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Raising the internal profile of charity finance teams

Posted on 20/05/2019 by Angela Chellappah

Raising The Internal Profile Of Charity Finance Teams

Finance professionals may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think about charity workers, but a high performing finance team is essential to a well-run charity, giving staff and trustees confidence that their organisation is spending wisely, able to plan strategically and making a real difference to its beneficiaries.

Finance teams may be perceived internally as purely administrative, responsible solely for bookkeeping, payroll and reporting, but they make an essential contribution in planning for the future and contributing to strategy. Here are TPP Recruitment’s top tips for raising the profile of your finance team internally and making sure you get the recognition you deserve.

Step up reporting

According to financial consultants RSM, 30% of charity finance teams only produce financial management reports on a quarterly or termly basis, and 4% only produce them annually. In addition, nearly half do not provide any financial projections in their management reports – in the private sector, 80% of management reports contain projections.

While it may feel to Finance Directors that they are constantly producing reports and updating spreadsheets, supplying Trustees and senior management with the information they need regularly is vital for them to really grasp their organisation’s financial position and plan strategically.

Consider the reports you currently produce – does anyone actually read or use these? Could you make them more meaningful by presenting the data in a different way, for example by using more charts and visual representations? Or could you include more analysis of the existing data that will aid management and trustees in making decisions and give the finance team more credibility?

Provide training for non-financial staff

Reporting on your organisation’s financial health and future performance is all very well, but if charity leaders and Trustees cannot understand the figures and their implications, it’s really a waste of time.

According to the recent charity trustee finance competency survey from the Charity Finance Group, 87% of charities felt that their organisation would benefit if their trustees had a better understanding of strategic financial governance matters, and only just over half felt their trustees understood financial governance matters at least “well”.

If Trustees do not really have a good understanding of their charity’s finances, it could have a dramatic effect on both future growth and performance and their impact on beneficiaries. Finance Directors could help their boards perform better by giving them suitable training and advice in understanding their reports, and by encouraging trustees to seek out further education and training.

Other staff could also benefit from training from the finance team. Managers may ask for long reports, when they really only require one statistic. Giving them read-only access to accounting systems and coaching to access the information they need, could both help free up valuable time in the finance department and lead to more informed decision-making.

Many not for profit organisations are now choosing to employ Finance Business Partners, whose role is to work in partnership with budget holders and to communicate and advise on financial figures and to aid in decision making.

Become champions for change

Recent research from not for profit Eduserv suggests that only a few charities are making the transformational internal changes required to face the challenges and opportunities presented by digital technology. This kind of transformation requires champions to lead it and Eduserv feels that finance teams are well-placed to become digital advocates.

Finance professionals have a unique overview of all parts of their organisation and are well positioned to understand how digital technology might be used to improve the way their charity works. Plus, finance directors are often also responsible for their organisation’s IT department, which would play an integral part in updating the infrastructure.

In order to become these digital champions, finance teams need to embrace their own transformation. By introducing up to date software, streamlined processes and more agile ways of working, finance teams can free up the time needed for their employees to develop the skills and knowledge required to deliver digital change.

If you’re interested in learning more about how finance teams can lead digital transformation in non-profit organisations, have a look at the slides from TPP’s Recruitment’s recent breakfast seminar on Embracing Digital Change. Featuring guest speakers from WaterAid,  who covered both the context of digital changes and the specifics of the finance function.

Review what was covered here.