A New Approach to Accounting Software for Non-Profit Organizations
Many accounting systems have been released as Free Software in the last 20 years. Usually, they are embedded within some larger ERP or business logic workflow system, and almost always, they are focused almost exclusively on the needs of some particular target market. Incidentally, none of these systems are focused on the non-profit organization target market, and certainly not non-profit fiscal sponsorship.
The problem is likely a design flaw in these systems: they are designed first for users to give them the screens and reports they want, not for the developer who wants to build on top of them as infrastructure. Of course, any good accounting system can't be purely a playground for developers, but it's clear, given the widespread wheel-reinvention that occurs in this area, that specialized accounting systems are regularly needed on a sector-by-sector basis.
Thus, proper design principles would indicate that developers first need an “accounting application SDK” that provides the tools and infrastructure to build good accounting systems.
Conservancy is engaged in a long-term project to build this SDK, and then build upon it an excellent accounting system focused on the needs of non-profit fiscal sponsorship organizations.
The NPO Accounting Software project began in earnest in October 2013, so this talk will discuss Conservancy's process of evaluating exist accounting applications, provide a brief survey of what Open Source and Free Software accounting packages exist today, and how Conservancy seeks to tackle the problem of a generalized API for accounting applications.