Gates Cambridge was established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in October 2000, to provide outstanding students and potential leaders from outside the UK with scholarships to The University of Cambridge. 95 post-graduate students join each year and over 1,400 scholars from over 100 countries have been through the scheme. The Trust is regulated as a reporting charity to The University of Cambridge, which is itself directly regulated by the Higher Education Funding Council. The Trust has £208m assets and an annual spend of around £6.2m, most of which supports the 225 scholars in residence.
David Lott, Director of Finance, explains the issues they faced with their previous finance system: “I had worked in the Finance Department at The University of Cambridge for three years before I joined the Trust. Prior to joining, the University were using a very old version of the Sage line 100 system at the time. This was not user friendly and was unable to store non-financial data against our students, which is essential.”
“In addition, we were heavily reliant on Excel in order to produce management and statutory reports. Our reporting process was extremely manual and arduous. I knew straight away that we would need a new system.”
The Trust reviewed the systems available in the market. Some were ruled out for a variety of reasons, including size, lack of flexibility, and price. IRIS Financials was the standout offering. “I actually met the IRIS Financials team at an ICAEW conference for
charities and spoke with the charity specialists at their stand. I also spoke to other providers, some of whom turned out to be far too expensive.”
“We then organised detailed demonstrations, highlighting IRIS Financials’ ability to meet the requirements of the Trust. We were
also shown additional functions within the system that may be useful to us in the future, such as electronic procurement and
web-based staff expenses. The important thing was that the system was straightforward to use, with an intuitive interface and easy access to our historical data from Sage.”
Quick and Easy Implementation
David Lott, Director of Finance, describes the transition to IRIS Financials: “The installation was good. The IRIS Financials consultant set up our input screens according to the typical transactions that we conduct. The setup was extremely quick. The IRIS Financials consultant went through all our processes and uploaded the information from our student database, giving us access to information that was not available previously. All historical data was also uploaded from the Sage system.”
The training was conducted on-site and feedback from those who participated was positive. New users were able to pick up the system’s functionality quickly and easily. “Overall, the implementation was a good experience; everything we needed was set up very well.”
“If required, it is easy to get data out of the system and into Excel. This is very useful. When the auditors are on-site we can produce a print of the entire nominal ledger, rather than giving them access to the system through one of our machines. The ease of export is one of the things that I like most about the system.”
The flexibility and ease of use means that the Trust has been able to set up a purchase ledger and a credit ledger account for every
student. This has enabled them to track each individual student on the scholarship programme and to deal with the various allowances that they receive, making it easy to monitor budgets and to import additional student information as they arrive.
“The reporting capabilities within IRIS Financials are also very strong, meeting all of our charity reporting requirements, whilst enabling us to analyse data by student, subject, location and department.”
Another benefit of IRIS Financials is its ability to hold unlimited currencies within the system. This has enabled the Trust to manage their private equity interests and different currency bank accounts easily and efficiently.
David explains several benefits of using the IRIS Financials software: “I like that we can easily see the whole structure of the system and all of the information within it. Nothing is hidden. Everything is easily accessible and all transaction details are visible. It is very clear, which saves time.”
“We are confident that we have chosen a future-proof solution. IRIS Financials provide all updates and upgrades free of charge, as part of their maintenance agreement. I know we will always be using the latest functionality without having to purchase any additional software.”
David concludes: “I would certainly recommend the IRIS Financials system. It has been a positive experience, and I speak as someone who has used a variety of accounting systems during my time as an auditor. It is a very good system.”
If you’d like to see how IRIS Financials can help your charity or not-for-profit organisation, contact us today.