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Treasurer's Tools: CAMS and TRS - Features and Comparison                                  

Conference Accounting Management System (CAMS)  and Treasurer's Reporting System (TRS) are two program tools available to SVP conferences to assist the treasurer in accounting and record keeping.

Systems' Background
 2000  Treasurer's Assistant 2001, the original Toronto Central Council Access database system
2005 Treasurer's Assistant Ver 2  replaced Treasurer's Assistant 2001, in response to new CRA reporting requirements 
 2005 CAMS (Conference Accounting Management System) introduced to provide an Excel spreadsheet bookkeeping alternative
PCAMS (Particular Council Accounting Management System) Excel spreadsheet system
 2013   TRS (Treasurer's Reporting System Ver 3) Access database system replaced Treasurer's Assistant Ver 2, in response to new bookkeeping requirements from CRA, National Council, and Toronto Central Council.  


What can the programs do?
Both CAMS and TRS support many of the record keeping tasks in the treasurer's domain, as outlined in Treasurer's Duties and Society of St. Vincent de Paul Treasurer's Reports guideline documents issued by Toronto Central Council:

Why are there two systems?
The initial bookkeeping offering, Treasurer's Assistant 2001, was developed based on Access database software. Because Access is not commonly available on home computers CAMS bookkeeping system based on more widely available Excel spreadsheet software was developed in 2005.   Treasurer's Assistant 2001, which evolved to Treasurer's Reporting System (TRS), has continued to be used by the original user base, while CAMS has been adopted by the majority of conferences since its introduction.  


Which system is easier to learn?
Both systems perform the same basic bookkeeping tasks and have a similar learning curve.  Experienced treasurers will find the functions within each system fairly intuitive and both systems provide extensive internal documentation on system usage.  General computer skills and some familiarity with Excel or Access is helpful but not essential.  In general the CAMS system, which is based on the more available, cheaper and familiar Excel spreadsheet software, is chosen by most conferences over TRS.   


System design and operation

While TRS and CAMS perform the same functions, the design and user interface are significantly different, due to the underlying database and spreadsheet technologies involved with Access and Excel respectively.  You can get a view of the look and feel of the two systems in the following;
      •  for a pictorial overview of TRS      click here 
      •  for a pictorial overview of CAMS  click here.  

 
Are there any restrictions?
While both CAMS and TRS provide the same support to treasurer's record keeping, there are restrictions that both systems share:
Revenues Expenditures
(4500) Donations (4800) Advertising & Promotion
(4500) Bequests (4810) Travel Expense
(4510) Particular Council (4810) Vehicle Expense
(4510) Other Reg'd Charities (4820) Bank Charges
(4530) Poor Box Collections (4840) Office Supplies
(4530) Secret Collection (4860) Professional & Consulting
(4570) Grants (4870) Education & Training 
(4580) Bank Interest (4890) Charitable Works
(4630) Fund Raising (4890) Vouchers Paid to Particular Council 
(4640) Sale of Goods & Services (4920) Sundry Expenses
(4650) Sundry Income (5050) Particular Council

(5050) National Council Twinning
In addition, the fair market value of non-cash gifts such as receipted and transferred Gifts of Property are recorded on the Income Statement as a revenue and an expenditure.

Thus if your conference operations involve other types of expense (for example, 4850 Occupancy Costs, rent or mortgage payments for conference premises) then CAMS and TRS will not meet your needs.


Technical requirements   
CAMS is implemented as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, while TRS is implemented as a Microsoft Access frontend / backend database structure;  thus your computer must have either Excel or Access installed in order to use one of these systems. 
(Excel and Access are two components of the Microsoft OfficeTM suite of business productivity programs, along with Word, Powerpoint, Outlook etc.)
• For Windows PCs Office 2000 or above is required (i.e. Office 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013 or 2016). 
• On Macintosh computers, CAMS can run under Mac Excel 2011 or 2016. 
   (TRS cannot run in native mode on Mac because Access is not available for Mac).

For more information on Microsoft Office and SVP tools click here .

These systems have moderate resource requirements and can be run on typical home computers; however, you may may not be able to run these tools on corporate computers configured with enterprise security  (more information click here  
 

Can conferences outside of Toronto Central Council (TCC) use these tools?
Yes. All SVP conferences are welcome to use these tools, although the following should be noted:


What if I only want to issue income tax receipts?
Both CAMS and TRS can be used solely to issue annual tax receipts.
However, most of the treasurer's record keeping activity (perhaps 90%) involves donor and donations tracking, so with a small incremental amount of work related to expense posting, CAMS and TRS can give the benefit of a full bookkeeping solution. 



Head-to-head comparison:
Putting aside the issue of the prerequisite software (Excel or Access), there are functional differences between CAMS and TRS which may be important to some users..

The Basics:
Both TRS and CAMS handle the basic SVP treasurer record keeping duties:  producing annual tax receipts, keeping track of monthly conference revenues, expenditures and balances, issuing annual financial reports. Both systems assume you know SVP bookkeeping rules (both systems are an automation of the manual ledger forms found in TCC's Treasurer's Duties guideline).  Both systems have their own learning curve and therefore it is highly advisable to read the system's internal documentation which covers  system usage (but not treasurer's duties, in any detail).  

Spreadsheet vs Database Technology:

The primary difference between TRS and CAMS

Initial Setup:
CAMS provides for simple setup and production, involving the download of an Excel spreadsheet for each fiscal year. Download and setup must be repeated annually since CAMS can support only one accounting / donation year    . . . the treasurer should take care to archive each year's CAMS spreadsheet, which form part of the conference's financial records.  TRS download and installation involves two download steps, but is a one-time activity since the database is designed for ongoing multi-year operation i.e. all your accounting years are available in the one system.   

Both systems are intialized by input of conference-specific information: conference name, address, charitable registration #, etc.

Data Capacities:
CAMS' Excel-based design has some upper limits, which apply to the conference financial activity for the fiscal year (a new spreadsheet is required for each year). CAMS can only support 600 donors but the Import/ Export function allows for the transfer of donor name and address information from the previous bookkeeping year to the current bookkeeping year. CAMS donation activity is tied to the Sunday collection cycle for the year, so there are in effect 52 preset Sunday donation dates. Revenue and Expenditure transactions are limited to 240 entries each per year.  These capacity constraints are generally well within the annual transaction volumes of a typical conference.

TRS' Access-based design has no preset limits. TRS can support thousands of donors over dozens of years. There is no restriction to donation dating (any day in the year is valid) and no limit to the number of revenue or expense transactions. Furthermore, Access can process very large amounts of data very quickly.

Reporting and Analysis:
CAMS provides the essential bookkeeping reports: monthly balance summary, bnak reconciliation analysis, and annual financial statement, donor ledgers etc. TRS is very strong in providing a variety of reports and analyses that can assist the treasurer in reviewing conference data, performing multi year analysis, identifying trends, checking anomalies etc. which may be of some interest to large conferences.  

Printing:
Both systems automate the chore of printing donors' income tax receipts. TRS printing is effortless, employing formatted full page layouts for receipts and other reports. CAMS receipts and reports utilize Excel page printing functionality. , 

Ease of Use:
Both TRS and CAMS provide simple navigation for moving around the system. Both have data validation to prevent erroneous inputs of dates and amounts (typos).  Both systems have extensive internal documentation. .

Usage:
As of year end 2010 there are approximately 40 parishes using CAMS and 10 using TRS.   The majority of help requests tend to be related to usage issues (items covered in the documentation that were overlooked or misunderstood) rather than problems with the systems themselves.

Support
Both CAMS and TRS are stable and rarely require technical support. When required, support for CAMS spreadsheet users is significantly simpler since only a single spreadsheet is involved, compared to TRS with its frontend / backend database design. 


Feature comparison:

CAMS

TRS

Software

Implemented as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet

• supported for Excel 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016 and Mac Excel 2011, 2016

• Excel is available for Windows and Mac computers
• Excel is a component of Microsoft Office Home & Student Edition as well as several other Office editions 

Implemented as a Microsoft Access database
• supported for Access 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016
• Access is available on Windows computers only
Access is a component of Microsoft Office Professional Edition  or  can be purchased as an individual product

Ease of Use

There could be a learning curve for those unfamiliar with large multi-sheet workbook environments and Excel spreadsheet technology in general (cells, rows, columns, worksheet tabs, references and formulas etc). 

Similar to most menu-driven, point and click window-based computer systems.

Capacities

Annual limits:
Donors and annual tax receipts:  600
Donations
52 weekly Sunday collections
Revenue transactions
240 (including 52 Sunday collection amounts)
Expenditure transactions
240
Gift-In-Kind receipts
400
Bequest receipts
10

Donors and annual tax receipts unlimited
Donations
unlimited number and frequency of donations.
Revenue transactions
unlimited
Expenditure transactions
unlimited
Gift-In-Kind receipts
unlimited
Bequest receipts
 unlimited

Operation

Single year operation only. Requires archival of current year's spreadsheet and download of new spreadsheet template for the new accounting year. Current year financial summaries only - no ability to do year-over-year comparisons. Donor name and address data can be Imported from prior year's spreadsheet. 

Continuous ongoing multi-year operation. The system retains conference data year after year so that donor and donations history is ongoing, supporting multi-year reference, comparison and trend analysis reporting. 

Data Integrity

CAMS uses Excel data validation to check critical accounting inputs (dates and amounts) and performs some basic error checking.

TRS uses Access's capabilities to validate user input and prevent illogical or erroneous inputs.

Installation

SVPtools allows for direct download of the SVPcams.xls Excel spreadsheet file.

SVPtools download process requires two database file downloads,  to a specified folder on the computer hard drive (C:\SVPtrs)
 • SVPtrs.mdb -  the frontend database that contains program logic
 • SVPtrsdat.mdb  - the backend database which contains your conference accounting data

Portability

The CAMS conference spreadsheet can be easily moved to another computer simply by transferring the Excel spreadsheet via memory stick or email attachment.

TRS can be moved to another computer by transferring the installation folder C:\SVPtrs via memory stick .

Reporting

Limited reporting capabilities. Excel Page Preview is used to review and control output.

Simple menu-driven report printing. Automatic on-screen report preview. Many report options.

Tax Receipts

• conform to CRA content requirements
• 3 per page income tax receipts to be used with #9 or #10 window envelope

• conform to CRA content requirements
• 3 per page income tax receipts to be used with #9 or #10 window envelope

Help / User Manual

Built-in documentation; each CAMS worksheet has a Help function to explain design and usage. .

Built-in documentation; each TRS menu and form has a Help function to explain design and usage. . 

Application Update

When treasurers download a new copy of CAMS at the start of the year the latest version of CAMS is provided incorporating all changes made during the year.  Application updates cannot be applied during the year without impacting data already entered into the spreadsheet.

New application releases can be downloaded and applied at any time during the year without impact to the conference data.  

Unique
Features

No reporting and analysis capability beyond the minimum required by Treasurer's Duties guideline issued by Toronto Central Council.
  • annual Financial reports
  • monthly cash flow summary reporting
  • bank reconciliation worksheet

Extensive reporting and analysis capabilities:
  • monthly and annual activity summary
  • summary and detail reporting
  • donor trend and exception reporting

Data backup

  • periodic backup notification
  • backup of user data to PC hard drive and removable media

  • periodic backup notification
  • backup of user data to PC hard drive and removable media



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