The Sierra Nevada Children's Museum, a popular family destination in Truckee, California, is poised for growth with a projected 80% increase in visitation over the next 20 years. To keep pace with this growth, the museum needs to boost fundraising to finance building a larger facility.
Working with a complex chart of accounts and item list, combined with a slow, server-based software system, occupied much of Executive Director Carol Meagher's time. She wasn't able to fully focus on fundraising and community outreach — which were vital for the museum to keep pace with its projected increase in visitation.
To compound this problem, the museum's bookkeeper decided not to return from maternity leave, and a prospective replacement didn't pan out. In order to reach its potential for growth, the museum needed to establish a strong foundation in bookkeeping that included special events tracking, operational reporting, grants management, and preparing financials for the board.
A Loyal Supporter with a Strategy
Meagher found a solution in Jen Ellermeyer, Managing Director of Supporting Strategies | Reno – Tahoe. Ellermeyer, who had taken her own kids to the museum many times, was eager to help a treasured local institution. As a first step, she straightened out the chart of accounts and items list — which, she notes, had "probably 750 different items that any given transaction could be coded to.” It was complex and difficult to work with.
Ellermeyer streamlined the coding system so that each transaction required just three identifiers: general ledger account, class code and grant identifier. She also implemented a variety of industry-specific software applications and migrated the entire system to the cloud.
Seeing the Path to Growth
For Meagher, the changes were a revelation. "I wasn't expecting to be able to streamline our financial operations so concisely and completely," she says. Along with vastly improved efficiency, the museum gained greater transparency into its finances. That's vital at any nonprofit, but particularly one with ambitious plans for expansion. "Now we can really see where we are financially and compare things year by year," Meagher says. "I get a better picture, and the board gets a better picture." To learn more about how Supporting Strategies can help nonprofits improve their bookkeeping and reporting, read the case study.