First Thoughts

Arts Finance. Building stronger nonprofits.

Spreadsheet diving

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It’s time for you to produce a report for one of your funding agencies, documenting how your org has used the funds provided through their generous grant. Can your accounting app easily produce this information? Or does this common reporting requirement force you to dive for a spreadsheet, in order to represent financial information segregated in the specific manner required, because your accounting app just isn’t quite set up to be able to handle it?

Charts of accounts are typically designed to capture transactional activity in a very linear fashion, and granted, that’s an important part of the process. But equally important is the consideration as to how you’ll want to see that information coming back out, as this often requires subsets of the linear account-based data going in.

Granted, it’s difficult for an org to know how they’ll need to see or provide output until that time has come. There is, however, a general rule upon which you can depend. Donors and grantors, responsible for revenue streams, generally want to see what’s happened to their revenue streams. That’s awareness you can work with.

To put it another way, you’re much less likely to hear “where’d you get the 5 bucks you just spent on paper clips?” as you will “Where did you spend that 5 bucks I gave you?”. Charts of accounts are too often tailored to answer the first question a whole lot easier than the second.

Whether you’re setting up a system for the first time, or considering readjusting an existing structure, providing a methodology to properly “slice and dice” your data to conform with all your reporting needs can make all the difference in the effectiveness of your financial tracking system.

As always, don’t hesitate to drop me a line if you have questions.

-Jed

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