How to set up a Test Company

Prior to setting this up , a few key pieces of information are required.

You will need:

  1. Access to System Admin
  2. Access to the SQL Server
  3. The current live company database name.

Firstly: Head to System Admin > Select Companies from the columns on the left hand side.

From here you will need to make a note of the database name assigned to your current live company.

With this then you need to head to the SQL Server and create a backup of that database.

Once the backup is complete you need to restore this as a new database.

Once this is completed, you will need to create a new company within system admin.

We would suggest that you call the company name the same as your live company, only with test at the end like so:

  • Live company name = Small Soldiers LTD
  • Test company name = Small Soldiers LTD Test

This ensures the two companies are never selected in error.

You should now open Sage and select the test company from the list of companies, then that is your test company all set up.

Getting the most out of your Test Company

To ensure you are getting the most out of your test company, we suggest you regularly update it.

Similar to the installation of the test company, updating it is simply taking a backup of the live data. The only difference is we are going to restore the backup over the existing test company’s database.

When the process is complete and you have successfully completed your backup and restore, it will be fully up to date.

So, there we have it. I hope you were able to follow all steps easily… Until the next time!

Author – Jade

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Excel is a powerful digital tool but many people find it challenging to use. However, according to Newcastle upon Tyne-based IT company Bowe Digital, using a few handy hints can make all the difference.

Bowe Digital Ltd are a fully accredited Sage Business Partner and Sage Developer in Kingston Park, Newcastle, just off the A1.

As a North East Sage Business Partner, specialising in the provision and installation of Accounting, Manufacturing and CRM software, Bowe Digital Ltd provides IT solutions tailored to clients’ precise needs.

Bowe Digital can supply, support and install Hardware, Software and Peripheral Equipment that a business might require, from a simple PC workstation to complex Wide Area Networks. They also provide tailored training, consultancy and continued support from experienced IT professionals.