Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Board members are typically older-in their mid 40’s to late 50’s. At this stage of life people have developed in their careers, made significant financial decisions, and have developed some “life wisdom”, that brings value to the non profit organization.
However, don’t discount the benefit of bringing younger members on to your Board. Although they might not have the life experience they can bring new insight and energy to your Board. It is generally recommended that your Board include someone with financial expertise and someone with legal expertise. Many Boards have difficulty finding professionals in these areas. They can tap the resources of someone in these areas with 3 to 5 years experience in their field. The expertise they have, even at this stage, will be valuable. As long as the individual knows when they need to research and when to ask questions, they can be beneficial.
Also, consider a “junior Board” for younger adults to participate in. Determine what rights this Board would have and what Board meetings they would attend. This is basically a Board in training from which hopefully you will develop future board members. Make sure, though, that this junior Board has an opportunity to share their suggestions and observations with the Board and that as much as possible, their ideas can be used. Give them responsibility over certain functions (like elements of a fund raising event). This Board needs to feel that their commitment and time is valuable to the organization.
Friday, March 7, 2008
Here is a model to help narrow focus. Look at your financial picture. Get it down on paper. Where are the current revenues sources coming from? What programs generate what type of funding stream? Analyzing objective financial data can help point you in the right direction. Next, use a matrix to classify ideas.
Classify your ideas into four categories: low risk or high risk and high return or low return.
The low risk ideas are likely to be successful. More people can be reached, better response rate to treatment more likely, etc. These are proven concepts with a likely chance of success. The high risk ideas are the long shots. Maybe it is a great idea, but you aren’t sure if it will really work.
The high return refers to the dollars likely to net from the idea. What type of donations will this attract? How will the fundraising event do? What type of program service fee could be charged? What are the costs associated with the idea? When you compare the revenue generated in excess of the costs what is the net return?
Next group the categories into quadrants.
High return, low risk concepts go in the upper left quadrant. High return, high risk ideas go in the upper right quadrant. Low return, low risk ideas go in the lower left quadrant and low return, high risk ideas go in the lower right quadrant.
Those ideas in the upper left quadrant are most likely to be successful. The concepts in the lower quadrant are least likely to be successful.
It is assumed that the ideas generated will be mission focused. However, if you feel your organization has drifted from its mission or is spread too thin you can substitute high mission and low mission for the low risk and high risk considerations.
Although you probably have a general perception of the ranking of the initiatives, charting them out and attaching objective financial data, clarifies things for everyone. Initiatives that offer a high return and low risk are the ones you consider first. Low return, high risk concepts may be less of a priority.
This model can also help you narrow down what you need to do to make an initiative better—how can more revenues be generated, how can risk be minimized—to improve a concepts position in the quadrant.
Pairing the objective financial data with subjective program information can help you see which ideas have the best chance of success.
Monday, March 3, 2008
1. We are all only human. If cash regularly passes through our hands and there aren’t any checks and balances, how long before we need $5 for lunch one day and decide to borrow the money. We might pay it back, we might forget. Time passes and later we need more money. If you are reading this and thinking—that would never be me—remember that many people who ended up taking large sums of money from their company said the same thing, with equal conviction, at one time.
2. We need to protect others from false accusations. You never know when the political climate of your organization can change. You may be doing well financially now, but in three years if finances change, people sometimes starting looking for somewhere to place blame. If someone falsely accuses another of misappropriating funds, you want to be able to say—“no, that’s not possible because of…(name safeguard that is in place)
General rule of thumb—make sure 2 to 3 people are involved in every financial transaction. Small organization? Make sure items go before the Board. Involve the Board in approving bills, signing checks, reviewing the monthly bank reconciliation, and reviewing monthly financial reports.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
Nonprofits argue—we can’t do that. The needs are too great.
Let’s look at this from another angle. When a nonprofit has cash flow problems and is always running short on funds, how much time is spent trying to figure out which bills to pay first, calling creditors, paying late fees, etc. That is time that could be better spent meeting those needs. Instead it is wasted time and costly decisions are sometimes made in haste. And it is all because the nonprofit did not live within its means. Think what you could do with more money. Want to have more money in the future? Manage it well in the present.
Monday, February 18, 2008
How do we save? Simple, spend less than you make. The same seemingly simple philosophy applies to nonprofits too. No matter how great the need, how successful the program—you need to live within your means. You cannot start a new program based on what you think donors might give to you once they see the success of the new program if you don’t have money saved to kick off the new program. You can’t keep running a program when funding was cut for the program three years ago and no new sources of funds have been developed. Nonprofits that are successful for the long run have learned that you can’t spend what you don’t have.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
There are a lot of elements of AI that I can see would be beneficial to organizations. It can enhance the traditional strategic planning process, especially for organizations that have been through the process several times before and might be looking for a different approach. Even in informal planning processes, reframing a question from a positive standpoint can open up dialogue that helps find solutions. It is a process that I would like to explore more.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
I cannot yet determine if the value of the recommendations exceeds the additional time on our end and the cost on the client’s end. However, many changes take place that don’t necessarily have a direct and equal economic value to all the participants. Hopefully industry wide the changes will provide value across the board and the long term result will be fewer problems with financial reporting.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Organizations (especially small to midsize nonprofits) noted a change with their financial statements last year. If they outsource the preparation of the financial statements to their auditor, they will need to evidence their ability to take responsibility for the statements. This could be done by completing a disclosure checklist or other steps. While a number of our clients were pretty familiar with the various disclosures and could comfortably discuss their financial statements, they did welcome the opportunity to learn a little bit more about the statements and why the disclosures are there (after an initial hesitation). The more knowledgeable an organization is about their financial picture, even in seemingly insignificant areas, the better overall picture they will have of their operations.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
In a previous post I discussed employee vs. subcontractor decisions. If you do have subcontractors, you need to send them IRS Form 1099-Misc by January 31. The form is due to the IRS by February 29. A subcontractor is:
- a person or business that is not incorporated
- that provides you with a service
- that you pay more than $600 to during the calendar year
Common situations where you could have a subcontractor could be your cleaning service, landscape service, the disc jockey for your fundraiser, or people who you bring in to do temporary work.