Heard that recently? I hear it far too frequently, and sadly, not from kids, but from grownups charged with handling money. If you are willing to ask for money, willing to ask other people to support your organization or cause, you must be willing to account for it.
As I talk to nonprofit organizations about raising funds, this phrase comes up regularly. While doing the ‘actual work’ of the nonprofit is truly its purpose and reason, keeping the house clean and accounts up to date is part of that work as well. Why? Because this is not a hobby any more. By choosing to formalize your efforts into an organized organization, the obligation to report the finances comes along with it.
Not in the Least Bit Subtle
“And how about financial reports and budgets, are you good with those? “ Numbers are an elegant, clean direct way to communicate. No, there is no nuance, and shading or kinda sorta’s with numbers. A donation was made for a certain amount, a program cost a certain amount. The result is just that, and it is purely a number. What that number means, and what it represents, good or bad, strong or weak, big or small; that is where the narrative comes in.
Have you ever been in a meeting where the first page of the budget reports that are read are the notes and miscellaneous? I think it because people have fear of those numbers: as a nonprofit leader and with a firm foundation in development, I love the numbers. They don’t tell the whole story by any means, but the profit and loss statement, the balance sheet and the budget frame the work we do.
Love What You Hate
Someone told me that I had to learn to love what I hated. At the time, it was working on building my calf muscle size, an exercise in futility, btw, but the lesson is well applied. Development, fundraising, events, nonprofit management and the checkbook must be based in ‘being good with the numbers’. Numbers will never hurt you, only in the way they can be used.
Embrace what you fear, with numbers, anyway; it is liberating and the very least you would want from your development and leadership. You may find that once you clear the hurdle of fear, that these numbers will do all you want them to: tell a story about what you do.
If you’d like to get more confortable with the numbers, get in touch here or call me on 310 828 6979.
Cindy Lauren is the Principal of Lauren Associates – non profit consulting
As well as advising Executives and Boards on all aspects of nonprofit management, the firm specializes in developing fundraising solutions for all sizes of organizations.
Verifying balance sheet by SalFalko on Flickr.