This is a note to management and finance committees, wardens, elders, boards and committees of management – staff and volunteers
Last week we had a call from a new treasurer in difficult situation and it reminded me of the many previous times people have called us with the same predicament. This is a summary of their words to me:
“I am the new treasurer and I can’t access anything to do with the finances.”
“What’s happened?” I asked, fearing some form of tragedy. “Please explain the situation and we will work with you on a solution.”
“The previous treasurer, who had been doing the books for a long time, died recently and had all the passwords, memorised: Xero, bank, ATO, Payment systems
The person also knew how to use Xero and was maintaining the accounts and preparing all the financial reports. We are not sure of the status of the accounts – up to date or when
We had been intending to get copies of everything but it never happened – they were too busy and we couldn’t find anyone else to get onto it.
What do we do? Can you help us please”.
During further discussion the inquirer revealed that the previous treasurer had:
- been paying all the bills
- presented all the reports
- had a lot to do with all the maintenance issues and bills
- handled the audit arrangements
Note, there was no suggestion of fraud there.
This may seem a crazy situation, however it is not unique.
There are warning signs all around this type of situation:
- Only 1 person is involved in the finances – even 2 people is not enough
- The auditors had not highlighted to the management about the issues (this is not unusual because very few accountants and auditors understand church accounting)
- Such limited financial management exposes the church or NFP to fraud – easily. In many cases it may not discovered until it is too late to recover the past or deal with the person/s involved
We have been assisting churches and NFPs for 25 years and we have seen this scenario many times. We don’t want your church or NFP to be caught in the same predicament.
So, I realised that it is time for us to share the story with you and pass on the warning. If your church or NFP’s financial management is like this, then NOW is the time for change, NOW is the time to introduce new processes and procedures
There are some principles that you can use as the basis for the discussion about what to change and how your finances can be managed much more effectively and with real transparency. Also, it is not a matter of size of the organisation this same scenario can occur in small or large churches and NFPs.
- Management of the church or NFP are aware of and set the processes and procedures, their documentation and approve any changes especially around security matters
- There are regular, eg annual, review of processes and procedures and reported to management
- More than 1 or 2 people are involved in managing the finances and money transactions
- There is more than 1 person with access/knows the latest administrator passwords: bank, Xero, ATO, Payment gateway, and many others
- There is a register of passwords – obviously accessed by a few key management people (staff and volunteers as appropriate), including all finance related building and property services and providers, website, email,
- The role, duties and responsibilities, of treasurer/accountant and bookkeeper clearly documented and approved
- No-one can be allowed to be indispensable – sadly none of us know when a tragedy may overtake a person (such as death, hospitalisation, called away to their family urgency). It is also kind to the person that they know the work will continue beyond their direct involvement.
- You and the management take action NOW
We would be happy to assist you work through any issues that you may have, you may suspect or that you appear to have in your local situation.
You are welcome to Book a Chat to discuss this
Some general or specific services we offer:
- Training for your management committee about financial management for a church or NFP, including all these matters of security, access, how to structure and write the processes and procedures. We have done previously done this for others
- Ideas/brainstorming for solutions applicable for your church or NFP
- Examples of how other churches and NFPs are managing their way through these scenarios. Learn for the experience of others – successful and failings
To find out more or book one of these services: Request for assistance via our support page or Ask for assistance
Very useful reminder. We are working on putting processes in place. As the new treasurer I am surprised that there is no digital filing system or shared emails, or back up. Having just gone through the floods we recognise that physical files can not be relied on.
Thanks for your comment Taiana. It is good that you recognise the needs of your church’s administrative systems. We appreciate that it is helpful for you. I hope the next series in our blogs on “Wisdom in admin and financial management” will also be helpful. filing of all finance documents can be done in Xero and there is no need for separate backups of the Xero data because of the internal security of Xero. If you have any specific questions please email us at [email protected] or Book a chat