How Community Accountants help Small Charities

By Jane Pickering, Development Manager, Action Together.

How did I manage to get involved in this? A question often asked by treasurers of small charities and voluntary groups. Often they have little or no experience of money management beyond managing their own personal finances but have stepped forward (or been ‘volunteered’ for the job at the last meeting when nobody else wanted to do it!). This leads onto more questions...What does it mean to be a Treasurer? What are receipts and payments accounts? What do accounts look like? What are restricted funds? What is a Trustees Annual Report? I need some accounts that have been Independently Examined – what does that mean? Auto enrolment – what’s all that about? The last treasurer has moved and we can’t find any of his records...HELP!

Unfortunately, panic and worry are emotions connected to running the finances of small organisations. As Community Accountants we can offer support to help develop confidence and good financial governance for small groups. Calm can be restored and the organisation can prioritise the good work they were set up to do. With one conversation on the phone we can help answer questions, we can email information; fact sheets on our website, templates to help with financial recording and a myriad of other resources to help support and strengthen the finance function within small charitable organisations. In a lot of cases this is all that is needed. If appropriate, we can meet to offer one to one support to put into action all of the procedures we have recommended. A friendly face that has experience and understanding to support and nurture the treasurer and, critically, the whole committee to understand how to manage their responsibilities in a simple and achievable way and, often, to realise how much they actually do know already.

We can take things a step further and offer an affordable and competent payroll and accounts service so that the organisation can decide to ‘buy in’ the work they do not want to do themselves such as running a small payroll or doing the bookkeeping. We can prepare and Independently Examine statutory accounts for the Charity Commission and Companies House if they are needed. As we follow organisations with their development they might start to look for contracts and need help with budgets, cash flow forecasts and costing and we can support with that.

We are committed to supporting our beneficiaries to develop some financial security whether they are a very small group of half a dozen people voluntarily managing a growing project in a deprived area of town, supporting neighbours to come together and make some real change in their street, or an established charity with half a dozen employees managing two grants and three contracts to support adults with learning disabilities. Our vision is of strong and dynamic communities in Tameside and Oldham that have the means to support themselves and their neighbours to enhance their quality of life. Having the confidence and ability to manage money within the small charity sector is a skill that can go a long way to achieving that vision.

For more information, contact Jane Pickering on 0161 339 2345.