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Do you have what it takes to be a good fit for the role of treasurer in your organisation? Before you say “yes” or “no” to the position, look at our list of the top traits shared by successful treasurers.

Integrity

Integrity means various things to different people, but at its heart, to have integrity means that you are honest, dependable and trustworthy. It is the number one trait that treasurers, as well as the other board members, should have. When someone has integrity, it means that others can count on them to look at situations objectively, and, to do the right thing.

For nonprofits, this means that others are safe putting their trust in you to look out for the best interests of all your stakeholders, and the public at large.

Patience

Another trait that is critical for nonprofit treasurers is patience. As treasurer, you will be called on to simplify complex financial information and translate it for others that don’t have extensive backgrounds and experience with accounting and finance. Treasurers need to have their fingers on the pulse of their organisations, and to be able to answer questions and provide their input on matters that may only be tangentially connected to your NFP’s financial health.

Persistence

To fulfil their oversight role, treasurers must be ready to follow the trail of their NFPs past financial moves. They need to be able to look through the records of former treasurers and be prepared to deal with the unexpected, including changes in accounting practices that have affected the way that specific valuations are determined and accounted for. They need to be prepared to see that effective and transparent practices and policies are put into place that lowers the risk of loss for the nonprofit. Each of these tasks can be both time consuming, and, stressful over time, but a good volunteer treasurer has the determination and responsibility to stay on top of these and other tasks.

Availability

While automated bookkeeping software has simplified many of the most basic, time-consuming and monotonous accounting tasks for treasurers, there are still many duties that require the treasurer to be available. NFP meetings, preparing reports, and getting the NFP ready for independent audit can all lead to treasurers needing to be available outside of the hours of a “traditional” 9 to 5 position.

Good treasurers are available on an as-needed basis and are always ready to weigh in with their other board members to answer questions and make sure that everyone has the information that they need to make good decisions for the benefit of the nonprofit.

Comfortable Dealing with Numbers and Handling Cash

While it’s not necessary to have a specialised degree in accounting or bookkeeping, or have direct experience in the financial sector, it can definitely help. Regardless of their previous experience, a good treasurer will be comfortable with figures, as well as handling large amounts of cash. They are prepared to enter transactions, especially those that affect nonprofit monies, as soon as possible. They “play by the rule,” and are responsible and do not disburse funds without board approval and require proper documentation before making disbursements.

A good treasurer also recognises the benefits from continuing education. They are open to taking classes and attending training courses to help them strengthen the skills and knowledge basis that they need to perform their tasks and fulfil their duties well.

An Analytical Mind with an Eye for Details

A good treasurer is also someone who tends to be very practical. They can analyse problems, zero in on the fine details, and perform tasks in a very planned, methodical manner. Being able to think, plan and act logically helps them to spot discrepancies and trace them back to the source, whether the source is a simple human or computer error or a deliberate act, such as an instance of internal theft or another form of fraud.

Ability to Act Decisively and Impartially

The best treasurers are always able to separate their personal feelings about a person or proposal, from their professional, legal duties. They can thoroughly analyse the facts around a situation and make impartial decisions that are based on what is best for the nonprofit and the population it serves.

If you possess these seven traits, then you are well on your way to having what it takes to make a great volunteer treasurer. Like other forms of volunteer service, it is a great way to give back to your community and help others! If you have the time and ability to do so, you should consider serving in this capacity!

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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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When a new nonprofit first forms, the budget is likely to be very lean. Startups typically struggle during this phase as they begin to organise and recruit the initial team, define their mission and develop their strategic plans.

Resources are typically scarce during this stage as new nonprofits often struggle to bring in enough funds to cover their overhead and finance their service projects. Unfortunately, many nonprofits feel pressure to continue to keep staffing and overhead costs overly low, even once they have secured their finances and reached sustainable growth.

The High Cost of Shortchanging Development When Controlling Overhead

While it is important to take steps to ensure that funds are wisely spent in any organisation, keeping too tight of a rein on overhead can prevent nonprofits from investing in recruiting top talent, building infrastructure and expanding their capacity. In the end, this penny-pinching strategy shortchanges the nonprofit’s prospects for long-term growth.

The Importance of Building Capacity to Support the Mission

Service programs need resources if they are to be effective. Your nonprofit’s infrastructure needs to be able to provide the support that programs need so that they can be executed and operate properly and advance your mission.

For example, you might allocate extra funds and build your capacity by upgrading your hardware and software so that you can expand social media efforts and increase outreach through additional upgrades to your website and expanding your email marketing. Other ways to increase capacity include hiring a developmental director to assist with developing a comprehensive, financial strategy, and creating a more unified approach to fundraising for your nonprofit.

Convincing Your Board and Donors that Capacity Building is Worthwhile

A capacity building plan can help you to convince your board, donors and other supporters that it is necessary to raise funds specifically to increase your NFP’s capacity. Deciding which areas of your organisation need to be improved to increase the level of service that you provide is the first step of creating a capacity building plan.

Once you have decided on what areas can be improved with additional funds, come up with a timetable of how and when the funds will be spent. Define how your organisation’s impact will be changed and increased as a result of spending in each particular area.

Regardless of which area your nonprofit decides to build up to increase its capacity to support the mission, the important thing for boards and donors to understand is that this is money that is well spent. It is money that is necessary to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of your organisation.

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innovationWhen most of us hear the word innovation, we likely think of the creation of new products and services. The true meaning of innovation, however, isn’t limited to the invention of new things that no one has seen or dreamed of in the past.

The word innovation comes from the Latin word innovare. Meanings of this term include to “make a change from established routines and practices or to restore or renew something that already exists”. Innovative NFPs find ways to increase communication and successful relationship building with multiple stakeholders so that more individuals come to understand and support the nonprofit’s vision.

The following are some strategies that innovative organisations use to sharpen their focus and gather supporters to help them change either the entire world, or, at least their corner of the world.

Innovative NFPs Create and Maintain Communities

Forward thinking nonprofits can multiply their efforts, and increase their results, by focusing on the human element and seeking ways to connect with others. These organisations focus on communication to raise awareness and donations, building networks of like-minded individuals who come together to participate in the organisation’s projects.

Get Up!, is one Australian nonprofit that relies on its community of supporters and network of strategists to bring attention to environmental, civil rights and other social justice issues and effect change. Since its founding nearly a decade ago, the organisation’s supporters have raised billion in mental healthcare funding, and prevented the opening of new major coal mines that harm the Great Barrier Reef and other parts of the ecosystem.

Forward Minded NFPs are Open to Change and Experimentation

Charities and associations that are the most successful in terms of fundraising, and their ability to provide services to their communities, tend to not rest on their laurels. Rather than being content with doing things the way “they have always been done in the past,” the most innovative NFPs are open to trying new ways of doing things.

For example, rather than relying on traditional fundraising events to raise money, such as direct mail appeals, raffles and auctions, the Movember organisation utilises social media to raise awareness and donations via crowdfunding.

Since 2003, the organisation has issued challenges to raise awareness about prostate cancer and other health issues that primarily affect men. Some of the more unique events include volunteers growing a mustache during November. Supporters can also participate in physical challenges such as running a marathon or climbing a wall and then share their results on social media to encourage others to donate and get involved.

From its humble beginnings in a bar in Melbourne in 2003, this Australian charity has grown to now include chapters all around the globe. As of 2015, over $770 Million Australian dollars have been raised since the NFP’s founding, and over 1,200 projects that support men’s health have been funded.

NFPs with an Innovative Mindset Use Confidence to Power Change

While building a community of supporters, and experimenting with novel approaches to fundraising can make it easier for your nonprofit to accomplish its mission, willpower and confidence also play a powerful role in the success of your efforts. Being able to remain upbeat, positive and determined in the face of overwhelming odds can help your organisation continue to push for change and achieve results.

An example of this is the good work done by the Fred Hollows Foundation whose mission is to end preventable, treatable blindness in Australia and around the world. Each year, millions of people all around the world lose their sight, but 4 out of 5 of these individuals have a preventable, or treatable, cause of blindness.

The nonprofit continues the good work started by eye surgeon Dr. Fred Hollows, and is primarily focused on raising money to train doctors and other healthcare professionals, provide medical facilities, equipment, and antibiotics and continuing to perform sight-saving operations.

According to the foundation, “Our work won’t stop until the injustice of avoidable blindness is completely eradicated in Australia and in the rest of the world. We believe, without a doubt, this will one day be accomplished.” Since its founding, the organisation’s determination and focus have enabled them to restore the sight of over 2 million individuals around the world.

Is your nonprofit making progress towards its goals, is the completion of your mission in sight, or, is something holding your organisation back from achieving its peak performance? If you’re not quite hitting the mark for your fundraising and other goals, it’s probably time to look for ways to shake things up and try something new!

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