Does Your Organization Need a Financial Tune Up?

Written by
Chris Bertoncini

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A Check-In Now Can Help You Make More Informed Decisions in the Future

In our work with clients, we continually strive to be as efficient as possible. Focusing on producing financials provides management teams with a clear and accurate picture of where the organization is and information to guide their organizations toward meeting their missions and goals. When we begin our work, either for ongoing services or a financial assessment, we often encounter financial processes that could be improved by fully utilizing the features of an organization’s financial software.  At the top of the list of inefficient processes we see is organization’s that keep track of financial information outside the accounting system, such as recording details on grants or program costs in Excel, while the bulk of financial transactions are recorded in QuickBooks (QBs).  Having these dual reporting systems raises the likelihood of human error, increases the time needed to prepare financials and, given that there are a limited number of hours in a day, decreases the time available to review the numbers for reasonableness and to understand the story that the numbers tell. With a goal of producing more meaningful information on a recurring basis to allow for informed decisions, let’s focus on some financial processes we recommend be implemented to improve your financial practices.

Chart of Accounts – Keep it Simple, Focused and Flexible

  • Simple - The structure should be as simple as possible.  That said, if an item is considered important to follow, a line item should be created for it in the COA.
  • Focused - Narrow it by using main account and sub-account groupings.  This will support collapsing and expanding the COA and reporting at different levels.
  • Flexible – You should carefully consider any changes to the group/sub-group structure.  Ask yourself twice why/if a new group/sub-group is absolutely necessary.  That said, if you add a new program/department, it should definitely be added as a class so that the financial information associated with that program can be readily tracked and reported upon.

QuickBooks Set Up

  • Set up QB file to support collapsing and expanding the COA. This facilitates reporting at different levels – Board, Committee, Executive Director/Senior Management, and Department/Program Management. Collapsed reporting will present the ED and Board with financial information appropriate for their strategic direction duties, while expanded reporting will provide Department and Program Managers with the details they need to effectively run their departments/programs.  And should the ED/Board wish to drill down on specific group information, that information will be readily available.
  • Program and Department Tracking- Use the Class Function to record program and department expenses. This includes collapsible and drill down features. If you use this function, you can basically create your statement of functional expenses directly from QB.
  • Donor Tracking- Use the Jobs Function to track income sources. You can input multiple grants from same donor separately and use the collapsible and drill down features to see all grants from one donor or each grant separately
Budget Better Budget
Operating plan for the year X X
Realistic view of organizational needs and available resources  X  X
Provide a baseline for performance management  X  X
Robust process involving necessary team members  X
Useful for all necessary audiences X
Easily replicable structure for future years X
Combines the best of bottoms-up approach and strategic planning  X

Create

  • Start with a big-picture conversation about the budget narrative
  • Work closely with department and program staff to understand funding pipeline or revenues and costs
  • Make sure to document key assumptions

Track

  • Create monthly budget-to-actual reports

Assess

  • Examine the reason behind the budget-to-actual variances
    • Timing?
    • Shift in focus?
    • Unexpected events?
  • Carry forward learning to next year

Use the above tips so that your financial information provides you with the necessary information to understand how you are doing and helps create a roadmap for the future.

We can help you tailor your QuickBooks file to your specific needs. For more information, please contact Saleha Walsh, Vice President, or Russell Greenwald, Vice President, at 781-235-1490.