Microsoft Excel Software for Nonprofits
By Anne Hirsh
Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet program can benefit nonprofit organizations by helping the organization keep track of funding, donations, contacts and any other data suited to spreadsheet format. Microsoft offers a free PDF publication that outlines how Information Technology can assist nonprofits with links to further information about technology planning (see Resources). This publication can help you determine how Excel and other software will best work with your nonprofit.
Microsoft offers free software, including Excel, to many qualifying nonprofit organizations. Eligibility requirements include approved nonprofit status in the organization's home country and a focus on improving human welfare, education or the environment or preserving culture. Government organizations, individuals, sports organizations, fraternal organizations and most medical and religious charities are not eligible for the free software. To determine your organization's eligibility and apply for the software, visit the TechSoup Global website (see Resources) and click on the "Find product donations" link. If you cannot receive free Excel software through Microsoft directly, ask your organization's supporters to donate the product to the organization in lieu of donating money. You may have supporters that qualify for software discounts not available to the organization itself.
Nonprofits rely on volunteer labor and donations for much of their operation, so if you do not already have an Excel expert working for your organization, you will need to have someone acquire proper training in the software. Microsoft offers free tutorials in the current versions of Excel that include video seminars that you can use at your own pace to become familiar with the software. Find the "Support" section of the Microsoft Office website and click "Excel" to view the training materials. As of December 2010, Excel 2010, 2007 and 2003 versions are supported. For more personal, hands-on training, community colleges and libraries often offer low-cost courses in Excel that will help train your organization's members on the basics at rates your organization can afford. You may also find an Excel expert among your supporters who is willing to donate a day's worth of training to the organization.
Simplify your Microsoft Excel experience by using templates designed for nonprofit needs. Templates are available through the Microsoft Office website and include professional and user-generated options. Templates most useful for nonprofits include fundraiser and donation receipts, auction bid sheets, raffle tickets and calendars -- all found under the "Nonprofit" section of the template website. You can easily customize any of these templates for your organization's use. Other templates you may find useful for a nonprofit include small business expense reports and mailing labels in the "Small business" template section and checkbook balance sheets, budgets and financial calculators in the "Accounting and finance" template section. Some of these templates are available for both Excel and Word, so make sure you have the appropriate program before you download.
Advice for New Excel Users
Start slowly as you switch your nonprofit's technology over to your new Excel software and make sure several people within the organization know how to use it. Nonprofits often experience a high turnover rate in volunteers, so having several knowledgeable people will keep the organization running even if your top Excel user isn't available. If you use Excel 2010 or 2007, learn how to save your documents in "Compatibility mode" if they must be shared with users who have earlier software versions. This is found under the "Save as" command when you save your document.
Anne Hirsh has been writing and editing for over 10 years. She has hands-on experience in cooking, visual arts and theater as well as writing experience covering wellness and animal-related topics. She also has extensive research experience in marketing, small business, Web development and SEO. Hirsh has a bachelor's degree in technical theater and English and post-baccalaureate training in writing and computer software.