Seattle Jobs Initiative (SJI) is a Seattle-based non-profit that helps low-income populations advance out of poverty through living-wage jobs with career pathways. When COVID-19 crippled the economy and sent unemployment soaring, city and state governments looked to SJI to help.
Before Center: Paper-Based and Time-Consuming
SJI had been using Bank of America Visa cards with monthly, spreadsheet-based expense reports. They had to wait until they received their monthly statements—typically 4 to 6 weeks after an expense was incurred—to see any transactions, though, and reconciliation was a major project for accounts payable each month. Although SJI wanted to expand its services, the lack of visibility made it difficult for the team to know precisely what their expenses were and how much additional funding would be required.
Another issue was using shared workbooks and back-and-forth emails for corrections, approvals, and receipts. The admittedly clunky system seemed to work well enough in the office, but quickly fell apart when the team transitioned to remote work. Many expenses still had to be paid by paper check, and invoices started piling up at the now-empty office.
“We wanted to get away from sending 55 emails to get approvals for different expenses.” Sandy Brewster, Director of Finance and Technology
The SJI finance team realized they needed to make a change and looked for a solution that would give them more visibility, help them move away from cutting checks, and simplify the expense process for all team members. Center fit the bill.
A Customized Center Solution in Two Weeks
SJI issued CenterCards to their executive director and direct service consultants as well as a shared procurement card to be used for general expenses and recurring transactions. SJI is funded by government grants as well as private support, and the Center team helped set up the system so the SJI team could easily track expenses by funding source and grant and split expenses across multiple funding sources if necessary. Center also helped SJI set up automatic approval reminders to keep everything moving and simplify its AP processes by analyzing which vendors they could move to CenterCard.
SJI was pleasantly surprised at the smooth rollout, which only took about two weeks, including one-on-one training with SJI employees.
The Results: Increased Visibility and Expanded Services
SJI can now see expenses as they occur so they know exactly where they stand on expenses for each project and initiative. SJI uses Center’s live analytics to see spend and trends and to drill into details, like specific merchants or employees. This real-time reporting is available to the finance team and the executive director at any time.
Automating and streamlining key processes has freed up the team to take on more strategic work, and the visibility helps them make important decisions about taking on additional projects, expanding services, and making new funding requests
“As soon as somebody puts something into the Center system, whether it’s through the card or employee reimbursement, you see it right away.”
The finance team has observed an immediate increase in efficiency, since SJI employees are more willing to follow the new process with CenterCards and Center Expense. The tools are so easy to use that team members, from direct service outreach employees to the executive director, are consistently getting their expenses in right away.
“When I showed the executive director that you can just take a picture of a receipt with your phone, he said, ‘I love it already.’ When he’s happy, we’re happy.”
For the finance team, moving away from a spreadsheet and paper receipt-based process to an electronic process also puts them several steps ahead for their next audit.
“Last year, we had to go into the office every night and get documentation for the audit. Center putting all this information into the cloud is going to be great for our audit next year.”
The most significant result, though, is that the streamlined processes and significant cost savings (after all, Center is free!) have empowered the organization to not only avoid layoffs but hire more staff and expand its services. As a result, SJI has been able to respond to the challenges of COVID in Seattle and beyond, offer rent assistance and worker retraining for small businesses, and invest in virtual learning—for example, bringing their career training to YouTube.
Find out more about how Center helps non-profits spend more time on their mission, or schedule an on-demand or live demo today.