About Us  |  Shop  | 

Community Resources - for Community GroupsInstitute of Community Directors AustraliaGive Now - for IndividualsJoin In Join Up - for IndividualsCorporate Responsibility - for BusinessGrants Management - for Government
Help Sheet

Financial Management and your group

In a not-for-profit organisation the Board or Committee of Management is ultimately responsible for finances, though it may sometimes delegate some responsibility to a funding or finance committee.  Through careful analysis and planning, good financial management should result in secure funding and the best possible use of available funds.

To manage your finances efficiently you need to:
  • Determine your resources 
  • Cost your needs
  • Set a budget and allocate funds to programs and /initiatives to support the organisation's mission
  • Administer the organisation's finances
  • Monitor and report progress against your budget

Administer the finances

Within the Board it is the Treasurer's duty to administer funds. The Treasurer's responsibilities include:
  • Maintaining financial records
  • Organising bank accounts
  • Accounting for all money received
  • Accounting for all money spent
  • Adhering to the organisation's terms and conditions of business (payment of bills, contractual arrangements)
  • Banking money
  • Signing off on outgoing expenses
  • Preparing monthly/annual financial statements
  • Preparing books for audit
  • Drawing up the budget for board
In small community and non-profit groups, the treasurer has little professional support and fulfills most of the jobs listed above. The position is usually a volunteer one, so it is a labour of love. The treasurer should have a good working knowledge of managing finances and realise that the position may require a lot of time and dedication.

In larger organisations where professionals are employed, the treasurer is normally supported by office staff and perhaps a a finance committee, so duties are shared. If duties are not shared the opportunity to seek external help either through a bookkeeper or accountant or through assistance internally should be investigated. It is important to ensure that the Treasurer is not overburdened, as burnout can occur and lead to disenchantment.

The Treasurer also prepares financial reports to assist with board reporting, future planning and performance monitoring. Treasurers should, where appropriate, keep up to date with relevant taxation legislation and legal requirements and ensure that they comply.

Budget

In order to plan a year of programs or events and to set goals, an organisation needs to know if its plans can be funded. Knowing how much money is available and allocating it accordingly gives an organisation a clear picture of where it sits financially at any given stage.

There is no point planning a new initiative if there is no money available to fund the exercise. Forward budgets stop organisations from falling unnecessarily into debt. Organisations that continue to overspend will eventually fold, so sensible budgets are essential for success.

Budgets generally coincide with financial years, and so usually commence on July 1. Planning for a budget starts earlier - how early depends on the size of your group, the amount of money you turn over each year, and the amount of time generally taken to prepare the budget. You should aim for the Board to sign off on the final budget by June at the latest, so all changes can be implemented for a July start.

Budgets cover two main items areas: Expenditure and Income.

Expenditure might include:
  • Rent
  • Salaries
  • Bills - electricity, rates, telephone
  • Stationery
  • Equipment
  • Insurance
  • Marketing/Advertising
  • Printing
  • Travel
Income might include:
  • Membership
  • Grants
  • Fees
  • Donations
  • Sales of goods and/or services
  • Bequests
  • Annual fundraising events
Obviously the bigger the organisation, the more line items will be attached to each of these areas.

When setting the new year's budget it is important to analyse the previous year's budget, but don't base your figures purely on that - use past experience as a guide and then anticipate spending according to the organisation's 12-month business plan. Take into account any expected cost increases that may occur (e.g. wages, electricity etc). One simple method of doing this is to apply an escalation factor to a previous year's results. But if you can insert preciuse figures then do so.

Preparing a budget involves making educated guesses on what costs and income will be.  It is always best to be conservative when estimating your income and realistic when estimating your expenditure. If you over-estimate your revenue and take on programs or staff in the anticipation of this increased revenue, then danger may be just around the corner. Extra funds are a bonus, too little could spell disaster.

It is also important to monitor your budget to keep on track. A comparison between budgeted expenditutre and actual expenditure should be completed each month and discussed at board meetings.

Plan for the future

While a budget serves a short-term (12 month) function, financial planning allows organisations to plan for the future, anticipating spending and income for the next 3-5 years.

To plan for the future an organisation needs to:
  • Develop contingency plans (for example, anticipate any funding sources that may dry up, and identify other sources of potential funds)
  • Plan for future events and programs and determine how much money will be needed to support them
  • Set financial goals - profit margins or reinvestment strategies
  • Analyse your services or your cause and identify relevant grantmaking bodies.

Tips

When managing your finances you should always be on the lookout for methods in which you can better utilise your precious resources. Here are some areas to consider:
  • Reduce bank fees. You can do this by making fewer transactions and running accounts that suit your organisation's needs, consolidate your accounts into one if you have more than one.
  • Manage time (a valuable resource). Consider Internet banking.
  • Utilise the expertise of members before seeking financial/legal/tax advice
  • Source the best insurance package to suit your organisation. Why pay for extras that are not applicable to your group's activities? Seek alternative quotes.

Reporting and Audits

Robust reporting of your finances and having your books audited by an independent auditor will ensure you stay on track. Clear and legible books enable an organisation to readily access information and provide accurate accounts to potential sponsors, grant making bodies, the tax office, etc.

Remember you have a legal responsibility to abide by tax and insurance laws as well as minimum wage laws and employment laws. Don't cut corners to reduce your expenditure and certainly don't cut costs at the expense of the law.

Good financial management allows an organisation to operate efficiently and plan for the future.

Our Community Pty Ltd   www.ourcommunity.com.au   ABN 24 094 608 705
National Headquarters: 51 Stanley St, West Melbourne Victoria 3003 Australia
(PO Box 354 North Melbourne 3051 Victoria)
Telephone (03) 9320 6800   Email service@ourcommunity.com.au