Free software comes at a price

Time is money, and both always seem to be in short supply. Using free government software such as FECFile or one of the many state systems for public financial disclosure seems like a no-brainer method to save money on an important back-office function. Except that you'll squander time and therefore money.

The common thread in all these systems is they're good only for public filing, which means you can't use them to store information that obviously should be kept from public view (email addresses, cell phone numbers, personal notes and the like). Which means that if you take advantage of free public-filing software, you're inevitably maintaining two systems for both contacts and accounting ...

... which is never a sound practice, no matter where you work.

Forget about the double-entry of contact information. A mere inconvenience compared to this:

The real danger in a double-accounting system is that it risks the main imperative of public disclosure: precisely balancing your cash accounts. Not doing so can lead to untold headaches if your number comes up in the audit lottery and your two accounting systems -- sometimes maintained by people who rarely even talk to each other -- show different totals. (Ever been audited by the FEC? A few of our clients have. In one case the FEC audit crew camped there for a month.)

Some of these state-sponsored systems lack the features to effectively spot address changes, which could lead to errors in aggregate totals, which is like waving a red cape in front of the audit-selection bull (er, committee).

If you're entering directly into your state's online data-entry system, anything that's entered is at risk of being immediately available to the public before others in your organization have a chance to review things. (We'll never suggest concealment, merely prudence. Well-known major donors tend to get testy when they find out their vacation home address has been rendered on someone's public filing.)

So your state offers Excel templates to help you create spreadsheets that can be imported into the their system? Wonderful. Except that these systems require precise compliance; columns must be properly labeled and ordered, and the data within must be formatted according to the states instructions. What happens if their template changes? Two o'clock on the afternoon of filing day is a bad time to find out. Some state systems aren't advanced enough to mercifully reject your filing immediately; sometimes it's days later, after the penalties kick in as if you haven't filed at all.

With the Filpac system you'll avoid these pitfalls. Everything is kept offline until totals have been verified and sensitive itemization issues have been resolved. There are a multitude of reports to help verify everything. If your state or the FEC changes its filing requirements, we guarantee that our system will comply. And we're open after-hours in the days before every major filing deadline.

We'll save you time, headaches ...

... and ultimately money. Even if your current software is free.