BLOG: Good financial practice in small charities

Charity Finance Group has over the years built up great niche expertise and experience to offer relevant and impactful support to large and medium charities across England and Wales in good financial management. The organisation is passionate about good financial practice that strengthens all the work a charity is doing not just those who work with the finances.

CFG knows that a successful charity is one where everyone who has an invested interest in it knows something about its finances and is aware of basic good financial management principles.

Up until now CFG has focused its attention on the larger charities but has now been able to broaden its focus to the whole of the charity sector. CFG is able, through a grant with Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, to reach out to charities with an annual income of £1m or less in England and Wales and Community Accountants/Infrastructure organisations.

The Small Charities Programme offers good foundational financial management training for small charities to strengthen what they already do, when an organisation has good, relevant strong financial management in place the rest of what the organisation is doing can flourish even more.

The small charities programme was launched officially on September 14th at Hays Finance and Accountant Recruitment. CFG has created an easy to use website for anyone who works with finances in a small charity to be able to book onto any of the many trainings and where you can also access free relevant resources that cover necessary foundational financial management. CFG is also working with Small Charities Coalition to help the programme reach, efficiently and effectively, as many small charities and groups as possible. These trainings will cost £20 and will run from January 2017 - July 2017 in: London, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Exeter, Yeovil, Frome and Bridgewater still more venues to be confirmed.

There are five key core trainings that are being offered around England and Wales:
How to prepare your annual reports, Budgets management accounts and cash flow forecasting, Introduction to paying people, Bank accounts, outsourcing, accounting principles and managing risk, and Gift Aid how to claim it, trading, and VAT.

These modules were identified in consultation with specialists who have more than 20 years’ experience in the sector. The training outlines were then shared with the programmer user group which is made up of people who currently work in a small charity with finance, they reviewed the trainings gave their feedback and the trainings were adjusted.

Currently we have started to test the training modules, style, and approach very practically with different small charities based on their annual income levels. In July we had 16 different small charities who attended the first pre pilot training which was based on 'Budgets, management accounts and cash flow forecasting'. The delivery and feedback from those attending the trainings was very constructive and encouraging. As a result of this feedback we are in a great position to trial the remaining four trainings with different small charities with different annual income levels to prepare better for the full role out of this programme across England and Wales.

The other vital component of this programme is to strengthen the invaluable work that community accountants and other infrastructure organisations are doing in support of small charities having stronger financial management skills and in building confidence levels. CFG is working in partnership with Navca to reach out to these infrastructure organisations effectively. Apart from the annual community accountants’ conference, we plan to have round table and online surgeries across England and Wales to engage with infrastructure organisations that deliver or would like to deliver financial services for small charities. The purpose of these is to better understand what their needs are and gaps in their services so we can strengthen them through training and to foster better collaboration. Many infrastructure organisations already offer vital, good value for money financial services for local small charities, the training this programme offers is to complement existing services and help sign post small charities to their nearest good financial services if they should need advice or wish to outsource to someone who knows what they are doing.

We hear plenty about governance, fundraising, training and social media etc. and how we need to spend time on these things to have a healthy organisation that functions well so that the lives can be changed and supported. But a vital part of what an organisation does is how it manages and reports on its finances. This core component is firmly on CFG's agenda and this programme gives the platform to bring this to the forefront as good healthy financial management helps to grow and develop a healthy small charity and sector. So please help to support this programme to reach those who don't know that they need to know these things by sharing about it and spreading it as far and wide as it possibly can go.

Nicholas Faraday is Small Charities Programme Manager at Charity Finance Group

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