'Summer' spring clean your charity's administration
by Keith Nicholson
"I am never five minutes into stripping the clutter from my life before I start running into the clutter that is my life."
- Robert Brault
If, like me, you’ve missed the chance over spring to give your charity administration a thorough clean out then this is the article for you! Missed out on refreshing out of date policies, tidying up that year-end ‘miscellaneous’ account code with a million random things in it? Well why not have a ‘summer’ spring clean? For small charities, keeping on top of periodical tasks can be a burden when every staff member, volunteer and trustee is giving their all on keeping the charity moving. Don’t think of it as a chore, but as something to be done over the summer months with a huge payoff of a happy and healthy charity with no nagging stresses for you about when the HR policy is due a refresh! In fact, this eye on administration will be a comforting reminder that your charity is being well administered. Let’s have a look at a few ways that you can use the summer period to help keep on top of some of these important periodical tasks that drop to the bottom of lists time after time.
The Charity Commission provide excellent guidance on best practice and statutory duties of care regarding governance. Much of this is very dry, but why not take the opportunity of a summer spring clean to:
• Read over the Finance and Resilience checklist and the Essential Trustee pages on the Charity Commission website.
• Think about whether or not your board make up is working – do you have enough trustees with the right skills and experience to support the charity?
• Check the trustees have simple job roles so they understand what is expected of them.
• Write an attractive advert, if you need to recruit new trustees, so it is ready to be issued at the end of the summer.
• Review the reporting between the chief officer and the board to make sure it is of the right detail and is providing enough lead and lag information for the board to be able to react accordingly.
• Ensure the board have oversight and sign off of core policies and that all the policy review periods are up to date.
• Check your organisational strategy, business plan and budget are current, relevant, includes your contracted targets and is monitored and reported appropriately. Can this be summarised on a simple one page KPI sheet?
Managing and supporting staff is both a blessing when it goes well and a drain on time and resources when it goes wrong. Use the summer break to refresh your plans and policies to keep compliant and on the cutting edge of supporting the superstars that work and volunteer with you.
• Are HR policies fitting for the type of organisation you are currently running? Would a professional services health check ensure you are on the right side of compliant before you end up the victim of some minutiae HR policy detail?
• Are operational procedures clear and understood by all staff and volunteers? For example, are your safeguarding practices compliant with those of the local authority? Would it make sense to check your procedures with them, to refresh any areas needing improvement?
• Are appraisals up to date (do you have a simple way to track this?), do your staff have clear job descriptions and targets that match your business plan or contracts?
Finance and Returns
For most charities, the summer heralds the end of the first financial quarter. In other words, a good time to have an early look at your budget position for the coming year-end as well as providing all the information to the auditors for last year-end.
• Tidy up the year-end trial balance in your accounts system and ensure that all your paper or electronic records are passed to the auditors (could they give you an example audit file to help with this?).
• Take time to run through last year’s accounts to ensure you understand everything in there, pre-emptively dealing with any audit questions that might come up.
• Ensure that your budget is monitored and that you have a simple system to share financial information around the organisation.
• Diarise the Charity Commission and Companies House (if required) returns and make sure you have the relevant information available.
• Ask yourself if your treasurer or accountant could support with any of these tasks.
Whilst there is a lot to think about in terms of administering a charity and supporting and managing a lifeblood of people and beneficiaries, one thing that may help is to develop a one page calendar summarising all key dates in the next financial year – tax and VAT returns, board meetings, contract renewals and so on. Though this doesn’t replace an electronic diary reminder, it can however help provide an at-a-glance summary of the key events in the next year of the charity.
In summary, the summer spring clean could be just the thing to get on top of those administrative burdens and turn them into a tool demonstrating your charity is delivering excellent administration.
Do you struggle to find the time for fundraising? We specialise in helping small to medium size charities in the UK to develop their fundraising programmes and to secure funding for core costs and ongoing services. Get in touch with me at email@example.com to see if we can help to build your capacity.
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