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By sasquatchan (Sat Aug 24, 2019 at 01:58:41 PM EST) (all tags)
I'm the newly appointed treasurer to our community garden. I'm looking to poke around some new language/framework to maybe write my own bookkeeping software as a lark. Ideas ?

It's currently being done via spread sheet (google doc), because everything can be a spreadsheet.

We're a legit non-profit (501-c, or what not, with the TIN etc), but even quickbooks is $50, and we're all cheap.

So I'm tinkering with both learning a new language/framework and doing it myself.

I think what we'd track is really the usual:
there's a FY budget the board approves with both expenses and income (by various categories).  Actual expenses and income would be put in one of the categories (and reports generated planned-vs-actual).

There's also grant-tracking. Some grants we get are a check with no oversight (free money that goes into the general fund). Some are restricted funds (must be used for the project as described in the grant application, and may have reporting requirements). So tracking those is a bit trickier. (I'm not on the hook for reporting, but I think I have to track the $)

Quickbooks kinda-sorta lets you categorize expenses (and income), but doesn't seem to do reports of planned-vs-actual etc.

Sounds like an easy project, right ? What's something all the kids are using now-a-days that'd be a fun learn ? I'm assuming a DB backend of some type, but ..

< I'm foresee a lot more movie watching | Insert disappointed dog .gif here >
Learn something new ? | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 hidden)
What's best for the organization in the long term? by marvin (4.00 / 3) #1 Sat Aug 24, 2019 at 06:16:22 PM EST
Spreadsheets. Full stop. Because 99% of the people who are going to serve as treasurer in the future know at least the basics of operating a spreadsheet.

How is your successor going to deal with this bespoke software five years from now, when you've moved on and today's most hip and happening language becomes passe. Bonus points if it's hosted in the cloud on your personal server/account and uses libraries which will be outdated and orphaned within 3 years.

For a small enough organization, pen and paper is enough. Unless you plan to be treasurer for life, or don't care about what happens to the community garden after you leave, I think custom software is a terrible idea. If $50 for QuickBooks is too much money, then try to imagine them paying someone to complete an update or modification after you get run over by a bus or hit by a meteorite. How would you even complete a data migration when you leave?

This is true to a large extent by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #4 Sun Aug 25, 2019 at 09:18:55 PM EST
Even more so now Google sheets and Office24 etc are cloud-sharing by default.

I am always frustrated by the "magic cell" and scoping organization of most spreadsheets, and the difficulty of fitting them into a more cooked workflow. I wish something like PySpread would catch on ..

Or maybe you could use pyspread in a way that would gracefully "unroll" to a normal spreadsheet when needed ...

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
yeah, I realize that's probably the right answer by sasquatchan (2.00 / 0) #5 Mon Aug 26, 2019 at 12:48:26 PM EST
but now I'll want to make a zillion excel macros (or scripts) to make my life easier.. And see if the next person can follow along..

[ Parent ]
k.i.s.s. by marvin (4.00 / 2) #6 Mon Aug 26, 2019 at 04:59:54 PM EST
If it's complex enough to need a bunch of macros, then the organization should probably be contracting accountants to do the books.

Otherwise, keep it simple. The full time cost over five years of writing and debugging macros is probably the same as just setting up a more transparent multistep process to document cash flows. How many hours will macros save, versus the number of hours they take to write? Now add in the time to train future users, and the time for them to reverse engineer it to make changes in the future.

For volunteer orgs, don't write or create something you're not willing to support forever. I set up a website for an org on something like Drupal 15 years ago, and had to deal with it for quite a while afterwards - I was still getting phone calls about parts of it last fall (domain names and registrar), more than six years after I left the org and transfered all the info to others. The website went through two other people in that time, third person ended up calling me.

You pretty much have to aim for lowest common denominator to avoid creating headaches or regrets for your future self.

Simplicity >>>> elegance.

[ Parent ]
Agreed. by bobdole (2.00 / 0) #9 Wed Aug 28, 2019 at 03:04:00 AM EST
For some years, did the books for a ~1MUSD organisation. All in Excel, with no macros (but some formulas).

However it did require the user to understand just a bit more than the basics of double book-keeping. But if you do that, there is no need for much logic in the books. It's all just sums within accounts.

That can easily let you do tracking of cost/actuals, running.

My only mistake was converting it to real accounting software at the end of my tenure... which led to professionalisation and outsourcing of the accounting ;-).
-- The revolution will not be televised.

[ Parent ]
Yeah, a while back by ObviousTroll (4.00 / 1) #10 Wed Sep 04, 2019 at 10:35:43 PM EST
a well-meaning church member convinced them to blow $1500 plus annual maintenance on a specialized book keeping / database to manage the church's finances and membership data. I had to set up a special computer just to use it, because it could only be installed on one machine and people would have to share access to it.

Sigh. I recently showed Google Sheets to the new office manager. She practically squeed with delight when she realized multiple people could look at the document online without any fuss.

An Angry and Flatulent Pig, Trying to Tie Balloon Animals
[ Parent ]
Sounds like a scam by Orion Blastar (4.00 / 1) #12 Sun Sep 08, 2019 at 02:14:54 AM EST
but then most organizations want hand holding tech support to help them out in case something goes wrong.

I hate it when they DRM lock it to one machine and multiple people need to access it.

I used to build custom databases in MS-Access or Visual BASIC to do things like that for businesses, no DRM no user fees, etc.

I worked for a law firm on CMSOpen databases and modifying them, I learned we are paid for our labor not our success as every fail project fell into my lap and I became Legacy Software Support.

"I drank what?" - Socrates after drinking the Conium
[ Parent ]
Drupal Of Course by dev trash (2.00 / 0) #2 Sat Aug 24, 2019 at 09:17:08 PM EST
One or two custom modules should do it.

GNUCASH by Orion Blastar (2.00 / 0) #3 Sun Aug 25, 2019 at 02:11:09 AM EST
<a href=""></a>

It is free and mutliplatform.

"I drank what?" - Socrates after drinking the Conium
That's what I was going to say by lm (4.00 / 1) #7 Tue Aug 27, 2019 at 08:56:18 PM EST
My wife and I used GnuCash for years. It's pretty powerful.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
its ability to pre-program a budget by sasquatchan (4.00 / 1) #8 Tue Aug 27, 2019 at 10:20:56 PM EST
isn't there .. you can "budget for spending" (on a given day), but can't say "I expect to pay $x in this fiscal year on category $y" ..

[ Parent ]
Holy smokes, that's still around? by ObviousTroll (4.00 / 1) #11 Wed Sep 04, 2019 at 10:38:27 PM EST
Learn something new ? | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 hidden)