Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Self-Governance Checklist For Not For Profit Organisations

Running a not for profit organisation is not for the faint of heart. Not only are you responsible for the day to day running of the organisation but also for the continuous liaising with the board, stakeholders and others involved with the organisation. Add to that the need to ensure you are complying with all government regulations regarding not for profit organisations and in particular, self-governance conditions, and all of a sudden starting a not for profit organisation takes on a whole new meaning.

Of course, running the NFP is worthwhile for the cause/charity involved but it isn’t going to happen without a dedicated team who are committed to ensuring it is run with precision and care to ensure the best possible outcome at all times. Your board needs to be not only in line with your cause but must also have the skill set to ensure the NFP runs like a well-oiled machine including fundraising, staffing and meeting all reporting obligations.

It is not good enough to assume that someone in the organisation is meeting the statutory reporting needs as part of their role. This is a large part of running an NFP and needs to be allocated to a specific person who not only has the right skill set but the understanding of the importance of meeting these guidelines and ensuring that they are met on a regular basis.

One of the biggest areas outside of funding compliance, is the reporting and compliance of tax and superannuation guidelines for not for profit organisations. The Australian Taxation Office provides a wealth of information for NFPs including this handy Self-Governance Checklist for not for profit organisations. This checklist will allow key stakeholders to review and understand the organisations obligations for tax and superannuation reporting and allow them to put in place the necessary procedures to ensure these items are met in a timely manner as required by the Australian Taxation Office.

There are serious consequences if not for profit organisations fail to meet reporting requirements and it is not a good enough excuse to pass it off as someone else’s role. This role needs to be clearly defined from the outset and allocated to someone with strong skills in this area who will ensure the organisation’s performance and reputation are never brought into question. 

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Organisation is the Backbone of NFPs

Whether it is the start of a new year or the middle of the financial year, being organised in all aspects of your NFP is important. There is no denying that running an NFP is not as easy as it looks, so it is integral that all the I’s are dotted, and the T’s are crossed. This is vital for any corporation but particularly for non-profits when your donors and beneficiaries are high on the priority list as is the overall reputation of your company.

Have a Variety of Team Members and Spread out Responsibilities

Whether you are blogging or fundraising, it is important that you make the time to adopt systems and procedures so the team and their responsibilities are laid out explicitly. No one wants to feel that they are pulling more than their fair share of weight - volunteer or otherwise – and everyone needs to feel rewarded at all times.

Accounts also need to be reconciled to eliminate errors. Regularly reconciling your accounts ensures that everyone who handles the accounts is only using the charity's funds to pay for authorised transactions. It also helps you to quickly catch any errors made by your group's bank or other financial institution.

Make sure your team is Qualified

It is imperative that you have a qualified team in place to ensure that errors are not made, particularly ones which lead to being a security risk in the long term. This means having electronic copies of everything and double checking all figures with your financial provider. For everyone's benefit, ensure all the financial matters of your NFP are overseen by more than one person. Let at least two people bear witness to the records and account activities, so there is never any shadow of suspicion, or outright loss of money within your organisation.

Security is Number One

When you cut corners, your security systems are wide open for error and corrupt practices. The most basic form of security is the password, and that’s where many NFP personnel go wrong. If you haven’t changed your password in a while, then it is paramount that it takes priority - today. Don’t wait until the last minute to get things done.

Avoid Delays At All Costs

There are many duties that must be fulfilled to get your NFP's finances completed in a timely manner. Delays can occur often in the process, and can result in the loss of time and funds for your NFP. They can also lead to late filings at the end of the financial year, which can result in fees and other penalties for your NFP. It is these delays that can upset the entire process as well as the fine balance between donors and the running of the operations.

When bookkeeping procedures are followed routinely, and the NFP’s systems and procedures are organised, with appropriate technologies and safeguards in place, mistakes become minimal and even often non-existent. In these cases, a volunteer treasurer's role becomes simpler and much more enjoyable for everyone involved with the charity. The longer you spend working for an NFP, the more you will release that high levels of quality are essential to meet all the business objectives.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

2016 Commonwealth Bank Not-for-Profit Treasurers' Awards

Being a successful volunteer treasurer takes an extraordinary amount of effort, work, and teamwork as well. Many volunteers come into the job thinking they would like to make a contribution and quickly discover their work includes some of the most important tasks that need to be done for their entire organisation to even function.

Banks Know How Hard the Work Can Be

The Commonwealth Bank sees this play out all over the country each year, as they provide banking services to not-for- profit organisations. In order to encourage and show appreciation for those who take on the work of keeping the books in order, the Commonwealth Bank is holding Not-For-Profit Treasurer's Awards this September.

Nominate Yourself or a Friend

Perhaps, as a treasurer, you feel you have great ideas and insight that others would benefit from finding out. Make sure you put it all down on your application, as one category of award is going out to those who share their knowledge and contribute to the betterment of all treasurers. These are in the form of 3 $5000 prizes, which can be donated to the organisation the treasurer nominates.
Maybe you know of a treasurer who is the steady, punctual, accuracy ensuring centre pin that holds your organisation together. Make sure that person gets a nomination, as all those who are entered will receive a certificate of appreciation, letting them know just how much their hard work is noticed.

The Community Financial Centre

The Not-For-Profit Treasurer's Awards also help draw publicity to the resources the Commonwealth Bank makes available to people in not-for-profit organisations through the Community Financial Centre. This is set up to educate and empower relevant individuals who work as volunteers, with essential skills to understand and easily navigate a number of hurdles that can slow treasurers down. Volunteer Treasurers can get help with banking, fundraising and account keeping queries, from experts who know the not-for-profit sector well.

Prepare to Be Awarded

The Commonwealth Bank has been involved in Australian communities, including not-for-profits, for over a century. Each year the bank is eager to facilitate the sharing of knowledge between the very best volunteer treasurers across the country, as well as offer appreciation to every treasurer who puts in hours of effort to make sure our not-for-profit sector remains a robust and colourful part of our society. Make sure your treasurer is entered to receive an award this September. More information can be found here.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

ATO App Makes Fundraising Easy

Smartphone technology is impacting many sectors, and there is an app or ten for just about everything you can think of. Relevant to the non-profit sector, the Australian Tax Office is making the most of widespread app use by developing one of their own. The Australian Tax Office App, contains many useful tools, including a function called myDeductions.

What can it do?
MyDeductions can be used by taxpayers to track, throughout the year, the deductible expenses they have incurred and donations they have made. This eliminates the possibility of receipts being lost, or having to be reissued, and will help many users file more complete returns. People or organisations who regularly contribute to the fundraising efforts by non-profit organisations will be pleased to know it is now easier than ever before to ensure their contributions are acknowledged and met with an appropriate deduction at tax time.

How does it work?
There are several simple steps that need to be taken, and then anyone can make the most of this tool. The free app should be downloaded from the app store on the appropriate device. After a donation is made, the user can enter the information into the highly personalised and secure app, including the cause, date and amount donated. They can also take a photo of the receipt, and all of this information is then safely stored, ready to be retrieved when needed.

Who can use it?

It may be beneficial for non-profits to share information about the ATO app with their benefactors, as it could encourage some supporters to give more, or more regularly. Many will be excited to find out they can input any number of deductions into the myDeductions tool, including vehicle use, equipment purchases and other work related expenses. As a lot of individuals forgo claiming everything they are entitled to because of the extra legwork involved in storing and sorting receipts for a whole financial year, some will be grateful to learn there is a new, simple, alternative. And you never know, they may even opt to show their gratitude by making a bigger contribution to your fundraiser.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

The End of the Financial Year for NFPs

The end of the financial year is literally just around the corner, is your NFP ready? As a volunteer treasurer, there are a host of duties that you must fulfill at the end of the year.

End of Year Duties for Treasurers

End of year functions for the treasurer include getting your NFP's accounts in order, compiling and filing various reports, making sure your paperwork is in up to date before any independent reviews or audits, calculating GST, as well as preparing for the start of the new fiscal year. The volunteer treasurer isn't the only board member, however, with duties and responsibilities at the end of the financial year. 

Directors and Board Members Also Have a Role to Play at the End of the Financial Year

As part of their oversight and fiduciary duties, directors and other board members also have certain responsibilities at the end of the financial year.  For example, board members have a responsibility to ensure that they have a solid understanding of their NFP's finances and that they have the knowledge necessary to be able to understand financial reports, and question the accounting methods and information used to compile reports and statements, including the various NFP budgets.

Even though board members are not involved in the day to day management and operation of the NFP, they are still responsible for seeing that the books are kept properly, and reports and other documents are filed on time with the ASIC.  Directors and board members should also take steps to ensure that adequate controls have been put in place to ensure the fair and transparent handling of cash and other assets and that accepted accounting standards are used by the treasurer.  They must also take steps to ensure that any audits are conducted by professionals who are impartial, unbiased and avoid any potential conflicts of interest.

Don't Wait Until the Last Minute to Compile End of Year Financials

There are many duties that must be fulfilled to get your NFP's finances and filings completed in a timely manner. Delays can occur nearly anywhere in the process, and can result in the loss of time and funds for your NFP. For example, if your accounts and other paperwork are not in order before your audit begins, it will take the auditor more time to complete the audit, which can result in the auditor charging a higher rate. Delays can lead to late filings, which can result in fees and other penalties for your NFP.

Treasurers should already be working on preparing for the end of the financial year now in to avoid the extra cost and hassle that can result from unforeseen delays and complications.

As a board member, you can help keep your NFP on track by checking in with the treasurer to make certain that they have all of the resources that they need to get ready for the end of the financial year.  If there are newer members of the board that have less financial experience, consider offering a short class or training now, before the end of the financial year, to help bring them up to speed on the ins and outs of your NFPs finances and their responsibilities as board members.  

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Bookkeeping Mistakes To Look Out For

Being a volunteer treasurer for a community organisation can be a stressful post for some. The responsibility of the organisation's continued operations and growth depend on the financial side being steady and well accounted for. While it is an important job to get right, there is no need to lose sleep over it. Many possible mistakes are easy to avoid by looking out for problems that have plagued others in the past. Keeping this useful list of “do's and don'ts” in mind can help you avoid common problems with your bookkeeping. 

Don't let your records get behind.

The best way to maintain accuracy in bookkeeping is to keep it up to date. Even when expenses seem straightforward, letting things slide for a week or two can create a lot of extra work when trying to verify expenditure and earnings.

Don't throw away receipts

It is important to keep receipts for a few reasons. Of course, they are useful to maintain accuracy in the bookkeeping, and they can also speed up answering any queries about the bookkeeping that might arise.

Don't connect personal and organisational accounts

Sometimes, particularly when a group is just starting out, the desire to keep things 'simple' at the bank will entice someone to use an account connected to a personal one. It is simpler only for a very short time, and we strongly encourage that accounts begin and remain separate.

Do reconcile bank accounts

Allocate time regularly, perhaps weekly, to make sure your records and the bank's records match up. That way, any discrepancies can be caught early, and figured out before other problems result.

Do share responsibility with other members

For everyone's benefit, making sure the financial matters of an organisation are overseen by more than one person is critcal. Let at least two people bear witness to records and account activities, so there is never any shadow of suspicion, or outright loss of money within your organisation.

Do use up to date accounting software

A system like Admin Bandit can make keeping accurate books simpler and more time efficient. It is a small investment to make for big returns, and can make the treasurer's job a lot easier,  perfect for volunteer treasurers, who do not always have an accounting background.

When bookkeeping procedures are followed routinely, with appropriate technologies and safeguards in place to prevent errors, theft or accidental loss, mistakes become minimal, often non-existent. Then, a volunteer treasurer's role becomes simpler and much more enjoyable.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The Better Boards Conference 2016

For three days at the end of July, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre becomes home to the Better Boards Conference. As the website for the event states, it is “the premier governance and leadership conference for leaders of Australasia’s non-profit organisations.” This year's conference theme, “Game Changing Moves... Governing for Maximum Impact” and will especially address issues boards focus on as they adapt operations with newly developed game-plans.

There are early bird tickets available for the event until April 27th. It is consistently noted in the event promotional materials as well as in testimonials from previous attendees that not only office holders, but all board members can benefit from seminars and discussions held throughout the days of the conference. As well as attending seminars, the opportunity to meet with members of other organisations and share expertise and experiences can be invaluable to the effective running of non-profit organisations. Such meetings help foster the 'all-for-one and one-for-all' approach that community organisations are well known for. Board members meeting with others in similar positions in different organisations often creates bridges with benefits that run both ways.

The conference also features expert keynote speakers from a range of professional backgrounds. Leisa Prowse has been a board member of Lady Gowrie, Queensland, for nine years, and has served as Chair since 2010. Lady Gowrie is a leading early childcare provider, with a turnover in excess of $33 million. Prowse brings a background in strategy and operations experience, and has contributed to more than 160 projects in her time as a community leader.

Another speaker scheduled to attend is Om Dunghel, who is the director of Settlement Services International. Dunghel has over 25 years experience in government, private and non-profit-sectors, and was recently awarded a Lifetime Community Service Medal by the Premier of NSW for his significant contribution and commitment to refugee settlement and migrant advocacy in the state. As founding president of the Association of Bhutanese in Australia, and a current Director on the Board of Settlement Services, Dunghel brings a lot of insight and experience to the Better Boards Conference.

Attending the conference is an opportunity to access much valuable information, and ideas about implementing game-changing initiatives in your organisation. Also, as the website states, it is a chance to “escape the daily grind and focus on your governance.” Be sure to make the most of this opportunity.