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Advice For New Treasurers

We all have a passion for what we do and sooner or later if you hang around long enough you get a job. This is especially true where there is a board overseeing the operations of your organisation. We want to be more involved, or through dire straights for the future of the organisation, you end up getting board position. The chair announces whoever intends to be the treasurer, please step forward, and everyone else takes one step back. So guess what, You’ve got the job!  What do you do now?

Questions a new treasurer should ask.

The word ‘thank you’ was mentioned quietly by a few people in the moments after I had was approved to be the new Treasurer. The incumbent had left a few months ago and now we were sitting at the AGM with all positions open. There didn’t appear to be anyone else interested in the role. To be honest I hadn’t really thought much about it, beyond the fact that I had financial knowledge and I thought it’d be good for my professional development.

I was sitting at our AGM with all positions open and no-one else seemingly interested in the role, so I’d offered.

To be honest, I hadn’t thought much about it before that moment in time. How hard could it be anyway? The last Treasurer had often been an apology, I had years of financial work experience and their financials looked good.

My advice for a new Treasurer? Understand the basics of the role and have a general idea of what to expect down the track. Click To Tweet

Treasurer tasks tend to follow a set monthly, quarterly, six monthly or annual cycle. So they won’t change much from year to year. If you have a well-organised predecessor, you’re lucky. But even if you’ve inherited a mess, you can get control of it and stay sane.

If you can, spend time with the outgoing Treasurer to walk through their files, take notes and follow up with questions.

The questions you’ll ask will depend on the size of the organisation you’re now the Treasurer.

If there’s no staff, your role will be hands on. Expect to be banking income, reconciling bank accounts, collecting money from fundraising activities and paying bills. You might also be called on to produce financial reports if there’s no bookkeeper.

If you’re Treasurer of an organisation that has staff and/or a bookkeeper, you’ll be focussed at a higher level.

Either way, here are some questions to ask:

Can I see last year’s annual reports?

This will give you at least two years’ worth of data. For starters, you’ll see if they’ve made a surplus, if they have cash in the bank, how much money they owe suppliers, and how much is owed to them. This will give you an idea whether they’ve been good custodians of their cash.

 

Who’s who in the zoo?

Within your committee/board, you’ll want to know who can sign cheques and/or approve supplier payments, whether they have a bookkeeper, who the auditor is. All of this will give you assurance they have a range of people who contribute to best possible processes.

 

What procedures do you have?

If the answer to this is met with hesitation it’s likely they either have no procedures, or they have something, but it’s incomplete, unable to be found (on someone’s computer or outdated). In small clubs and community group organisations, this is pretty standard. It’s not a reason to flee, but it means you’ll need to focus on getting some basic procedures done.  One example is a procedure for approving and paying supplier invoices. If you’re thinking ‘why bother’ it’s worth noting that grant funding in the future will include a risk analysis of the organisation as part of their funding criteria. If you’re a club without procedures, you won’t want to be competing for dollars with a club that has them

 

Who can train/mentor/guide me?

In that first year, it’s worth having someone who you can call on to give some guidance. When fees are due, which suppliers to use, who can help when times are busy. That sort of stuff. Once you’ve gone through a full 12 months, you’ll have a better idea when things happen and how much work is involved.

 

What gets done when?

While you’re settling into the role, it’s going to be good to build up a calendar of things you need to do and when you need to do them. If you’re registered for GST for example, you’ll need to make sure all of your monthly transactions are in the accounting system beforehand, so your reports are correct.

 

What accounting system is used?

You’ll need to know how to use the system if you’re Treasurer/Bookkeeper. So this is where you’ll possibly need training. One tip here – keep your transactions consistent. If you code the club WIFI bills to the ‘telephone’ general ledger account, don’t start coding them to ‘website data’ otherwise your reports will look wrong. Ask for help early on and keep notes of the answers.

 

Is there anything else I should know?

If there’s a financial skeleton in the closet, you really should be on the informed list. If there’s been an issue with someone booking up unauthorised expenses, that information needs to be shared with you.

Seek it out.

Natalie Bramble
Natalie Bramble has helped thousands of not-for-profit and social enterprises, and over 10,500 board members, staff and volunteers, across Australia, to improve their organisations - resulting in increased impact and sustainability.

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