Finance

Protecting your charity's income

12 things you can do to stop your charity leaking money

Ahead of the of the Charity Accountants’ Conference, Adrian Burton, Auditel, shares some practical steps you can take to protect your charity’s income.

1. Get to know your supplier contracts

Know your key renewal dates/notice periods for all your supplier contracts. Keep a record of all assets and ensure you have prompts in place to act on notice dates thus preventing possibly being rolled into further contracts or moving onto higher variable rates.

2. Always contact new suppliers

Do not assume when moving a utility supply that it has transferred. Always contact the new supplier to ensure they have taken it over, thus avoiding a period on variable rates. Check if any money needs to be returned from the old Similarly, when taking on new properties suppliers can be slow in processing changes of tenancy. Do not accept them putting you on variable rates for the period it takes them to process, always ask for a price to be back dated to when you moved in. If you decide to move supplier when you take on a new property remember you will be charged variable rates until the change of tenancy is processed, for some suppliers this can take 6 to 8 weeks. Variable rates can be far more costly than a contracted price for the period you are on them.

3. Monitor your energy usage!

Have a member of staff monitor energy usage at all sites and look for anomalies particularly if you have It is not impossible that you are paying for a third party’s utilities! Try and have staff report monthly meter readings to suppliers. This can normally be done on line. This will make for accurate billing, and not high estimated bills.

4. Get a utility offer in writing before accepting

Encourage your staff not to agree utility contracts on the phone. If a call is received the instruction should always be that offers need to be received in writing before anything can be accepted. This should allow for any hidden charges and onerous contract clauses to be identified.

5. Get a clear picture of how you use telecommunications

Understand how your staff use telecommunications and other business services. An accurate usage profile allows you to buy the best fit for you, not just the best headline price on offer from a supplier.

6. Let office equipment leases run their course

When entering lease contracts for items such as photo copiers, franking machines ensure leases run there complete term where possible, and do not be persuaded by a supplier early to take on new equipment resulting in leases being carried forward.

7. Understand your buying habits

Control the purchasing of business stationery and other consumables and services. Understand your buying habits and purchase accordingly. Avoid shopping around as this increases your costs ultimately. Always consider the total cost of the purchase not the price you paid for the item.

8. Leaks can be costly

Check water bills for their accuracy. Also where possible take readings regularly. Water companies tend to only supply bills once every 6 months. So if you develop a leak it maybe sometime before it is brought to your attention by which time considerable costs may have been incurred. If read regularly then average usage can be tracked and you will see if any sudden increases incur.

9. Is your waste disposal service rubbish?

Know your obligations for the correct disposal of waste. Be aware that many of these services can be tendered. Is the service being provided by the current supplier right for you i.e. number and size of bins?, Number of bin collections?

10. Are you PCI Compliant?

Merchant cards: many charities  take card payments, ensure that you are PCI compliant to avoid additional cost. Have a rates review with your supplier annually particularly if revenue through card machines is increasing.  Ensure you achieve the minimum spend level on all your merchant accounts.

11. Check the Ts & Cs

When you are asked to enter a contract always read the terms and conditions and check for possible charges should you need to end an agreement early. Are any additional charges built in relating to goods being returned, or checks being undertaken by suppliers. Costs at the end of contracts can be substantial but if you know about them beforehand then you can negotiate on them before the contract begins.

12. Factor in delivery costs

Delivery costs: do you take these into consideration when ordering from suppliers? Remember to ask the question when tendering otherwise these can be a substantial additional cost.

You can find out more about how to implement an effective cost management strategy at The Charity Accountants’ Conference, Birmingham, 20-21 September