Just like the recent time change – “Spring forward” – it’s time to brush off our snow boots, pull out our light jackets, and put on the sunshine! Working at nonprofit organizations can be for a heavy cause, but that doesn’t mean we have to wear it like a winter coat. With the launch of spring, let’s inventory our mindset and get ahead of leadership expectations to blossom in key areas affecting nonprofits – digital transformation, collaboration, and optimistic dedication.
According to an article by Harvard Business Review, and I agree, “’Digital’ is not something that is happening to organizations, it has and continues to be the means through which work is accomplished.” As we take inventory on how we’re working with our financials and reporting out to leadership and the board of directors, what measurements are we using to ensure we’re efficient and effective? Here are few guidelines to use:
- Centralize accounting tools: Do you have the right accounting system that allows you to centralize your work tasks, such as maintaining the GL, Payroll and/or Budget? If you’re using multiple systems to manage your nonprofit’s financials, take a focused look at the time you’re spending and determine if it aligns to the industry average. If you’re spending more time going from tool to tool, than you’re contributing to daily work tasks, think of innovative ways to improve those processes.
- Empower ongoing education for staff: Do you have online learning for new staff coming in, or staff taking on tasks with your accounting tools? How is your organization keeping up with staff skills and empowering them to take continuing education courses? This is a good time to inventory whether the accounting tools you’re using provide online courses and/or in-person training to further the development of staff members. If they do, have these courses or links to training been communicated to your staff? Recharge them with these resources and you’ll find their productivity rise.
- Elevate reporting and dashboards: A best practice for nonprofit reporting is to be clear on which reports to create, review, and share. Our stakeholders can never be “too informed,” but if you and/or your team are reviewing financial statements, donor reports, quarterly and/or monthly reports, payroll reports, how are you accessing them? If an executive needs a report the same day, are you confident you can pull it together quickly? Nonprofit accounting professionals should be able to “automatically” create customized report templates, create basic financial reports, add formulas and calculated columns to reports, customize report formats, and apply graphics to reports. However, if your accounting tools are lacking automated features for solid reports and dashboards, you may want to evaluate other options.
Collaboration for the Mission
Getting through year-end closing or preparing for upcoming audits can promote autonomous work habits. We’re so focused on getting the data, delivering the correct tax forms and meeting deadlines, that we can often find ourselves doing work without the collaborative meetings. There is nothing wrong with all hands-on deck and heads-down for a season, but now is a good time to lift our heads, smell the flowers, and get reacquainted with our peers and the mission.
According to an article from the Council of Nonprofits, “… at the outset of a collaboration it’s very useful to take the time to jointly work out and write down ‘what success will look like.’ The process of identifying shared goals should also include exploring all the things that may go wrong.”
- Gain alignment on goals: Do you believe you are clear on the goals? If not, reach out to a peer or a leader and ask questions that may help fill any gaps you believe you possess. This exercise will recharge your soul.
- Participate in a meeting you don’t typically attend. As accounting professionals, sometimes we don’t even know the names of those in Marketing or Product Development. Invite yourself to the next Marketing Core Team or the Product Development Core Team. You’ll be surprised what you’ll learn about others’ roles in an hour’s time. Also, take the time to introduce yourself to faces you’ve seen for months and months, but don’t know their names. The larger the organization, the more this happens.
Win with Optimistic Dedication
Whether you’ve been in a business community for years and years, or you’re just entering the workforce, you’ve heard about the impact of an optimistic attitude. It’s true, positive thinking is contagious. We cannot control the political environment or people around us, but we can control our reaction to changes and the unknowns, AND the ability to influence. Take an introspective view of the attitude you’re wearing to the office and/or the field. Are you grateful for your position, your nonprofits existence and the culture for which you serve? If you have a cloud following you around, shake it off and grab some sunshine! Just a small adjustment will do you wonders.
Now, throw in innovative ways to stay ahead of technology and continue collaborating and you’re on your way to blossoming for this Spring!
If you’re looking to streamline your nonprofit financial management process, join us for our next MIP Fund Accounting webinar. Learn about a true fund accounting tool that can help you manage your nonprofit more efficiently and effectively…and will keep a smile on your face!