Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation is a San Diego-based nonprofit that develops affordable housing communities for low-income working families, seniors, and people who have experienced homelessness.
Wakeland works both alone and in partnership with cities, municipal agencies, other nonprofit organizations, developers, and redevelopment agencies throughout California on its projects. In addition to investor funding, Wakeland taps into federal, state, and local funding resources including tax exempt bonds and tax credits.
To date, Wakeland has developed over 7,500 units of housing at 53 separate properties throughout California. Each property is its own entity, and Wakeland serves as the nonprofit general partner of that entity.
Even though it’s a small nonprofit, Wakeland’s finances proved too complex for Excel
“It was archaic; we weren’t having any fun with it, and it wasn’t giving us the analytic information we needed.”
Prior to Centage, Wakeland had a pro forma budget they built in an Excel spreadsheet, which proved difficult to update and manage on an ongoing basis, according to CFO Joan Edelman.
Projecting how much cash Wakeland would have on hand in future years was an especially difficult process. To forecast its cash, they needed to first forecast the expenses that go into the company’s housing developments and operations, along with the tranches of cash they anticipated receiving.
It was a challenge to change financial information quickly into a single spreadsheet with multiple worksheets.
Since switching to Centage, complicated forecasts that used to take a week are now generated much more quickly – and without all of the formula error headaches that came with Excel.
Forecasting cash flow years into the future now as simple as clicking a few buttons
“I can update our cash flow, income statement, and forecast out five years really easily. I can do a five-year model and see how much cash we’ll have, which is pretty critical to our existence. And because of the flexibility of Centage, I can change forecasts and get new information faster and without extra headaches.”
Wakeland’s accounting team is also responsible for managing their pipeline — when projects will close, when milestones will be met — so that the company can project its cash flow, balance sheet, and P&L.
If a milestone was late for whatever reason, the team had to recreate the forecasts in their spreadsheets, which was time consuming.
Centage substantially streamlined Wakeland’s forecasting. It’s fully integrated with their accounting software, Microsoft Great Plains, enabling them to import expenses automatically, rather than key those numbers into their budget manually as they had to with Excel.
Centage incorporates all of the company’s expenses, which means that the budgets and forecasts are now much more accurate and trustworthy.
Now that forecasting is so streamlined, Wakeland reforecasts on a monthly basis.
Flexible software to meet the needs of a nonprofit with a complicated financial structure
“It’s imperative that we know when the developer fees are going to come in. Our biggest asset is our cash, which means I need to ensure we have adequate cash to fund our operations as well as fund the developments.”
Wakeland has a unique financial structure. In order to build affordable housing, the company must find investors to help fund the development, and offer them Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) in return.
Wakeland’s major revenue stream is the developer fees it collects, which are built into the financial structure of each development. Fees are earned based on triggered mechanisms, such as when the development team completes construction, closes permanent financing, and receives Form 8609 from the IRS.
Their funding structure requires Wakeland to build a community room in every facility, and to provide ongoing community support and resident services. For the accounting team, this means an additional ongoing expense to track for every facility they develop.
In addition to streamlining forecasts — and enabling them to run quarterly forecasts, which was previously untenable in Excel — Centage also led Wakeland to create a new process within its accounting to better track outflows for project development, which are separate from the requirements for Wakeland’s operations.
This has been instrumental in assessing the company’s cash reserves, and what it means for future development.
“Centage lets us be smart about what we will do in the future.”
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