Greenbelt Alliance

Spring-Summer 2020
Project Type
Fast track
Project Focus
Organization Type


Founded in 1958, Greenbelt Alliance has encouraged Bay Area cities and counties to adopt land-use Policies - including voter-approved urban growth boundaries in 37 jurisdictions - that ensure over two million acres of natural and agricultural lands are effectively protected. After more than 60 years, Greenbelt Alliance remains the Bay Area’s leader in preserving open space and fostering smart growth.


This is a challenging yet exciting time. The Bay Area is feeling the dramatic effects of climate change, putting both our cities and our open spaces at a new kind of risk. Greenbelt Alliance is going through a strategic planning process, shifting their priorities to help build a more climate-smart region to help reduce fires and flooding in order to make our communities more resilient. 

Over the past few years Greenbelt Alliance has experienced a substantial decrease in foundation funding. The organization has taken the steps necessary to reduce its size of the organization to reflect its smaller budget. Now, Greenbelt Alliance is working to rebuild its programmatic activity in order to be more appealing to funders and increase their foundation support. 

Greenbelt Alliance is currently adjusting its finance and operations systems to support the needs of a much smaller organization. The organization’s current budgeting system is not very accurate and involves many, many excel spreadsheets. Greenbelt Alliance would like to move to a more modern, accurate and transparent budgeting system, both for tracking and forecasting internal finances and to support more specific project grant proposals to future funders.

Project Objectives

Greenbelt Alliance asked the ACT team to investigate alternatives to the back office systems that it currently uses for budgeting and planning. Greenbelt also asked the ACT team to explore how it could better use the systems it currently has, to make them integrate more tightly and eliminate excess spreadsheeting.

Project Overview

The project started by researching alternatives to the back office systems that Greenbelt Alliance currently uses. Greenbelt uses software that was primarily designed around the needs of for-profit businesses, so software specifically designed for nonprofits was also explored. Then, the ACT team interviewed experts on how to best use and integrate the software it already has.

Key Recommendations

The ACT team recommended the following:

  • Out of the three alternatives to their current system (QuickBooks), the ACT team recommended they remain with their current system as it is the top choice of nonprofit accountants interviewed and many articles
  • Greenbelt decided it would also remain with its other related software, such as Salesforce. The ACT team found third party software that could better integrate Salesforce and QuickBooks
  • Lastly, for other back office functions such as expense reporting and payroll, the ACT team recommended some alternatives (such as Expensify) that Greenbelt is already exploring

Key Conclusions

The ACT team found that the software Greenbelt is currently using were some of the top options recommended to nonprofits. Greenbelt was glad to have its alternatives more thoroughly explored. Now it can focus on optimizing the suite they currently have, with perhaps some minor substitutions for some business processes (such as expenses). Greenbelt can also begin to de-spreadsheet itself.

Final Report Outline

  • First Steps
  • Findings/Analysis
  • Recommendations
  • Next Steps