September Round-up: The one where they go back to school

by | Oct 3, 2019 | Emma Willder

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Seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness and all that jazz. I absolutely love September and autumn (and not just because my boys are back at school!) I do like getting back into some sort of routine – that’s just the planner in me. It also feels to me as if September a new start. A time to buy new stationery, reflect and make plans. In fact, I think its probably better than January for making ‘resolutions’.

I think this is particularly true for charities that have got their year-end in December. It’s around this time of year they start to review their strategy, set their budget for the next financial year and take stock. That’s one of the things I have been focusing on in September – there’s been a lot of budgeting and a lot of preparing for trustee meetings.

Budgets are funny things, you are essentially setting a financial plan for the year ahead based on experience and assumptions – there are no givens, things can change, especially in the charity world. However, you can only work with what you know at the time so sometimes it’s wise to build in different budgeting scenarios. This isn’t as onerous as it sounds. Once you have your core budget you look at all the sensitives within it. What if you don’t get that grant funding? Have you got enough in reserves to see you through? Conversely what happens if you do get that grant funding? Do you have enough capacity and resource to deliver it? It’s these questions and others I have been pondering with over the past month. It’s essential that Trustees also understand these sensitives so that they can provide the appropriate challenge and support if things get tough.

It’s also not enough just to look at your income and expenditure – you need to look at your cash flow too. As they say, cash is king and without it, all the best-laid plans can go belly up!

As well as budgeting there has been a lot of preparing for Trustee meetings. I currently look after three charities governance so it’s my job not only to write papers for the Trustees to consider but also to co-ordinate reports from others. One of the key papers I write, apart from the financial ones, is a governance update. This aims to provide Trustees with any relevant information from the Charity Commission and others that may have an impact on their charity. I try and make this as specific as possible, thinking about the particular charity in question, their areas of operation and their beneficiaries. One of the key things that have been in all my reports recently is working with non-charities and the Charity Governance Code. The guidance from the Charity Commission is particularly handy as they have produced helpful checklists.

In terms of the Charity Governance Code, NCVO has just issued a checklist for micro charities which is aimed at those charities where there are no staff, just volunteers and/or Trustees. This is particularly relevant for some of my clients so one of the recommendations I am putting forward it that I undertake a review against this. If you’d like to have a look at the NCVO checklist click here.

Well that was a whistlestop tour of my September and now we’re in October – I can’t believe it. Where did the time go? Answers on the back of a postcard, please.

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