Administrative basics

Any organisation takes quite a bit of work to get it running. Running an organisation involves setting up a stack of policies and procedures. Here are helpsheets to assist you in setting up the policies and procedures you'll need.

You need:

  1. A set of goals and strategies

    Have you worked out what you want to do and how and when you want to do it? Discuss this with your friends and associates, and with the people you'll be working with. Without a clearly defined and understood purpose, not-for-profits tend to drift and lose focus. You need to sort out your strategy

    The strategic planning process identifies the steps necessary to work toward the organisation's potential, and determine the resources needed to implement the plan. Try and establish your operational priorities for at least one year ahead.

    Bear in mind that some legal points can impact on your strategy. If you think you are likely to be applying for tax relief or charitable status, for example, you must remember that raising money for old people is a charitable end but that lobbying the government to raise the pension is not. Bear in mind, too, that once you've got this sorted out and written in it will be hard to change later. Take a bit of time thinking through all the aspects of what you want to do.

  2. A board

    You need keen, motivated, competent people to fill the different roles in the organisation. You need workers, volunteers, members, officebearers - Secretary, Treasurer, President - and a Board or a Committee of Management. You don't necessarily need a mass membership at the start, but you do need workers. This is the hardest part of any startup. As soon as you have a core of workers, set up a Committee that can take decisions and record them.

  3. A constitution

    Most organisations get by on a fairly minimal amount of committee meeting procedure - there's nothing worse than a person who keeps jumping up to take points of order - but it's still safest to have a set of meeting rules to refer to once every couple of years.

  4. A computer

    If the tasks you're facing are uncomplicated enough not to need a computer, they almost certainly don't need a formal organisation. You need to have access to something that will do wordprocessing, printing, and basic accounting.

  5. An accounting system

    You will need a system to record and keep track of all transactions. Start an account book. If the amount of money involved is large enough for you not to want to carry it around in your pocket, look at opening a bank account (bearing in mind that banks charge fees).

    You can begin a very small organisation on the basis of chequebook stubs and receipt carbons, but you should really develop a proper basic bookkeeping system that can cope with growth. If you can, it is a good idea to have an accountant or bookkeeper help you set up a set of books from the start, then let someone who feels comfortable with numbers and figures take on the Treasurer's position.

  6. A budget

    A budget is not the same thing as a set of accounts. Accounts help you deal with the money you have; budgets deal with the money you estimate will come in to the organisation and the amount you will need to spend. For this reason, it involves a certain amount of guessing.

    You need to make your best estimate of your likely income and your likely expenditure in order to see whether you can keep operating. Go through your strategic plan. Note everything you are planning to do and estimate what you will have to spend on it. Estimate your income; are there going to be any grants? Any fees? Will you have to rely on donations? Do not simply assume you will get enough donations to fund your planned expenditure. Be realistic. If you can't count on that income, it might be wiser to reduce your spending.

  7. A risk management plan
    • Look at what might go wrong.
    • Devise ways to minimise the risk.
    • Look at insuring yourself against the unexpected.

  8. A fundraising plan

    Start small and close, looking for donations from the people around you. Then think of how to set up a balanced and sustainable funding flow based on