Customer Stories

Family Giving Tree Is Rooted in Their Mission to Give With Financial Automation From BILL

Giving to charity is a vital way for people to connect with their communities. But all too often, the act of sending a donation can feel faceless and, ironically, disconnected. After all, where is the money actually going? For Family Giving Tree, a Silicon Valley-based nonprofit, answering that question is the core of their mission.

“Our idea has always been to give a gift that people want,” explains Charlotte Wood, Director of Marketing at Family Giving Tree. “If a donor sees that an 8-year-old wants a Lego set, they can make that wish happen for the child.”

Family Giving Tree’s philosophy of connection relies on maintaining a complex array of relationships with companies, community leaders, and individuals as they work to bring in donations, both physically and through their Virtual Giving Tree. For the Family Giving Tree Finance team, handling these processes became much easier once they turned to financial automation provided by BILL and Divvy, a BILL spend and expense management solution.

You might say BILL has freed them up to focus on their vision of community.

“We envision a world where giving brings joy, offers hope, and creates learning possibilities,” explains Jill Mitsch, Deputy Director of Development and Strategy at Family Giving Tree. “We believe in the importance of giving back to our community, especially given the realities of poverty in Silicon Valley, where not every kid has the opportunity for a brand new backpack or a holiday wish.”

In search of a digital, audit-friendly solution

Like many nonprofits, Family Giving Tree has a small but mighty accounting team that needs all the help they can get in terms of efficiencies to help stretch their resources. When the COVID-19 pandemic required the company to go fully remote, they had major challenges trying to process their accounts payable (AP) approvals.

“Once we became a 100% remote operation, it became very difficult to get proper authorizations on invoices and expense reimbursements and the like,” recalls Jess Gutierrez, CFO at Family Giving Tree. “BILL came highly recommended. And I knew there was a great deal of experience with BILL integrating with QuickBooks Desktop, which was key.”

Managers can now remotely approve invoices for the operations.

“We have a lot of transactions to manage and trying to get physical signatures was a real audit issue for me,” explains Gutierrez. “I try to make sure I have no audit issues and, knock on wood, for the last three years I had no audit issues with BILL.”

In fact, the organization’s auditors applauded the move to BILL. “At first I was concerned that not having paper records would be an audit issue,” says Gutierrez. “But with BILL, auditors can log in themselves and find what they need without having to ask us for documentation. We no longer have to pull hundreds of documents. The whole audit process is so much easier.” As CFO Gutierriez has established strong internal controls for the organization and BILL has helped them tighten up even more.

“The nice thing for me is, I don't have to see all the approvals anymore,” says Gutierrez. “I don't have to sign all those checks, now I can just approve the disbursements. It's been a good tool for us.” Mitsch adds that BILL has helped make her life and workflow easier. “First thing in the morning I get notifications from BILL with all the invoices I have to approve. I just login and take care of it.”

Divvy, a BILL spend and expense management solution, helps manage an uptick in purchases

Family Giving Tree’s work is centered around two main events: a back-to-school backpack drive, which provides backpacks to children in the community; and a holiday drive that makes holiday wishes come true. In 2019, they delivered 82,000 gifts to 14 contiguous counties around the Bay Area. During their last holiday drive, they celebrated serving two million recipients.

All those donations require a lot of purchases to be made directly from vendors.

“This year we budgeted about $115,000 in revenue from corporate backpack build sponsorships,” recalls Jess Gutierrez, CFO at Family Giving Tree. “We ended up with about $370,000 in revenue—we way overshot. So, there was a lot of last-minute buying to get supplies to meet those demands.”

Divvy, a BILL spend and expense management solution, has made managing those purchases much easier. Everyone on staff now has a Divvy card, which replaced prepaid Visa cards.

“The Divvy card really comes in handy during our holiday drive,” explains Gutierrez. “Now we can go out and shop for all the items we need without having to keep track of and pay fees on a bunch of prepaid cards.” Gutierrez adds that Divvy not only simplifies spend, but now he and employees on staff have the benefit of having the card attached to the software and the ability to capture the receipt using their cell phones.

“For me, it's great to be able to go into the Divvy account and see all our information,” says Mitsch. “I can Slack my employees to make sure they get their receipts in, because we want to close out the month. It's just really seamless and great.” Wood definitely does not miss having tracking paper receipts. “Prior to Divvy, monthly expense reports were painful at best and all on paper. Now approving employee purchases, approving reimbursements for mileage, and more is so simple. It’s really helped close out the month much more quickly.” says Wood.

“With Divvy there’s complete transparency into budgets,” says Gutierrez. “That’s saved a lot of time on the approval side for staff and management.”

Accounts payable made easy with BILL

Overall, financial automation with BILL has eased the accounting workload for the Finance team by helping them work more efficiently.

“BILL makes it so much easier to pay contractors,” Wood says. “They don’t have to follow up with us asking ‘Where’s my check?’ They just send invoices directly to BILL and they get paid. And I don’t have to bother Accounting to be able to pop in the system to confirm payments. BILL makes communication around payments that much faster and everyone’s happier.”

“As an account owner, I love the ability to login to BILL to view vendor histories. That is really important for me,” Wood continues. “For example, I’m responsible for everything that’s printed. So when budget time comes, it’s great that I can easily look up past printing and paper costs and factor all that into my calculations.”

Though Family Giving Tree is based in Silicon Valley, they have operations in Colorado, Massachusetts, Southern California, and Oregon. “Prior to BILL and Divvy, it was difficult to reconcile what was in a Google Doc versus what was in the financial ledger,” recalls Gutierrez. “Now, with everything centralized, it’s much easier to manage all of our spend.”

“Our accounting system is closed. Only two of us can access to run detailed general ledger reports,” says Gutierrez. “But with BILL, individual account owners can run their own reports to get all the vendor and payment info they need.”

Broadening their vision with an assist from BILL

The next objective for the organization is to launch a capital campaign to obtain a year-round warehouse to store their ever-increasing stockpile of gifts. With more efficient accounting from BILL and Divvy, the team can now focus on this and other initiatives to improve the organization, rather than worrying about day-to-day tasks and audits.

Gutierrez sums it up: “You can’t beat BILL for the security and efficiency it provides.”

Related Customer Stories

Ready to get started?

Join the millions who pay and get paid with BILL.

Get Started