Archive for the ‘corporate social responsibility’ Category

There’s a reason why it’s typically difficult for nonprofits to find candidates to fulfil the role of treasurer in their organisation. The responsibilities that come with the job can truly be daunting since there are so many duties that you must perform well and on time.

The following guide is a brief overview of five of the most essential tasks and duties new treasurers should perform when they take on the position.

Meet with the Previous Treasurer

It’s beneficial to the new treasurer when the prior one is available to go over the accounts with them and answer crucial questions, such as the reasoning behind specific actions that they may have taken. If the previous treasurer is unable to meet with you personally, ask them to at least provide you with a list of the essential details that you will need to perform your job well, such as your NFP’s passwords.

Realise That You Are Much More Than a Bookkeeper and Gatekeeper

While it is your responsibility to see that accurate and secure records of your NFP’s transactions are made and maintained, this doesn’t mean that you must do all of the tasks yourself. Delegating these duties to a staff member, or outsourcing them is perfectly fine, and is typically necessary for medium to large-sized NFPs. Software suites such as Admin Bandit also automate many of these processes, including many of the budgeting processes and reports that you will need to produce.

While oversight is a crucial function of your role in helping your NFP manage its finances, you should not forget that another critical responsibility is to act as a full partner and adviser with the other members of your board. You should always be on the lookout for ways to provide them with pertinent, actionable information that they can easily understand.

Establish Good Internal Financial Practices and Controls

Establish a practice of meeting with your board at least monthly, so that they are current and fully informed about the status of your NFP’s finances. In addition to advising the board of upcoming revenues and expenses at the meeting, make it a practice for the board to discuss planned expenditures before they occur, and establish controls so that purchases must be approved by you prior to disbursal of the funds.

Keep in mind that you should always have documentation on hand to support any disbursements that you make from your NFP’s funds, so always ask for invoices and receipts to justify your nonprofits purchases and other expenses.

Begin Budget Planning Early

While you should take the prior year’s budget into account when planning your next annual budget, keep in mind that needs, funding and other factors frequently change. Be aware that it can take several weeks to a few months to round up all of the data that you need to create a realistic model and forecast of your NFP’s budget for the coming year. Therefore, begin budget planning early, and ideally at least three months before the the start of your next fiscal year.

Don’t Forget About Annual Reports, Taxes and Other Legal Obligations

From VAT to GST, there are many tax filings and payments that your NFP is responsible for each year to meet its legal obligations and maintain its designation as an NFP, Charity or other status. Create a calendar and set alerts and reminders to help you keep important dates at the top of your mind.

Other key activities that you will need to complete before the end of the year include an annual report to your NFP board, and usually an audit by an independent third party. Make sure that you include these events on your calendar and schedule plenty of time to ensure that they are accurate when completed and filed promptly.


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Accountability can mean different things to many people. While the dictionary meaning denotes responsibility, being accountable means understanding the need to be open and honest to the volunteers, the staff and the general public. So how can you ensure this occurs within your NFP?

Deal with things as they occur

There is no truer test of an organisation than when trouble occurs. And the strength comes from being able to face any issue head on without fear or compromise. This will demonstrate your total commitment to identifying and solving potential problems whatever they happen to be.

Maintain a positive public perception

As board members are the public persona of the company, they need to be held accountable at all times. They should be measured to the highest standard of conduct and reprimanded when they do not meet these levels. There are no favourites when it comes to poor conduct within the board of directors or other staff members.

Share NFP finances openly

What do you have to hide? Audited financial statements should be shared among the board members and made available online to comply with best practices. Investors will be particularly keen to see that the non-profit is open about the way they do business and follow action plans to a “T”.

Set clear guidelines and adhere to them

NFPs must stick to a set of clearly laid out guidelines to ensure that they are operating within the rules. If the rules are not specified in detail, then it is hard to determine whether the charity is working fully within its parameters. Clarify your guidelines for ease now to avoid problems in the future.

Donors, individuals and volunteers want to see the integrity of your NFP. When they notice the self-policing that goes on within the internal structure of your charity to meet the above issues, then they are more likely to trust you. Trust and commitment are paramount when it comes to forming relationships with potential donors and gaining their long-term attention.

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Executive VoIP Phone

When you are running any type of organisation, bad publicity can have a significant impact.  As a not for profit organisation where a large portion of funds may come from government grants or donations, bad publicity can even threaten the viability of the organisation.  As a not for profit organisation, bad publicity can come in many forms such as, for example, the result of fraud,  poor treatment of employees, the organisation wasting funds or donations not being used for the purpose they were raised.  As such, how would your organisation deal with bad publicity?

In light of the recent controversy surrounding Lance Armstrong and the impact it has had on the Livestrong charity he established, here are some tips that may help your organisation deal with bad publicity.

  • Initially try to identify the impact of the bad publicity.  For example, does it relate to a minor issue such as, for example, delays in providing a service or of a more serious nature such as fraud or misappropriation of donations?
  • Try to assess how the publicity may be communicated such as by word of mouth or via the media.  If the media is involved try to avoid making no comments as this implies you are trying to avoid something.
  • Be open and honest about the issue and tell the truth right from the start because if there are lies they are likely to come back and get you eventually.  Don’t do what Lance Armstrong did by denying and living with the lie for so long.
  • If there is strong negative publicity don’t hide from the issue hoping it will go away.  Get on the front foot and face the public or the media without delay.  This may include the release of a press release or a meeting with relevant people such as those who have been impacted or have raised the issue.
  • If needed, issue an apology and outline ways to address the issue and why it won’t occur again in the future.
  • If there is inaccurate information used then counter this and provide accurate information and evidence.

Once the issue has been dealt with or under control the board or committee of management must undertake a review to identify how and why the issue occurred.  As part of the review a strategy or plan should also be prepared that will allow the organisation to recover from the bad publicity and rebuild the reputation.

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Some people find it hard to ask other people for money, even when it’s not for personal gain, but when it comes to not for profit organisations, the responsibility to stay financially viable partially rests on the shoulders of the board.  There are however creative ways to create income without ‘fundraising’.

Neil Edgington from Social Velocity has practical and nonthreatening suggestions on his article 9 Ways Board Members Can Raise Money Without Fundraising.

Edgington strongly recommends using the personal networks of board members in a variety of ways.  Well connected members may have access to information that can add weight to a submission, tender or contract, or be in a position to arrange a meeting with a contact in a targeted business partner or customer.

Board members who are business leaders or entrepreneurs are also of great value in accessing extra income, as they may be able to help create or assess a business plan in relation to an earned income venture, highlighting opportunities and strengths, as well as potential risks.

Also discussed by the author and according to Penelope Burk’s annual donor survey, 84% of donors would “give again if they were thanked in a timely manner”.  A personal visit by a board member, and an explanation of why they are committed to the organisation might be just the catalyst the donor needs to dig deeper, or recommend a donation to another potential benefactor.

Another avenue worth considering but not discussed by Edgington, is whether your organisation has underutilised infrastructure or skills that are worth a premium to other parties.  For example, you may own buses or offices that can be used out of hours on a fee for service basis, or be able to offer consultancy, advice or audit type services in your area of specialty to organisations starting out or experiencing a period of change or review.

In an uncertain and less buoyant financial climate than one seen for many years, the responsibility of boards to assist in maintaining financial stability for their organisation is stronger than ever, but need not be confrontational or uncomfortable.  You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

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You have a mission statement and a strategic plan.  Your organisation has clear, realistic and measurable goals which direct what you do on a day to day basis; but have you identified your core values?  And why are they important?

In basic terms, your core values frame the decisions you make when it comes to achieving success in your organisation and industry.  Ask yourself, what are you prepared to do as an organisation, and who are you prepared to become in the pursuit of your goals.

Your core values are essential in establishing your identity and culture and have the capacity to attract and retain quality staff, encouraging them to go the extra mile for an organisation they truly believe in.

What does this mean on a day to day basis?  For example, if you are an organisation with religious affiliations does that affect your policies on alcohol in the workplace and is it ok to have a sweep on Melbourne Cup Day?  Will you accept projects from whoever wants to contract you or are you choosy about who you are associated with?

Your core values protect the integrity of the organisation and ensure your reputation remains intact, as well as giving your employees a personal and professional code of conduct.

You might consider the following 3 statements as a starting point.

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated – this is common sense!
  • The right thing to do is also the smart thing to do, regardless of the financial implications – this can be subjective, but follow your instincts based on the mission and culture of your organisation.
  • Do the ethical thing by all stakeholders, and do not favour any one group over any other – doing the ‘right’ thing by one group, particularly financially, could potentially disadvantage others to an unreasonable degree.

When it comes to writing your core values, make them real, relevant and true; steer clear of empty and baseless values which you think will look good on your website and in your foyer.  And ensure all levels of your organisation follow through!  Write the list and then live it!

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After winning a Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Community Business Partnerships I was asked to speak the following year at the awards presentation. Here is a modified version of what I shared.

My company Admin Bandit is in its tenth year of a successful partnership with the Canberra Preschool Society (CPS) and we have won two Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Community Business Partnerships (ACT). During this time, our partnership has far exceeded our initial plan to develop an accounting software package to make the task of being a volunteer treasurer in a community organisation fast and easy. I’m delighted to say the partnership has been an honour and privilege, not to mention an award-winning experience. So I’d like to share with you my top seven tips for establishing and maintaining a rewarding and long-lasting partnership.  

1.  Focus on solutions

Is a problem a headache or an opportunity? Dwelling on the problem itself is empty — you get nothing but stress. Whereas focusing on a solution is productive and can lead to exciting opportunities to change, grow or find new ways of doing things. Thinking “outside the square” is the key to discovering successful solutions. This is about being creative, investigating a problem with an open mind, being willing to change and seeking a “big picture” perspective. For instance, I was daunted when I first took on the task of volunteer treasurer on my local preschool committee in Canberra in 1999. After a little research, however, I realised I wasn’t alone — like me, 43% of others in the position had little or no accounting experience. I approached CPS and we both saw an opportunity to use my skills in software development to create a product to solve a widespread problem. It meant taking a risk and trying something new, but the result speaks for itself — our partnership has saved local preschools over $500,000.  

2. Find your balance 

I like to think of a partnership in terms of a see-saw. Two people of any size, shape or colour can successfully play on a see-saw if they make the effort to adjust or shift to find the perfect balance to move in harmony. If just one person stops working for the partnership, the whole enterprise literally comes crashing to the ground. What I’m saying is that a partnership must be a mutually beneficial arrangement in which both parties need to genuinely work for the good of each other in order to gain their own benefits. This requires flexibility, selflessness and maturity, but the result is a happy balance that is to everyone’s advantage.

3.  It’s not about you

Focusing on solutions goes hand-in-hand with focusing on your customers. It goes without saying that this is easier said than done, especially in a world that encourages us to think about ourselves and the bottom line. Making it easy for volunteer treasurers to deal with GST was a key aim when we began developing the Admin Bandit software. Preschool association budgets are usually stretched to the limit and we knew being able to claim back input credits would provide much-needed funds for more equipment and resources. It’s a wonderful feeling to know our partnership is enriching the lives of parents and children going through our preschool system and will do so for generations to come. In our experience, what goes around comes around, often with surprising benefits. For example, we’ve won the ACT Small Business Award in the Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Community Business Partnerships for the last two years. — what a fantastic boost for our marketing and morale! We encourage you to ask how a business partnership can enrich the lives of people in your community. Answer this question and you’ll be able to meet real needs and provide a service that truly makes a difference. 

4.  Do your research

Research is the only way to really make sure what your partnership does meets your customer’s needs. This can be as simple as casual chats and web searches or as complex as a focus groups and surveys. The important thing is make sure your research methods help you accurately identify and understand your target market. Of course, this takes time. In our case, what started out as a product for volunteer treasurers in preschool associations evolved into a long-term pilot to test our customer’s needs right across the community sector. We used the information we gathered plus further research to make sure our software hit the mark. In the process, we discovered our customers wanted an online version of our product and have used this opportunity to develop a new partnership that will help us realise this need in the near future.  

5.  Look for chemistry

You choose friends you like, so why would you settle for less in a business partnership? One secret to the success our partnership is that myself and CPS Executive Officer Diane Thornton genuinely enjoy each other’s company. This is especially important in a partnership between small organisations — you need to look forward to meeting together and enjoy a good laugh. Of course, compatibility is about more than being “best friends”. It’s also about sharing the same values and beliefs about doing business, so you can work effectively and in agreement towards a common goal.  

6.  Know what you want

When establishing your partnership, be clear about your desired outcomes and create a plan of how you will achieve this together. Some of your individual goals may be different, so make sure your plan realistically meets the needs of both parties. In our partnership, for example, our key aim was to support the volunteers. The way Admin Bandit could contribute to this aim was by developing an accounting software package designed specifically for the treasurers. So we worked together to create a single solution to meet the desired outcome. While our partnership has grown beyond these initial expectations, they remain the foundation on which we continue to build our partnership.  

 7.  Maintain the relationship

I have a huge outdoor table made from a slab of River Red Gum, around which I’ve enjoyed many meals with family and friends. It’s a beautiful table, but requires regular maintenance to keep it in tip-top condition. If we don’t sand and oil it every six months, the table’s rich grain and wonderful red colour starts to fade and the wood gets a bow in it. Keeping your partnership productive and healthy requires similar maintenance. Instead of sanding and oil, use open and honest communication and, where necessary, constructive criticism to refresh your vitality and smooth out any bumps. Each caring application will contribute to creating an attractive and long-lasting joint venture.

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WIC Supports Women in male dominated IT and Communications industry

 Admin Bandit, provider of software to support the treasurers of not-for-profit organisations, would like to commend client “WIC – Women in Information and Communications” for the wonderful work they are doing in our community.

Women are now making an impact in the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) field, which has long been dominated by men.  The problem is that the imbalance of gender has often led to women leaving the industry by the time they reach middle management.

WIC is a not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to bring people together to champion women in ICT.

Totally managed and run by volunteers, WIC provides a forum in which members can network with others and learn and be inspired by leaders in their given fields.   The HOT Breakfast Series of events is an outstanding example of their philosophy at work.  The most recent event featured Amanda Green, the GMU Enablement Executive at IBM.  She is one of a number of women in senior corporate roles who are prepared to show members how to survive and thrive in the ICT field. 

President of WIC, Mrs Tammy Ven Dange, says “We are fortunate to have a means for both public and private sector to come together to champion women in ICT.”  Individuals, government agencies and corporations alike have joined WIC as members.. IBM and Fujitsu have been great sponsors over the years as well.  The sponsors allow us to keep our events affordable for individuals at every level of the career ladder.

WIC’s ‘WICked Woman of the Year 2010’ Nerida Gill, is owner of Admin Bandit which is an online accounting solution for volunteer treasurers.  Mrs Ven Dange credits the Admin Bandit system with making work much easier for the volunteer staff, saying ”We now have the capacity to do more for our members because our financial systems are all automated.”

If you would like to come along to one of the HOT Breakfast events you can register online at http://www.wic.org.au .  You do not have to be a member to attend, nor do you have to be female.

For more information about “WIC- Women In Information and Communications” please go to the website http://www.wic.org.au.

For more information about the other not-for-profit clients of Admin Bandit please contact Nerida Gill Ph: 02 6176 0030 Web:  www.adminbandit.com.au

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