How DonorsChoose scaled to $100M+ on cloud ERP 🎙 Live at Sage Intacct Advantage

Not-for-profits aren't always thought of as the most innovative companies, but the accounting team at DonorsChoose shatters that stereotype. Learn how they've grown to $175 million in annual revenue in six years while at the same time only adding one employee to the accounting team (from five to six). How is that possible? Because Alliah Mohamed and her team have embraced Sage Intacct's cloud ERP that enabling them to integrate their own platform to the GL at the project level. They even built their own bank feed!

  • 01:09 – Meet Alliah Mohamed, director of accounting and financial operations for DonorsChoose! 
  • 01:29 – Bright lights, big city, and one CAP listener in the live audience!  
  • 02:07 – How does DonorsChoose work? 
  • 03:22 – Because they work with such a mind-boggling number of funds, DonorsChoose uses Sage Intacct to help them track the money
  • 04:51 – Before Intacct, DonorsChoose did things the old-fashioned way - manual entry
  • 07:01 – Alliah attends Intacct Advantage to get inspiration, education, and connection with other users
  • 07:56 – What's in the DonorsChoose tech stack? 
  • 09:08 – Why wait for a solution? Build your own! 
  • 10:10 – Lean, mean, not-for-profit machine - DonorsChoose is an innovative, tech-forward group of ... SIX people!
Connect with Alliah
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Alliah Mohamed: So, on a given day, we're able to pull up a project ... If we receive $2,000, we're seeing exactly how we spend the $2,000. 
Blake Oliver: Welcome [00:01:00] to The Cloud Accounting Podcast. I'm Blake Oliver.
David Leary: I'm David Leary.
Alliah Mohamed: And I'm Alliah. I'm the director of accounting and financial operations at is a leading platform for supporting public-school teachers and students throughout the United States. Teachers come to our site and post projects requesting materials that their students need, and donors donate to projects that inspire them.
Blake Oliver: Great. 
David Leary: Awesome. We're here at day two of Sage [00:01:30] Intacct Advantage; day two of us recording, I guess, would be the better way to say this. 
Blake Oliver: Yep. We are recording live in the rotunda of the MGM Grand with the big Sage Intacct Advantage electronic billboard over to the side here.
David Leary: We even have a listener standing by watching us record.
Blake Oliver: We've got one fan watching us record this episode live. I am really excited to be talking to you, Alliah. I didn't catch your full name.
Alliah Mohamed: Alliah Mohamed. 
Blake Oliver: Alliah Mohamed, and you're with I am so excited to be talking to you because not only are you a customer, but, [00:02:00] potentially, my brother could be in need of DonorsChoose. He's a public-school teacher in Manhattan.
Alliah Mohamed: Yes.
Blake Oliver: You were telling me, at one of the events, when we connected, about ... Well, how does it work? How would it work for him if I wanted to help him?
Alliah Mohamed: Yeah. Just point him to He comes to our site and then, he verifies that- we verify that he's a teacher and then, he goes shopping, creates a project ...
Blake Oliver: Then people donate money [00:02:30] to support him, like for supplies and stuff like that?
Alliah Mohamed: Yeah. Let's say he wanted to take his students to a field trip. He'll come to our site, write a little essay explaining what he wants to do with his students. He goes shopping for the experience and then, donors see exactly where their donation is going- being applied to. 
Blake Oliver: Got it.
David Leary: Obviously, you're a nonprofit, and you being the accountant at the nonprofit, there's gotta be challenges. I think I've just heard a couple. A lot [00:03:00] of nonprofits have multiple funds, but if you're doing this for every teacher across the nation-  or is this global?
Alliah Mohamed: No, United States. 
David Leary: So, across the United States. Then, if every teacher creates a trip, or a project, something for their school, that's an individual fund; then, you have those donors. You've gotta be tracking thousands of thousands and thousands of funds.
Alliah Mohamed: Yes.
David Leary: How do you do that?
Alliah Mohamed: We use Sage Intacct to help us with the financials. When someone is coming to our site, and they're donating [00:03:30] to a project, we're tagging exactly, at a project-ID level. Then, we're tracking expenses at that P-ID level. So, on a given day, we're able to pull up a project ... If we receive $2,000, we're seeing exactly how we spend the $2,000.
Blake Oliver: Wow. You must have thousands and thousands of project IDs. 
Alliah Mohamed: Yes.
Blake Oliver: These are all using the 'dimensions' in Intacct - is that how is tracked?
Alliah Mohamed: Yes.
Blake Oliver: Got it. The website must [00:04:00] be integrated, then, with those dimensions to create those project IDs in the software? 
Alliah Mohamed: Yes.
Blake Oliver: Oh, wow. That's really cool. How did you ...? I know you're not necessarily like an IT/technical person, but how did you guys go about doing that work to automate that?
Alliah Mohamed: We have a product and engineering team because we're a web-based platform. So, we've worked closely with our CTO and his engineers to build that for us.
Blake Oliver: Got it. So, you built the integration [00:04:30] in-house from your web site to Intacct. 
Alliah Mohamed: Yes.
Blake Oliver: How long have you been customers of Intacct?
Alliah Mohamed: Six years now.
Blake Oliver: Six years. Wow, so pretty ... I know Intacct has grown a lot, but you must have been one of the ... I guess Intacct's been around for 20 years.
Alliah Mohamed: Yes.
Blake Oliver: But there's a lot of growth, like starting six years ago.
Alliah Mohamed: Exactly. 
Blake Oliver: You guys jumped on that.
Alliah Mohamed: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: Awesome.
David Leary: Was there a time when you would be ... You were taking website donations and you weren't using Intacct? How'd you track it then? Or has it been since day one?
Alliah Mohamed: We were tracking stuff offline. [00:05:00] We store all that data, also, in our platform on our "admin site." So, we were extracting that data and then, manually uploading it to our financial system.
David Leary: Efficient.
Blake Oliver: That must've been a lot of work.
Alliah Mohamed: Yes.
Blake Oliver: How long have you been at DonorsChoose?
Alliah Mohamed: Six-and-a-half years.
Blake Oliver: Okay, so you were there ... You came on board and then, you guys switched over to ... What were you using before if I may ask? 
Alliah Mohamed: We using a Financial Edge, [00:05:30] which is a non-for-profit cloud-based ... Not cloud-based, actually [crosstalk]
Blake Oliver: Not-cloud-based accounting system. Okay, gotcha. So, you came on board and then, were you part of this changeover, or ...? 
Alliah Mohamed: No. I actually helped with some of the import templates to get our data into the system, but I was actually on the team part-time, so I was not the one who decided to implement Intacct.

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Blake Oliver: Is this your first time at Intacct Advantage, or have you come before?
Alliah Mohamed: No, this is actually my sixth time at Intacct Advantage.
Blake Oliver: What brings you here, every year- 
Alliah Mohamed: Over, and over?  [00:07:00]
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
Alliah Mohamed: I think it's something unique, where you're able to learn things that you wouldn't otherwise know, when you're just sitting at the office. It's good to talk to people and hear how they're using the product. Then, you can take that back home, and you can be like, "Wow! I'm really inspired the way this company is doing X. I think we can do something similar or learn from that and take some ideas."
Blake Oliver: So you follow that not-for-profit track that they have here at Intacct?
Alliah Mohamed: I do. Then, I [00:07:30] also do the one specifically for finance leaders. Those are really good, too, to hear how other people are running their company ...
Blake Oliver: One of the key features of Intacct that I find fascinating is the ability for a controller, or a CFO, or a VP of finance to integrate potentially dozens of applications with Intacct; that open API. Do you mind if I ask what you are using as part of your accounting and finance tech stack? 
Alliah Mohamed: Yeah. We have a custom integration, that I'm really proud of, that we [00:08:00] launched maybe six months ago. It's a custom integration between our Citibank environment and Sage Intacct. On a daily basis, we're able to see all our daily transactions populate automatically via journal entry.
Blake Oliver: So, you've built an automatic bank feed?
David Leary: I was just gonna say, bank feed; it sounds like bank feeds. 
Alliah Mohamed: Yes. 
Blake Oliver: Wow, and you did that yourselves.
Alliah Mohamed: Yeah. We paid a consultant to help us-
Blake Oliver: Right, but you own that integration?
Alliah Mohamed: Yes, exactly.
Blake Oliver: Wow. You could probably sell that. I'm sure that some other Citibank customers will be interested. [00:08:30]
Alliah Mohamed: We joke that basically, they took our idea, and created bank feeds. 
Blake Oliver: Oh! So, when did you build this?
Alliah Mohamed: We started the process two years ago.
Blake Oliver: Okay, but what you're doing is you're posting those entries from the bank already- is it already coded to correct account?
Alliah Mohamed: Yes. We have a table that we are maintaining. Let's say this specific vendor is coded to a specific GL account. We have a table where it's pulling that from, and we're updating that table set, but-  [00:09:00]
David Leary: So, you created rules ... 
Alliah Mohamed: Yes. 
Blake Oliver: Oh, wow! 
David Leary: We had a discussion about this earlier-
Blake Oliver: We were talking with Matt Paff, who's an analyst from Australia-
Alliah Mohamed: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: -where everybody has that feature, or functionality built into their accounting software,  in the cloud. They're used to it, right? Because Intacct doesn't, that's a big sticking point for him. So you guys must have ... You felt this pain point, and you just decided to go out and solve it yourselves? 
Alliah Mohamed: Yes.
Blake Oliver: That's interesting because, obviously, you're a web-based not-for-profit. You've got a ton of technical [00:09:30] expertise to just go out and be able to conquer these problems for yourselves. That's really neat because ... I don't know; maybe this is the stereotype of not-for-profits is you don't think about them being necessarily the most innovative companies- 
Alliah Mohamed: Exactly. Yeah, we're very tech-forward.
Blake Oliver: That's great. How many people are on your accounting and finance team?
Alliah Mohamed: We're a six-person team, including the CFO.
Blake Oliver: How large is DonorsChoose, in whatever metrics you guys like to track?
Alliah Mohamed: On a yearly basis, I'll say we're about $175 [00:10:00] million in revenue.
Blake Oliver: Okay. Six people. $175 million in revenue. That's pretty good, in terms of ... You guys on the very low end, I would say [crosstalk] 
Alliah Mohamed: We're mean and lean. When I started at the company six-and-a-half years ago, our team was just five people. We've just grown by one headcount in six-and-a-half years.
David Leary: But DonorsChoose is growing, obviously, during that time. 
Alliah Mohamed: Yes, exactly. 
David Leary: It's probably a testament to your use of technology, and automation, and building out tools [00:10:30] to move data around.
Alliah Mohamed: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: Anything else you wanna talk about before we get going?
David Leary: Actually, I was gonna ask you one question with the bank feeds, or we're calling ... You created bank feeds, let's say.
Alliah Mohamed: Yes. 
David Leary: Have you documented that or blogged about that ...? Is that a session you're doing? Have you taught any of your community here at Intacct [crosstalk] to put you on the spot ... We'll put it in the show notes! 
Alliah Mohamed: Yeah. So, I actually run our user group in New York City. On a quarterly basis, customers come together and just about how they're using the system [00:11:00] and share best practices. I actually demo-ed how we're using it. Everyone was like, "Wow! How did you get the resources to do that?" Which, for a nonprofit, I'm really grateful that we get the resources to do those things.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, that's really exciting. I would encourage you to do a session next year on just that feature, like how you built that.
Alliah Mohamed: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: There'll be no excuses, because you guys are a nonprofit, and you were able to pull this off, versus all these companies have tons of money, and they have big budgets to work from, and they can't pull it off.
Alliah Mohamed: Yeah.  [00:11:30]
Blake Oliver: So, congratulations, and thank you for joining us, Alliah. 
Alliah Mohamed: Yeah, thank you. Thanks for having me.
David Leary: Thank you. What's the easiest way for people to get a hold of you if they want to come to your meetup group or something?
Alliah Mohamed: Yeah, my email address is
Blake Oliver: Thanks a lot.
David Leary: Bye. 
Alliah Mohamed: Yes, thank you!

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