Our Community's top 10 tips to keep your group on the
If you're on the board or committee of a community group it's
your responsibility to ensure that your organisation is financially
healthy and that it's fulfilling its regulatory responsibilities. You
can't delegate that responsibility to others (and it's not advisable to
just hope for the best).
Here are our top 10 tips for keeping on top of it all.
- Be wary of
late reports. The board/committee must agree on how often
it needs reports from the treasurer and insist that they're delivered
on time. Late reports can be a sign of troubles (a failure of duties at
its most benign; deliberate omission at the other end of the scale).
- Watch the
budget. Your organisation should set a budget at the start
of each year and the board/committee should check in regularly (at
least once a quarter) on how you're tracking against it. Any large
variations in income or expenditure should be investigated immediately.
- Check the
bank accounts. As well as the financial reports that are
prepared by the treasurer, the board/committee should request the
tabling of a printout of the bank accounts (as they stand today) at
each meeting. If the reports don't match the statements, it's time to
ask some questions.
signatories. No one person should have full control of
money going out. Your rules should call for two signatures on cheques
or internet banking payments for any amount above spare change.
- Never, ever,
EVER sign a blank cheque. This should go without saying
but it still happens.
double-handling. Ensure the person who collects the money
(membership fees, ticket sales, donations) doesn't bank it. Having two
people's hands on every transaction helps to safeguard against leakage.
- Create an
annual calendar. Between keeping your insurance up to
date, reviewing your policies regularly, fulfilling your fundraising
and annual return reporting obligations, notifying members of and
holding your AGM (not to mention doing the actual thing that your group
was formed to do), it can be hard to stay compliant with all the rules
and regulations your group is subject to. But that's no excuse for not
doing it. Create an annual calendar for your organisation that
pinpoints all the key dates for reporting and renewals and run through
the relevant month's list at the start of each meeting to ensure you're
responsibilities. As responsibilities are assigned, make
a note of them in the minutes, then follow up at the next meeting to
ensure what's been promised has been done.
- Ask lots of
questions. As a committee member it's your responsibility
to ensure you have all the information you need to make good decisions.
Never shy away from asking questions. If someone evades answering,
that's just a reason to ask more questions.
- Trust the
process, not the person. We all like to think the best of
people, and mostly that trust is justified. To guard against the rare
cases where it's not, ensure you have strong (and non-negotiable) rules
in place. Your organisation's financial framework should comprise
policies and procedures that live beyond any one committee or person.
Check out the free guide, Damn
Good Advice for Board Members: twenty-five questions a not-for-profit
board member needs to ask about the finances, for tips on how
to get started.
Our Community provides training and free online help sheets
and policy templates for grassroots not-for-profit organisations on a
range of topics, including fundraising and governance. Visit
Damn Good Advice for Board Members (PDF 3.4mb)
Order a free hard copy of Damn
Good Advice for Board Members