I have to confess that in my heart I suspect that I’m a wannabe accountant. I actually love figures and financial information. One of my favourite roles was sitting on the SORP committee for seven years with a whole bunch of financial experts!
But one thing that has always struck me about charity accountants and finance professionals is how very unaware they are of how powerful their voices can be in the overall work of the charity and how often their views are not sought, unless it relates to the budget.
It seems to me that often they’re stuck in the box labelled ‘the people who count the money and say no’ and are not given access to the sorts of decision-making that they really ought to be a key part of.
In our sector money is not the motive for the work (such as it might be in the private sector). It’s the method by which we deliver our work. The job of the finance professional is to advise us on how to use that money to do the work – and they can’t do that effectively if they are not a key part of the decision-making of how that work is done.
In my view they ought to be fully integrated into the decision-making structures. They should be part of the conversations about how money is raised (eg involved in fundraising strategy), part of the conversations about how it is spent (eg, involved in the operational plans) and part of the conversations about how impactful the work of the charity is.
I think that finance professionals can forget that, certainly at board level, what they say often carries more weight than that of the CEO. Their opinion is really listened to because, let’s face it, everyone worries about the money. So, to not involve them in the wider organisation’s work is really shortsighted. The more they understand they better able they are to advise on how best to use the money.
Money raised is there to be spent – not to be saved – and if finance professionals properly understand the charity they are much better placed to see where money can be diverted from, or placed to better deliver the charity’s purpose.
We’ve always been hugely supportive of charity finance professionals at DSC. We publish loads of books and run courses to help them. But by far our most popular is our Charity Accountants Conference which we run in partnership with Sayer Vincent. So if you’re a charity finance professional do come along and hang out with people who understand you, the importance of what you do and value you beyond your skills with an Excel spreadsheet!