A Guide to Fund Accounting Software for Public Entities

in Finance

For public sector organizations like government agencies, non-profits, educational institutions, and healthcare providers, tracking finances across diverse programs, departments, and initiatives requires specialized software that exceeds basic small business accounting capabilities. Fund accounting delivers tailored functionality for managing complex budgetary allocations, expenses, payroll, and reporting at entity, fund, and grant levels.

What is Fund Accounting Software?

Fund accounting software adapts general ledger-based accounting principles to public entities’ unique purposes and structural intricacies. Key traits include:

Fund-Based Accounting

Rather than homogenizing finance streams, fund accounting segregates balances and activity across categories based on designated organizational, departmental, or program purposes. This aligns with public stewardship obligations.

Multi-Dimensional Attribute Tracking

Sophisticated fund software also enables simultaneous monitoring of multiple attributes tied to transactions beyond dollar amounts. Features like fund and department chartfield strings, program codes, grant ID numbers, and customized tags furnish stakeholders with enhanced data organization, filtering, and reporting.

Rigorous Compliance Control

By delineating restricted, committed, and spendable balances of cash pools, leadership prudently stewards resources in compliance with laws, ordinances, bond covenants, donor stipulations, and ethical obligations assigned to purpose-driven funding types.

Budgetary Focus

Public organizations fixate on fiscal year revenue forecasting and expense budgeting, driving bottom lines more than commercial entities. Robust projection modelling, “what-if” analysis, and flexible amendment processes receive prioritization over income statements and Profit and loss statements.

In aggregate, specialized constructs allow stewarding collective capital not solely for profit motives but for public benefit. Delving deeper into resultant advantages shows why commercial software falls short of public coffers.

Benefits of Fund Accounting Software

Leveraging purpose-built fund accounting systems generates manifold operational improvements:

Enhanced Accuracy and Transparency

Leadership assuredly traces the activity to proper funding channels by tying every transaction to categorical designations. This heightens internal controls through well-defined separation of concerns, promotes responsible external oversight, and simplifies required financial reporting.

Improved Efficiency

Automation consolidates previously manual tracking, allocations, and consolidation of accounts payable, payroll, fixed assets projects, and bank activity spread across hundreds of departments into integrated workflows governed by programmed restrictions. Doing more with less reigns supreme.

Simplified Compliance

Fund software innately incorporates compliance rulesets like GASB, FASB, GAAP, and statutory limitations into configurable processes so policy adherence becomes baked-in and not a periodic consideration. Seamless BOT receipts, encumbrances, and carryovers demonstrate prudent guardianship.

Effective Budgeting and Forecasting

Sophisticated projection tools aligned with periodic budgeting amendable to scenario planning support insightful “what-if” analysis and aid in requesting evidence-based tax dollars or appropriations. Built-in grant lifecycle administration strengthens programs.

Increased Visibility and Control

Executives access real-time dashboard insights on cash positions, payables, and investment returns on consolidated or granular levels to best manage liquidity, remediate risks, and fine-tune strategy aligned with organizational mission.

Enhanced Collaboration

Shared systems unite journal entries, custodial paperwork, inventory, and other financial events from department heads or site managers under uniform centralized workflows, easing reconciliation. Access permissions foster collaboration.

Improved Risk Management

Built-in controls like mandated purchase orders, layered invoice approval chains, and budgetary ceiling constraints administered at department levels minimize opportunities for waste, fraud, or abuse. Things like capital project fund erasure upon completion of fixed assets reinforce governance.

Key Functionalities of Fund Accounting Software

Fund accounting platforms commonly incorporate modules like:

General Ledger

As the central repository organizing financial data across public entities, the ledger indelibly ties transactions to funding dimensions and codes while handling debit/credit account postings. Allocations, accruals, and cash controls provide real-time visibility.

Accounts Payable and Receivable

Tools for efficiently processing and aging high invoice volumes from vendors while managing member fees, permit payments, and other public entity revenue streams simplify staff operations and cashflow monitoring.


Purpose-built payroll adapters customize complex pay policies, such as union contracts, with specialized deductions, garnishments, and termination payout handling for large, diverse workforces across integrated HR systems.

Budgeting and Forecasting

Sophisticated modelling tools projected and versioned revenue assumptions, created individual budgets and directed formulaic expense allocations across hundreds of departments. These guide data-driven decisions when appropriating funds.

Grant Management

Specialized functionality tracks grant awards, instalments, reporting requirements, eligible spends, and other dynamics across multiple years to ensure compliance throughout grant lifecycles.

Fixed Assets

Tools track purchase, depreciation schedules, custodial assignments, maintenance and disposal processes for the buildings, land improvements, vehicles, computer systems, machinery, and other items public entities utilize to deliver services.

Reporting and Analysis

Real-time visibility into cash positions, payables, capital project status, and other financial views via dashboards and canned reports aids leadership and external auditors in monitoring organizational fiscal health.

While encompassing extensive features, most fund accounting platforms allow activating select components aligned with precise organizational needs. Cloud delivery models provide the same capabilities without extensive IT infrastructure. Understanding selection factors helps identify ideal solutions.

How to Choose the Right Fund Accounting Software

Justifying migrations from dated legacy systems or manual processes warrants analysis across dimensions like:

Needs Assessment

Document key pain points with current fund and financial administration while highlighting desired improvements. Evaluate essential capabilities given regulatory obligations, organizational intricacies, and reporting requirements. Know specific “must-haves” before proceeding.


Assess how shortlisted solutions address revealed needs across essential modules like general ledger, purchasing, budgeting, and reporting. Do built-in controls and automation satisfy transparency requirements? Will add-ons or customization suffice where gaps exist?


Determine capacities to support organizational growth without platform limitations, especially for entities expecting surges in public service demand. Evaluate multi-entity, multi-currency, and multi-lingual capabilities if applicable for long-term needs and consolidated financials.


Understand how candidate solutions create efficiencies and control by interfacing core finance functions with existing HR payroll, inventory management, payment gateways, record archival systems, and other ancillary tools via standard APIs.

Implementation and Support

Gauge available training resources to ensure teams adopt and utilize full solution potential once deployed. Estimate timelines to operationalization. Finally, review long-term vendor maintenance and troubleshooting responsiveness assurances critical for mission-critical software dependencies.


Consider value beyond nominal license fees by weighing desired future state improvements in accuracy, risk reduction, and reporting against required operational investments. Benchmark relative price points via cost per user or as percentages of planned system budgets.

Selecting contemporary fund accounting platforms helps public entities finally transition from aging legacy systems, fragmented workflows, and unreliable data that challenge responsible management. By aligning robust tools purpose-built to their special needs, leadership can strategically allocate limited taxpayer-funded resources across the breadth of public services vital to community health.


Specialized fund accounting software delivers indispensable value, enabling public entities to transition from inflexible legacy solutions unsuitable for the increasingly complex financing tracking, reporting, and administration needs required in the modern era.

Today’s cloud-hosted systems satisfy specialized public agency requirements while simplifying management. They feature specialized functionality spanning integrated general ledgers, budgeting, grant administration, fixed asset depreciation, and purchasing controls not typically found in small business accounting software or ERP alternatives.

Image Credits: Ömer Haktan Bulut

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