Payroll Tips, Tricks, and Tools for Nonprofits


If you are responsible for managing your organization's payroll, we tip our hats to you! Not only do you navigate the process to make sure all your hard-working employees get paid, but you must also navigate the ever-changing laws and regulations applicable to your workforce. 

Finding support is up to you and your best friend Google. While there are many resources available to you, some require membership fees and others may have outdated or incomplete information. That's why Giving Payroll is dedicated to providing nonprofit payroll professionals with the tools and help they need to thrive, whether you do payroll in-house or through a service. So, here are just a few tidbits we’ve learned along the way that can help make doing payroll easier, and maybe even more fun!

When to Process Payroll

Tip: For the love of everything payroll, please stop waiting until the last minute to run payroll! Nonprofit administrators wear many hats. You may be the Executive Director or have some other official title and your time is spread thin between programs, fundraising, and administrative work. But if you are processing your payroll the day before payday you are not giving yourself enough time to tackle the unforeseen complications that inevitably accompany personnel matters.

Since it was just Halloween, let me tell you a little payroll horror story:

One of Giving Payroll's amazing nonprofit clients had a Friday payroll that included paper checks along with direct deposits. They processed payroll on Thursday and the package of checks was scheduled to be delivered the next day via a reputable nationwide delivery service. The driver couldn’t find the nonprofit’s office, so decided to Google the address, and that somehow ended with the driver delivering a package of live checks to a residential home. That’s right, our worst nightmare in the payroll world, the monster in our closet, the creature under the bed….live checks delivered to the wrong address. When the nonprofit’s Executive Director saw that it was delivered but was still at work waiting for the package, she got worried and gave us a call. After a little research we discovered the problem, but it was 7:30 pm on a Friday and the ADP East Coast service center was closed, so what now? We couldn’t let a package of live checks go the entire weekend without a stop pay issued! Our quick-thinking Account Manager contacted the West Coast service center, and luckily they were still open for another 30 minutes. We were able to get a stop pay issued, void the transaction, and issue a new payroll. The employees didn't get paid until Tuesday, but we were able to avoid a disaster (besides a few irritated employees). The Executive Director learned an important lesson and always processed payroll a few days earlier from that day on. Moral of the story? Always run your payroll at least two business days before payroll is due - even if all of your employees are on direct deposit.

Trick: Avoid the “When should I run payroll this week?” question. Make sure you know your pay schedule and input a recurring reminder in your calendar. We also suggest making the reminder for at least three hours before you need to have everything done. So if your payroll provider has a submission cut-off of 4:00 pm, make sure your reminder is set for 1:00 pm to allow for the emergency that distracts you from your duties.

Tool: If you are using a payroll provider, chances are they have a service like ADP's Run and Done. If your organization has only salaried employees, you can avoid the headache of ever having to even think about payroll outside of raises, new hires, terminations, and bonuses. With these types of services, you can automatically pay the employees each period, without pulling you from your important programs and fundraising.

Tracking Employees Time

Tip: Would it surprise you to learn that many nonprofits do not use a time tracking application? And that many of them still use paper timesheets? Paper timesheets are time-consuming, cumbersome, and susceptible to mistakes, dishonest behavior, or even fraud, along with not being environmentally friendly. We always suggest using time tracking services or applications for your payroll needs.

Trick: Integrate systems where you can, and I am not just talking about time tracking. Employees in your organization (probably you) are probably jumping from an accounting software like QuickBooks, to a donor management system like NeonCRM, to a payroll system like ADP RUN. By integrating your systems properly you can save time and put a stop to double entry. That way you can focus on what is important: your programs and fundraising.

Tools: If you spend more than 15 minutes processing payroll and have fewer than 25 employees, you are not using all the tools available to you. I could talk about services like ADP’s Time and Attendance or TSheets time tracking, since they integrate with ADP Payroll and QuickBooks, but if you are managing just a few hourly employees, I suggest you use a free service like You can easily download or print all your employees’ time in one place to make input on your end much easier. However, doesn’t integrate with any payroll services or QuickBooks, so if you have a lot of hourly employees I would suggest biting the bullet for a paid service. Payroll shouldn’t take hours of your valuable time.

Tax Rate and Law Changes

Tips: If you are using a payroll service, they help you stay on top of tax rate changes for federal and state levels. But there are other concerns they might miss, like the Fair Labor Standards Act changes that go into effect on January 1, 2020. And it is your responsibility, my fellow payroll professional, to stay on top of these issues.

Trick: If you are managing your own payroll and not using a service, you can keep up to date on payroll rate changes at the Social Security Administration’s website: You can also sign up to become a member of the American Payroll Association (for a fee).

Tools: There are many free and paid webinars and resources available to you. Make sure to check out GrantStation’s offerings, such as the free webinar 2020 Payroll Changes and Tools to Save Time, to help you stay informed.

Giving Payroll offers payroll, HR and tax solutions with ADP®.

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