It’s possible that playing music helps your brain more than any other activity. Research shows that it can help with everything from improving memory to building resilience and sharpening social skills. For children, the impact of music education can be especially profound.
Because of these positive effects, the importance of the mission of Bloomingdale School of Music is hard to overstate. Located on the Upper West Side of New York City, this diverse, community-focused school provides high-quality, affordable music education to people of all ages. From early childhood music programs for three-month-olds to private lessons for seniors, they serve over 800 students each week—all from a place described by some as “a small town in brownstone.”
“What sets Bloomingdale apart is that there's something for everybody here,” says Dayna Grayber, Director of Communications at Bloomingdale. “There's something for people who’ve never picked up an instrument, for kids who want to study music in university, and for babies and toddlers, moms and dads. You name it and we probably have it.
Just like rhythm supports a melody, nonprofits need the support of slid financial operations to be successful. Bloomingdale School of Music adopted BILL in 2020 to streamline accounts payable, update financial processes, and keep their mission of expanding access to music education going strong.
The story of Bloomingdale School of Music began in 1964 when founder David Greer began offering inexpensive music lessons to children in the neighborhood.
Today the love of music education continues, and even many of the non-teaching staff at Bloomingdale bring a unique passion for music to their work. Grayber has a master’s in vocal performance, and Kayla Jackmon, the Director of Finance, also has extensive music and arts training. "I’m trained as an actor and teaching artist,” Jackmon told us. “I started my work in finance and bookkeeping at a prior non-profit where we taught improv to high school students in New York City public schools.”
Ensuring music education is accessible to all has been a core value throughout Bloomingdale’s history. “Right now, we have one of the country's most aggressive financial aid offerings,” explained Jackmon. “15% of our revenue is going straight back into scholarship recipients. We’re split between contributed revenue and earned revenue for our business model.”
Like many successful nonprofits, Bloomindale has its financial complexities. “Our cash flow is tricky because tuition comes in from different semesters and overlaps fiscal years,” said Jackmon. “Before adopting BILL in 2020, we used a paper system to manage accounts payable, mailing out paper checks to pay vendors.”
Once COVID-19 lockdowns began, Bloomingdale’s paper AP process quickly became cumbersome. With classes going virtual and staff working from home, the director of operations now had to drive all the way to the school to get the mail and then return home to write checks, mail them, and email the entire department for backups. Getting signatures and approvals could be time-consuming and frustrating.
It wasn’t long before the team started looking for a more efficient workflow. “We needed a system that could give us an organized way to deal with AP and less exposure to the virus while keeping us operational,” explained Marianela Torres, Finance and HR Coordinator at Bloomingdale.
After researching their options to simplify AP, reduce admin, and adapt to the new realities of work, leadership at Bloomingdale chose to adopt BILL because of its user-friendliness and easy integration with Quickbooks.
“Before adopting BILL in 2020, we used a paper system to manage accounts payable, mailing out paper checks to pay vendors.” — Kayla Jackmon, Director of Finance, Bloomingdale School of Music
After implementing BILL, the team at Bloomingdale quickly saw a positive impact on their operations. “BILL is a huge time-saver,” said Jackmon. “I don't think we could pry BILL out of anyone’s hands in the finance team now. The ability to check off who’s a 1099 vendor and sync everything automatically into QuickBooks has made our 1099 process take 30 minutes this year. At my previous job, it took days—if not weeks—to follow up on documentation and double-check reports for similar work.” Torres added, “Having an agent available within seconds with the chat feature to troubleshoot syncing issues right before reconciliation meetings is a windfall.”
Jackmon continued, “We can forward vendor payment requests from faculty and staff into BILL, and all the numbers are there. Then, all you have to do is get approval, which is seamless. Because the information is already in the platform, you don’t have to chase people down in separate emails. Then we can make easy ACH payments, or BILL can make card payments or mail checks for us, which is a lifesaver.”
This feature came in handy recently. While printing invitations for an event the next day, their printer ran out of toner. “We needed new toner delivered the same day, but the vendor didn’t accept cards and ACH would take a few days,” explained Torres. “Our only hope was to pay via BILL with the school’s credit card–which worked! The toner arrived a few hours later, and the event was successful.”
“Before BILL, we spent about three to four days per week on invoicing and billing. It was challenging to keep track of payment statuses and manage vendor inquiries.” — Marianela Torres, Finance and HR Coordinator, Bloomingdale School of Music
On top of simplifying their AP, the team at Bloomingdale also expressed enthusiasm about how BILL has helped them adapt to the new realities of work and streamline the audit process. “BILL also helps me save time by allowing my position to be almost completely virtual,” said Torres. “Before, it was impossible to manage AP effectively outside the office, but that’s totally doable now.”
Currently, the team is confidently working through an audit. Because all the documentation and audit trails are already in BILL, they can give auditors view-only access to simplify the previously complex process. “The fact that the auditors have their own access to our account makes the audit much more efficient,” explained Torres.
“We are in the middle of an audit right now, and it's wonderful that BILL integrates into QuickBooks. We can just give our auditors access to BILL and say, ‘Here's all the documentation, coding, and all that jazz.'" — Kayla Jackmon, Director of Finance, Bloomingdale School of Music
With time savings thanks to BILL, the Bloomingdale School of Music accounting team has more time to strengthen and personalize relationships with faculty, staff, and vendors. They’ve also been able to meet their budget every year since the pandemic began.
This year, Bloomingdale hosted the 30th anniversary of their signature program, the Music Access Project. This beloved pre-college training, which the current music director also participated in as a teenager, recently welcomed alums back to the school.
“People came to the reunion having graduated five, ten, fifteen, and even twenty years ago from as far away as Florida and Wyoming,” shared Jackmon. “Everybody was upstairs eating, chatting—just having really good vibes remembering when they took the program in high school. It’s touching that these programs now have connected several generations and people can make life-long bonds through music here.”
After almost 60 years in business, Bloomingdale School of Music shows no sign of slowing down. And with a little help from BILL, they were able to streamline their finance operations and make it easier to keep the music going strong.
“Streamlined financial automation platforms like BILL are here to stay. We’re sticking to this and not looking back.” — Kayla Jackmon, Director of Finance, Bloomingdale School of Music