Fast Facts

Industry:  Nonprofit
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Employees: 50-100
GL System: Dynamics GP


“Budget revisions in Excel would take me five or 6 hours – doing them in Planning Maestro, it’s 20 minutes – so it’s a pretty significant time savings.”

“I don’t think the staffing changes that we talk about would be feasible to forecast if we didn’t have this tool.”

Renee Sherman
Vice President of  Finance
Urban Ventures

Faster Budgeting and More Valuable Insights for Personnel Planning

Urban Ventures is a nonprofit social services organization that provides ‘cradle-to-career’ support for youth and families in one of Minneapolis’ most under-resourced neighborhoods. The faith-based organization works alongside 70 local partners to address opportunity gaps in academics, nutrition, physical activity, parenting resources, and more—all with the overarching goal to prepare and send every youth in their neighborhood to college or postsecondary education.


Renee Sherman, VP of Finance, joined Urban Ventures in 2018 and immediately noticed that their budgeting and planning was very complex. Their long list of services, including options from prenatal care all the way through adult life, created many challenges, especially when combined with budgeting and planning for their biggest expense – their employees. Some of the 75+ team members were part time, some were seasonal, and others were full-time, and everything from unemployment insurance rates, taxes (employee and employer), salaries, insurance etc. – all needed to be budgeted and planned for. At the time, Urban Ventures was doing all the budgeting and planning in Excel, with Microsoft Dynamics GP providing the necessary data export/import and reporting features.

“When I first started, the Excel worksheets that my predecessors built were really robust, however, the complexities of budgeting and planning for our staffing were not something I wanted to tackle in Excel,” said Ms. Sherman.


When Ms. Sherman first started her search for a solution that could handle the complexity of her personnel planning needs, she was not only focused on streamlining and simplifying the process, but she also wanted an affordable solution that would integrate seamlessly with Dynamics GP. “That was one of the biggest requirements – we didn’t want multiple places where we would have to enter budget data,” said Ms. Sherman.

During the selection process, Urban Ventures looked at several budgeting and planning tools, but quickly narrowed it down to Centage Planning Maestro because of the solution’s personnel planning and forecasting capabilities and its ability to easily integrate with Dynamics GP.


Seamless Integration Leads to a Faster, More Accurate Personnel Budgeting

With payroll being about 85% of Urban Venture’s expenses, when it came to building the personnel budget, it was critically important that the numbers they used were accurate. Because Planning Maestro seamlessly integrates with Dynamics GP, and many other ERP and accounting systems, the exchange of financial information is always secure, forecasts are accurate, and budgets can be created faster without the risk of data entry errors.

“I love having the two systems that work together because I really felt a vulnerability with Excel – relying on it and having to constantly check formulas as well as getting the data into Dynamics GP – there was always a long reconciliation process – which is why we really needed Planning Maestro.”

Ms. Sherman explains that while she could potentially develop the first pass of the budget in Excel, she could not imagine doing a revision if it was needed – especially if she needed to move staff from one project to another or add another part time employee. “Budget revisions in Excel would take me five or 6 hours – doing them in Planning Maestro, it’s 20 minutes – so it’s a pretty significant time savings,” said Ms. Sherman.

Greater Detail Leads to Better Scenario Planning

In addition to a faster, more accurate personnel budgeting process, another benefit Urban Ventures experienced right away was the staffing detail Planning Maestro offered. With ease, Ms. Sherman can build out a team of people working on a project, and then look at various scenarios for what happens to the budget when certain changes are made – whether it is rates or hours worked over a period – and then carry those numbers into the future.

“I don’t think the staffing changes that we talk about would be feasible to forecast if we didn’t have this tool.”

Ms. Sherman can make changes quickly and easily – whether it is an employee’s hours or a program allocation – and then see that change reflected throughout the budget and the forecasts. This is particularly helpful in providing leadership with the insight they need to determine whether the organization can take on additional staff and if so, when. She is now able to answer those key questions accurately and with confidence.

What Lies Ahead

While Ms. Sherman and team have not yet delved into using Planning Maestro for the other areas of their annual budget, she said, “Our budget takes close to 100 hours, where I do believe when we use Planning Maestro, it will take half the time. And, on top of that, I will be more confident in the numbers I am running.”

Because of the anticipated time savings, Ms. Sherman hopes to have more time to look ahead at how else she can improve Urban Ventures’ budgeting – potentially building a multi-year budget and financial dashboards – which were not even on their radar before Planning Maestro.