There might be a veritable gold mine in the relationship you have with board members, especially the relationship you mine with your board Treasurer. Here’s how you can tap that vein of gold in the right place and at the right time.
Your board Treasurer’s job description is described in your bylaws. In general, the Treasurer is responsible for reporting financial results to the board and assuring that the board has the financial information necessary to make sound decisions. At a minimum, your Treasurer should take the information you provide, make sure it meets the needs of the board and pass it on up.
That’s the minimum. Think outside the by-laws on how you can proactively develop a stronger, more meaningful relationship with your Treasurer. You might discover a partner with a wealth of experience and knowledge who will help you and your organization stake your claim and strike it rich!
Here are a few key points;
1. Like a good map, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can help you navigate. Make sure your Treasurer understands your KPIs and how your organization compares to similar non-profits. The more your Treasurer knows about your financial status, the more he or she can help you think through financial questions and brainstorm options.
2. Policies can establish the right boundaries, similar to staking your claim in the gold fields. Educate your treasurer on your financial policies and seek guidance on improving them. Your policies should be written and also be approved by the board when they are first adopted and whenever they are revised and updated.
Consider revising and updating your polices annually as part of your budgeting and planning process. As your organization’s size, complexity and life cycle changes, so should your policies and processes. (This link will download a sample Financial Policy from the Nonprofits Assistance Fund.)
3. Engage your Treasurer in a discussion about the goals of the board and finance committee. This information is worth its weight in gold to financial operations staff. Understanding the goals will help you to better navigate operational decisions, and to improve the budgeting process.
4. Protecting your gold can be a difficult task. Be aware of risks to your reputation and your organization’s assets. This can be complex, so seek advice from your Treasurer. Accountable and transparent processes help your organization fulfill its stewardship and fiduciary responsibilities.
Be proactive in designing sound checks and balances to protect yourself, your organization and your board. Work with your Treasurer to evaluate how duties are segregated and to define opportunities to improve internal controls with board oversight. For example, ask your treasurer to review bank statements and credit card statements on a monthly basis.
You don’t want embezzlement to happen on your watch. Non-profits are high risk for these kinds of moral shenanigans because non-profit leaders tend to trust anyone who supports their organization’s mission. As Ronald Reagan admonished Mikhail Gorbachov during disarmament talks: Trust, but verify!
5. Ensure you have the right tools for your mining operation. Use your accounting system to enforce your policies, procedures and segregation of duties. Give staff and volunteers only the user rights each needs to do his or her job. For example, separate responsibility for adding vendors from the person who processes accounts payable. Your payroll processor should not be able to change pay rates or set up new employees in the system.
Working with your boards Treasurer to incorporate these five key points will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge into your nonprofit.
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
Denise McClure brings over 20 years of experience in public accounting, business management and non-profit board involvement to her work as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). Her business, Averti Fraud Solutions helps businesses and non-profit organizations become more profitable, secure and efficient by creating accountable and transparent work environments.