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Archive for the ‘expense’ Category

Reviewing Financial Reports

s_falkow

Recently, I was asked, “What are some basic steps we can do to improve our financial management?”

I was visiting a local congregation and the leaders were in the process of reviewing their financial history, operations, and current accounting controls. In the meeting I listed off about five items, but in reflection, I thought I would create an official list of financial basics for nonprofit management.

Financial Basics for Nonprofit Management:

  • Tracking of Data- by tracking data, you can determine benchmarks for growth or decline. Be sure to track participation, income, expenses, donations (and levels of giving), and long term goals (and to communicate these to leaders, donors, and members).
  • Accounting Controls-many small nonprofits rely upon 1 or 2 people to handle all of their bookkeeping. This leaves them vulnerable to fraud and usually limits financial communications. Be sure to have monthly review of finances, independent reviews of bookkeeping, limits on spending, and requirements for approval of spending.
  • 6 Months of Emergency Savings- every organization should have 6 months of cash savings available to cover expenses in an emergency.
  • Line of Credit- as organizations grow, they can improve their cash flow by taking out a line of credit or operating loan. LOC should be capped at around 3 months of expenses, and often operate similar to a credit card for an organization.
  • Multiple Income Streams-no organization should only have one line of income. By creating multiple revenue streams, nonprofits increase their stability.
  • Endowment & Net Assets– Gone are the days when a nonprofit organization should operate at a net zero. By creating endowments and net assets, nonprofits can cover the cost of their operations, allowing more of their donations to immediately  go into outreach.
  • Facility Management– Buildings cost a lot to maintain and operate. If you own a facility, be sure keep up with facility maintenance, use it as resource, and improve it as building code and mission needs change- otherwise it can become black-hole that sucks money away from your mission focus.
  • Board Development- Board members are ultimately responsible for organizations- be sure board members understand their roles and that they are giving proper oversight of staff and operations.
  • Insurance- Be sure that your organization has enough insurance to cover its liabilities for its staff, operations, facilities, and to protect the organization from lawsuits and emergencies.
  • Management & Gift Policies-smaller nonprofits often lack staff, organizational management (by laws), and gift policies which help organize and outline how nonprofit organizations operate and how donations should be accepted and used.
  • Financial Relationships– this may seem like an odd item for this list, but knowing your bank manager, accountant, insurance broker, and financial advisers personally can be critical in emergencies and/or when you need additional help.

There are many other items that could be added to this list (brand management, communications, mission focus, etc), but these are some highlights to help you review how your church or nonprofit organization manages its financial operations.

 

 

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Earlier this week Guidestar posted the results of a survey that asked nonprofits about their fundraising and operations for 2011.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • 41% of Charities saw an Increase in Giving for the first 9 months of 2011 over 2010 (28% had less income & 31% no change)
  • 65% of nonprofits saw an increased need for their services– over the past 9 months compared to 2010
  • Approximately 50% of charities have some financial stress – income, cash flow, # of donors, non-donor income

For more information, visit Guidestar’s website

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Programmable Wifi Thermostats

The Nest

When most of us think about a HV/AC system, we usually picture an older furnace- rarely would we picture a sleek thermostat that connects to a wifI system. However, this seems to be the future of energy controls for commercial and residential buildings.

Since 2008, manufacturers have offered thermostats that can connect to a wifi system, thus allowing control and access to the system via the internet. This has been a great upgrade, but until now many of the programmable thermostats have been confusing to use. In fact, the US Dept of Energy realized that most people who purchased programmable thermostats, actually used more energy than before, because they were too complicated to use.

So in an effort to make programmable thermostats more user friendly, several companies have begun to create systems that can be controlled by a computer using a program like Microsoft Outlook set set room temperatures.  Other companies, have also begun to make intuitive thermostats that create a pattern of use based on how you adjust the temperature over a period of a few weeks.

With heating and cooling systems accounting for 16% of the electricity in the USA, and more than half of the energy consumed in a house, HV/AC systems will continue to be a focus for utility companies as they try to reduce the amount of energy consumed in the United States. This trend will likely also become a focus of more and more churches, facility managers, and home owners as the cost of energy continues to rise.

After all, the less money that people and organizations are forced to pay for utilities, operations, and energy, the more money they have to support the mission and programs that they value. For more information about changing HV/AC systems, please read the following articles:

Blog notes: Several of the stats given in this blog were pulled from these  two articles. The picture above comes from several sources and is provided by the company and can be found on their website- http://www.nest.com

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White Chapel

photo: edgeplot

Unlike most commercial businesses, which have a common standard by which to rate their financial operations and health, churches struggle to identify healthy financial norms.

Part of the reason for this struggle has to do with the following reasons:

  • Churches are faith based organizations
  • Church are contextual
  • Churches are organized by mixed polity (denomination or independent)
  • Churches are exempt from many IRS and government reporting requirements
  • Churches vary in size, financial support, and ministry
  • Churches don’t usually follow GAAP (General Accepted Accounting Principles)
  • Churches are run by volunteers

However, while all of these factors cause incongruity, there are a number of common ratios and principles that many churches share related to income, expense, debt, membership and worship attendance. I have highlighted a few of these in some of my earlier posts (please see: Financial Rules: Ministry Distribution), but another resource is a new financial database that was created by Capin and Crouse, CPA. (more…)

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Last week I was contacted by Bart Voight of Voight Creations about setting up a referral process for churches who might need visual renderings or 3D modeling for their various building or capital fundraising campaigns.

In many cases, architects can provide a simple floor plan or elevation sketches to help donors envision what the final project will look like. However, in some cases a church may wish to consider having a more detailed or realistic model, which can now be created with 3D technology (see image).

church rendering

Voigt Creations

In my conversation with Bart, I asked him, “What are the top 5 reasons a church may wish to use this technology?” His responses are below.

What are the top 5 reasons a rendering would be helpful to a church?

  1. Clarification of concepts and ideas-  the vision of the project
  2. Zoning or code approval- assisting local zoning boards (more…)

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On Monday, I talked about how technology can bridge the accountability gap that separates donors from beneficiaries, and in the post I shared that I would write 3 blogs showing how such examples can be used. This is the second of three posts.

You might have heard of Mark Horvath if you listen to NPR, watch CNN, or if you are a SXSW junkie-  He is the guy who started the the nonprofit organization, InvisiblePeople.tv, in 2008 to help tell the true story of homelessness in America.

Mark started the project when he found himself homeless, and when asked why he launched the site Mark said (excerpts taken from an interview by Kevin D. Hendricks):

Two things,

1) When I started InvisiblePeople.tv, I was close to 19 months unemployed, moving fast forward into foreclosure. I don’t think I could have filled out one more job application, and I filled out a lot. I couldn’t find work and I had to do something to keep from going crazy.

2) I knew from my own experience that the homeless story wasn’t being told correctly. We needed to empower (more…)

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I am just returning back to work after a week of vacation, and while I was away, I read an article that discussed how, “There is a lack of accountability within philanthropy because the people who provide the resources aren’t sufficiently well-connected to the beneficiaries they are supposed to be funding. ”

In short, the article said that technology can:

  1. Help bridge the gap between donors who provide the money to sustain a mission and those who receive the service as a benefit. (more…)

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