Survey On NFP Accounting Training Needs

About 50 people responded to our survey on training needs of people involved in not-for-profits last month – thank you very much.

The biggest needs identified were all compliance-driven: 92% of respondents rated ‘Producing Financial Statements for Audit’ as ‘crucial’ or ‘very important’. ‘Meeting the legal financial obligations of our organisation’ and ‘an efficient system for tracking funding’ were the other two top-ranking options in terms of importance. Workshop topics around these areas were the most popular, with ‘accounting for grants and government contracts’ getting the most potential attendees.

There were differences between smaller organisations (less than $50,000 in annual income) and larger ones. Larger ones overall considered training much more important (and more often than not ‘crucial’) than the smaller ones. They rated accurate information for decision-making as well as useful accounting software as equally important to producing financial statements, whereas the smaller groups were overall more relaxed.

Large differences also emerged according to the position of a person within an organisation. Board members were the most relaxed about everything, and there was no majority of Board members that found any accounting or admin issue being ‘crucial’. Managers, on the other hand, saw tidy admin and accounting systems as a survival issue for their organisation, and recognised the importance of good financial information for internal decision-making rather than just external accountability.

New Financial Reporting Standards

Organisations felt reasonably comfortable with what may be required under the new not-for-profit financial reporting standards brought into effect in 2016. About a third believed this will be no problem at all for them, and a further 50% thought they will need to do only a little bit more than before. However, a large majority of 85% wanted CCA to put on compliance workshops, preferably continuously from 2014 onwards.

Board Training

There was a curious divergence in opinions about how useful training specifically for Board members would be.  Managers strongly preferred their Boards to receive specific training, but the Board members themselves were only lukewarm, with only half of them wanting this at all. Paid administrators roundly rejected the idea of Board training altogether – none of the 12 who responded to the survey thought this was a good idea.

CCA continues to offer specific Board training for your organisation, which can be scheduled for the time of a regular Board meeting, and usually free of charge (for smaller groups).

2014 Workshops

We’re working on a workshop programme for 2014 at the moment, which will include compliance workshops for the new compulsory Reporting Standards. Freestyle answers indicated that a number of respondents struggled with accounting software, and especially any functionality that goes beyond the ‘basics’. We will try to address that in addition to a similar suite of workshops as we ran in 2013.

Unfortunately we omitted to ask about computer training needs. We often notice that organisations are not making good use of MS Excel (beyond simple arithmetic formula) or Word (such as the built-in referencing, style and formatting functions), and do not use local networking to share documents or printers across computers (without dependence on a ‘cloud’). Cloud computing is also poorly understood, and few organisations appear, for example, to have assessed the implications of using free cloud services on client or staff confidentiality, document security and other aspects. We may trial one or two workshops around such topics.

Individual daytime workshops were far and away the most popular choice, but there was also significant support for a comprehensive online training programme (this was the second-most preferred option overall, and much more preferred than a physically delivered comprehensive course).


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