Growth & Customers

Canine companions unleashes major expansion, saves $500K annually with Sage Intacct

Disabled child with service dog

Over the last four decades, Canine Companions has teamed more than 7,000 service dogs with adults, children, and veterans with disabilities — all at no cost to clients. With a mission of bringing greater independence to these program participants, the human services nonprofit organization now spans six training locations across the U.S.

After years battling with the Excel- and paper-based workarounds required by its outdated accounting system, the organization recently made a switch to cloud financial management with Sage Intacct. In our latest customer story, Canine Companions’ CFO and Controller share the great benefits they’ve achieved as a result, including: 

  • Efficiently scaled finance operations amid 2.4x growth in net assets 
  • Saved $500k annually through better visibility into expenses 
  • Freed an estimated 50% of finance team’s time spent on gift processing 
  • Shortened audit process by 25% and reduced audit cost by 20-25%
  • Improved fundraising event ROI by an estimated 10% 
  • Expanded ability to pursue more complicated grant funding 

Ever since deploying Sage Intacct, the nonprofit’s ability to record grants, assets, and transactions has increased rapidly. Jack Peirce, CFO, notes that his team would have greatly struggled to keep up with the organization’s growth had it not been for the transformation Sage Intacct enabled. He says, “To see where the organization was five years ago and how it’s performing now with modern automation and insight has been very gratifying. Sage Intacct made it very easy to absorb our rapid growth in transactions, and we did it efficiently while maintaining internal controls. We’re now realizing economies of scale.” 

Navigating Complexity Across Locations and Functions with the Cloud 

One of the unnecessary inefficiencies that challenged the finance team was the regional-based accounting structure of their previous software. The system simply wasn’t flexible enough to manage financial data across multiple dimensions, making it difficult to analyze financials that span multiple locations, such as dog training operations, or to track spending towards a restricted grant.

According to Steve Polinski, Controller at Canine Companions, “Our old system was a bear to use, and you pretty much had to be a seasoned financial professional to even know where to begin.” Peirce added, “Our prior chart of accounts was stressed, to say the least, but as soon as we flipped the switch on Sage Intacct, our lives got so much easier. We were early adopters of the organization’s IT modernization strategy, and the financial solution was actually a huge enabler that made the rest of the organization more comfortable changing other systems like payroll and CRM.”

After working with Armanino to configure the new system and roll it out to over 30 business users across the organization, Polinski noted, “It couldn’t be more of a night and day difference. Sage Intacct is very user-friendly, and we have dozens of stakeholders who can now view reports or look at program expenses across locations at any time. This would have been an impossible ask a few years ago. And during COVID-19 shutdowns, we didn’t miss a beat while working from home.”

Increasing Efficiency of Key Processes by 40-50% 

Peirce appreciates that his team was able to transform finance operations even as Canine Companions’ expansion increased their workload. “Once we put the framework in place, the ease of operating the system made it such that we never missed a financial reporting period, flash statement, or any deadline,” he said. “With our monthly close, we’re at a consistent performance level now that’s superior to where we were and we’re very confident in it.”

The finance team’s workflow improvements include 40% more efficient accounts payables and purchasing, as well as 50% faster receivables processing for donations and gifts. They fully automated all sorts of previously manual tasks, such as updating restricted asset schedules for bequests and donor advised funds, documenting journal entry approvals, and reducing paper-based checks. In addition, by seamlessly porting data between Sage Intacct and the organization’s new Salesforce and Paycom systems, the team minimized duplicate data entry and can reconcile and allocate data for income statements within 10 days of month-end.

“Managing restricted gifts was always a big burden for our team,” shared Polinski. “We only did this record keeping at year-end with the audit team on site, filling in which gifts were not fully used and creating the schedule that way. Now, as a restricted gift comes in, we tag it with a project code in Sage Intacct and can immediately start tagging expenses to match up against that revenue. One of the beauties of this is that anybody who needs the information can run a project report and see real-time status in the system.”

Transparent, Timely Reporting Drives Half-Million in Cost Savings 

With more accurate budgets and visibility across departments, regions, grants, and programs, Canine Companions can more easily spot opportunities to reduce expenses. For example, by adjusting how they use personnel — which accounts for more than 65% of all operating costs — the organization was able to save on benefits costs. In addition, they’ve become more efficient with dog food and telecommunications spending, for a total savings of around $500,000 every year.

Having more predictable forecasts and fundraising also increases managers’ confidence to spend the funds they need in order to advance their mission. “The organization used to live in fear that expenses would balloon during the year, and we wouldn’t raise enough money to cover it all,” remembered Peirce. “But the trusted information that comes out of Sage Intacct has alleviated a lot of that concern and people now feel a lot more comfortable in their forecasting.” He added, “We’re marching down a plan of five to seven years of 10% growth per annum. Sage Intacct and our modern processes give us the information we need to be more effective fundraisers and plan for major capital expenses over that horizon.”

Not only does this visibility help when pursuing new grants, it improves the organization’s annual audit cycle. “​​Having a more sophisticated financial solution reduces the back-and-forth during audits,” commented Polinski. “We simply give a read-only seat to our auditors, and they can poke around the system to look at backup for transactions themselves. This easily makes our audits 25% faster.” Based on proposals from new auditors, Peirce expects these efficiencies to deliver 20-25% audit cost savings next year.

To read more details about how Canine Companions has increased funding, efficiency, and transparency with Sage Intacct, review our new customer story. 

Case Study – Canine Companions

Canine Companions frees $500,000 in Annual Expenses