Bison + Tableau Helps A Non-Profit Director Present Financial Data To Drive Growth

QuickBooks is a great general ledger tool for many non-profits. When it comes to visualizing data in a way that drives organizational growth, it can be difficult to get a good snapshot of what the numbers mean. “We do a great job of capturing information in QuickBooks, but I need a tool that helps me analyze it and present it.”

“We’re a non-profit – we do things a little differently.”

Brett Farrell of the Marine Exchange of Alaska was looking for a solution to present QuickBooks data to his executive team and his board in a way that would drive organizational growth. The challenges he faced managing the finances of a non-profit sounded familiar:

  • He needed to breakdown his numbers by class and account because grant and funding sources are separated by Class.
  • Special Projects come along and are assigned their own class. Instead of running a profit and loss on the project at the conclusion, he wanted to see it daily in order to spot a problem before the organization lost money.
  • Marine Exchange does a great job of capturing information and getting it into QuickBooks, but Brett found it burdensome to quickly analyze this data. He needed an easier way to extract and analyze the data to facilitate good business decisions.


“I want a snapshot of what the numbers mean.”

In Bison, Brett found a solution where he could see his data visually

Like many nonprofits, the board of directors at the Marine Exchange provides oversight and guidance to the organization. “I used to dread compiling financial reports for our board meetings,” Brett explained on our first call. “QuickBooks just doesn’t offer the tools I needed to provide the board with meaningful and easy to understand analysis of our financial status..”

Brett was hoping to find a solution where he could see his data visually. “I want a snapshot of what the numbers mean. QuickBooks is great at tracking your money, but I want to use that data to present something visual for the board meetings, and to make good business decisions.”

He had some familiarity with reporting solutions such as Tableau, but was quick to point out that time is a precious commodity. He didn’t have the time to be a database architect and report writer. He wanted a partner that would shoulder the burden of extracting his QuickBooks data and presenting it in a way that drives organizational decision-making.


Data Visualization that drives insight

For Marine Exchange’s Bison Liftoff, the Pro Services team was tasked to create an array of visually insightful reports. Brett knew what he wanted to see, but he needed an outsourced analytics team to bring it to life.

Budget report – Brett envisioned a bar graph layout of his data. He wanted an interactive graph that shows (and differentiates) his various primary and active income and expense accounts, with a side-by-side comparison of budget vs. actual. This concise, graphical format would allow him and others to quickly determine the status of individual budget line items and recognize potential budget overruns before they happen. However, he also wanted the ability to drill down to the sub-accounts and to the transaction level in order to explore the data more fully when necessary.

Salary by Percent report – As Brett worked with Bison, his creative juices began flowing and he began asking what more he could study from the data. Together with the Bison Pro Services team, they hit on the Salary by Percent report, which tells him the areas or projects that the majority of his people spend their time on. That was an eye opener for us and has already led to some organizational and procedural changes.

Monthly Snapshot – For board-level reporting, Brett was looking for a visual dashboard that would display the financial snapshot and health of the organization. It includes current savings account balance; current checking account balance; current accounts receivable; current accounts payable; budgeted expenses; credit card liability; bars for estimated savings and checking balances at end of month. He acknowledged that it is “an unorthodox way of presenting the financial data” but it was how the board wanted to see it, and Bison delivered.


Outcome (We have liftoff!)

Brett Farrell noted ‘these dashboards facilitate better business decisions’

With the Bison Liftoff, it took the Marine Exchange less than 30-days to get off the launch pad with their visual reports. In the first two weeks, Bison had their data synced and a working set of reports ready for review. By the end of the Liftoff, Brett had his Budget and Salary by Percent reports as well as his Monthly Snapshot dashboard.

“The dashboards created by Bison work as intended,” Brett told us. Data previously confined to QuickBooks and not easily accessible in the past is now instantly available to Marine Exchange’s management via customized, visual dashboards. “These dashboards facilitate better business decisions, and also make it easier to detect accounting anomalies sooner, making them easier to correct.”

With Bison and Tableau, Brett and his team can work faster, smarter and more confidently. “I feel much more comfortable now that I can instantly access concise, customized reports which help me and the Board better understand our financial strengths and challenges.”

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