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Strengthening your Nonprofit’s Finances and Who is Responsible

Do you really need another bookkeeper? The full financial picture of an organization is extensive and includes a variety of elements: compliance, fund management, audit (programming agency and external), board management/ presentations, and day-to-day financial analysis/advisory. As the organization matures and experiences growth, the complexity of each of these tasks increases, challenges and opportunities increase, and as a result, the workforce or financial accounting team begins to expand, but bringing on another bookkeeper might not be the best move.

Years of experience has taught me that due to immediate and impending needs, the hiring process is done in a silo and employees are hired quickly and for niche skills, but that does not lend itself to creating a cohesive team. There is a great need for a team that operates with a well-prepared strategy and, more importantly, a senior-level supervisor who advocates for sound financial management.

5 Steps to Strengthen Your Nonprofits Finances

Set Clear Objectives for Existing and New Hires

Create order to keep the pulse of the organization strong. Establish clear objectives and job descriptions to minimize duplication of roles and processes. If the team members do not have a clear expectation of responsibilities or roles, or ownership for assignments, they may end up taking on a project where they are ill prepared with the necessary skills and knowledge. Where there is no leadership and direction, the team may rally, but they are not set up for success and there is no quality check. If you have not done an evaluation or provided direction for the financial team in the recent past, maybe it is time to re-evaluate.

Implement Financial Leadership

Leadership has oversight concerning all moving parts of the financial process and should implement processes for solid team execution. Consider a hiring role that includes the knowledgeable development of each of those processes and can fulfill the need for timelines, templating, and uniformity. Create, implement, train, reinforce. Each step is important and interdependent. This leader is essential to the quality assurance, alignment with organizational goals and ultimately communicating with leadership. In my experience, I recommend and value a qualified Financial Controller; if you already employ this role, evaluate their responsibilities.

Ask These Questions:

  • Are the right butts in the right seats?

  • How is the need for a Controller currently being filled?

  • Do we rely on someone now, but this responsibility is not in their current job description?

  • Who is the best fit for this job currently?

  • Is this a position we need to hire?

Review Process Development and Responsibility Assignments

Often, organizations are missing that middle manager role who manages the accounting, who oversees the internal controls, who makes sure those delegation of duties are clear and properly being followed and who ensures the processes are implemented correctly. Who is making sure that the audit process runs smoothly? Who is making sure that the bookkeepers that you have or bring on are being managed properly and are doing the right work? Are they doing it correctly? Are they following program reporting guidelines? Is your organization in compliance with both federal and state regulation(s)? Is there someone who is assigned to navigate disconnects and act as a problem solver for the nonprofits’ finances? As a decision maker, are you reducing or reinforcing the existing duplication of work that you frankly do not have time for-- the unwanted revisions and redoes

Create Quality Assurance Checks

Organizations are expected to steward all contributions to the organization and there are often extremely strict regulations, reporting guidelines and requirements. Leadership who puts the right team and process in place will provide the quality assurance for accounting, protect the brand and its investors, and ensure proper alignment with values and stewardship goals. When this role is missing, it takes executive leadership’s attention away from their goal of running operations for the company.

Revisit Mission Alignment

Alignment with the mission of the organization is central to an appropriately staffed finance team. The Controller is key to assisting the executive team in presenting financials that convey a simplistic, overarching view of the current financial situation for both internal stakeholders and external partners/ investors. Additionally, this role ensures compliance with program requirements, and rules and regulations for all federal or state governing bodies and reassures the team that all appropriate measures have been taken and maintains alignment as rightfully expected.

Remember, if the organization does not have this Controller position currently and/or your team has recognized the need for a similar role, the best time to make an organizational change is now. Truly evaluate if you need another bookkeeper, or if you need a leader, a Controller. Your Financial Controller is a GEM and a life saver in the non-profit space. People tend to go straight to the top and reach out to the CFO, but the CFO may be a different role and may need the support of an organized Controller.

If you are not sure where to start, we can help with:

  • Organizational analysis and diagnostics

  • Financial requirements for securing funding

  • Streamlining the financial operations process

  • Audit preparation

  • Compliance with state and federal regulations

  • Compliance / Relationship management with various funding agencies


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