June/July 2014 Newsletter

This Issue

Adminstrator Issues – Administrators often feel caught between a rock and a hard place.

CCA News. – Enrolments closed, new office, and new baby.

Balanced Scorecards – One commonly used way to define and measure organisational goals.


The Administrator Conundrum

Whenever people work together there’s some tensions as well. One relationship that seems to be particularly prone to turn a little sour is that between managers (or Boards) and administrators.

Administrators have a pretty thankless job. They don’t directly advance the cause of the organisation or produce many ‘visible’ outputs; instead they provide the backbone service that allows the organisation to operate. As such they are often seen only in terms of what they cost the organisation, and their work is often viewed as a compliance function only. Some organisations have ‘mixed’ roles for their administrators, and they are involved in service delivery as well. If that is the case, the administrative part of the job has to compete with the more rewarding service delivery – and tends to come second.

In the evolution of an organisation, the administrator is often the second person to be employed. First comes the coordinator or manager, who may be the person with the original vision and who provides the impetus that makes the organisation grow. As it grows, administrative needs grow also, and managers are not necessarily very organised and are reluctant to spend a lot of their time slaving over paperwork. Enter the administrator.

The administrative needs to have a paper trail for everything, financial information preferably at the touch of a button and to meet deadlines and requirements imposed by funders then come into conflict with the drive of the organisation to apply as much of their resources as they can to advance their goals, and to minimise all other expenses. It doesn’t help that charities occasionally receive a bad rap in the media about the percentage of donations going into ‘administration’. No wonder that I have met quite a few administrators over the last year that feel besieged.

With the new financial reporting rules around the corner, administrative work will increase, and small organisations are disproportionately affected. Administration is skilled work that is difficult to get done on a voluntary basis, at least in the long run. Where there is no paid administrator organisations tend to fall into serious disarray when a key person leaves.

Not-for-profit administration is a lot more complex and involved than business administration for similar-size organisations. This is because of the multiple external accountabilities, a stricter separation between governance and management, and much tougher financial reporting requirements that not-for-profits are subjected to compared to businesses.

Administrative processes can often be made more efficient, however, and us here at CCA have been helping quite a few organisations spending less time over bookwork while still getting better financial information faster.


News Bulletin

Enrolments Closed

As we have reached our enrolment limit of 100 subsidised community groups we are not taking on any new clients at the moment. This will be reviewed in a couple of months when we have a better idea of the success or otherwise of our own funding applications. We’ve had to turn away some organisations already, which is a hard thing to do.

At the moment our turnaround time for audits or financial statements is around five weeks, although this can vary quite a bit depending on urgency and complexity. We generally attend to jobs in the order they come in, but we prioritise when there is funding on the line or there are other issues that make the job urgent. Thank you for your patience.

New Office

We’ve moved in with the White Elephant Trust at 442 Tuam Street and occupy the office at the South-Eastern corner of the building. You can find us by turning left in the foyer and go to the end of the corridor. There is (usually) plenty of available parking on the carpark for the complex. The building is still being renovated.

New Baby

Congrats to CCA staff Rhys and his partner Kylie for the birth of a baby girl called Amelia, born on Saturday 5 July. If you found Rhys even more elusive than usual lately, that’s why….

Balanced Scorecard for NFPs

The ‘Balanced Scorecard’ is a management accounting tool widely used in the corporate world to give managers guidance about what the organisation wants to achieve (and often there are bonuses tied to it). It can also help not-for-profits with setting specific measurable goals that are being reviewed regularly, for example from AGM to AGM.

The Scorecard has four ‘dimensions’, and for each dimension one or two measurable outcomes are defined. These dimensions are:

1.)     Financial

2.)     Clients

3.)     Internal Processes

4.)     Learning and Growth

The Learning and Growth dimension is seen as the foundation to achieve all other organisational goals leading, for example, to better internal processes which, in turn lead to better client relationships and financial outcomes.

Financial:There’s a number of possible financial goals that a not-for-profit could set, for example:

– have cash reserves of 12 months of expenditure.

– achieve a minimum of $ xx and a maximum of $ yy in grant funding for operational costs.

– run a 5% surplus.

For not-for-profits, ‘more’ is not always better: surpluses are not a good thing if the organisation already has a lot of cash reserves, for example, and acquiring more grants than can realistically be expended just means they have to be paid back.

Clients: Not-for-profits often have two categories of ‘clients’: those that receive the benefit (social causes, ethnic groups, the environment, sports teams etc) and those that provide the funds (funders; members; donors). A measurable goal for each one should be set, for example for service beneficiaries:

– Have xx members

– Run yy workshops

– Have a 90% positive feedback rating

Or for funders:

– All funders on newsletter mailing list

– All accountability reports filed on time.

Internal Processes:

Internal processes determine how effectively the organisation uses its funds. Funds do not necessarily need to be used ‘efficiently’ using commercial indicators as this may lead to the service rejecting time-intensive clients in favour of ‘easy’ ones to get more bums on seats, but they should be used to the greatest effect. Examples for internal process goals would be:

– At least 11 of 12 PAYE returns filed each year are free from errors, and no penalties have been incurred.

– Newsletter produced each month.

– Quality control checks undertaken on 10% of clients.

Growth and Learning:

This relates mostly to staff and volunteer training, but an organisation may also aim to get an external accreditation or review of its services, or start information sharing with a similar overseas group. The most common indicators used here are:

– staff/volunteer hours spent in training

– $$ spent on training/conferences

Provided only measurable goals are being used, achievements can be ‘scored’ i.e. goal was 95% achieved etc), and improvements (or the reverse) in these areas become measurable.

Balanced Scorecards are strictly for internal purposes. It is not a tool for external accountability, only for an organisation to manage its progress.