We recently ran a not-for-profit webinar Automate Board Reporting. It focused on how to find time-savings each month when doing this repetitive task. Today we want to share the key points with a wider audience.
Why do we Bother with Board Reports?
Board reporting has a narrow task and role. The outcome is simply to hold the executive team accountable for their actions. It needs to answer some simple questions:
- Where have we been?
- Where are we going?
- Are we on track? Are we following the plan?
Who Decides on Content?
Monthly board reports vary from organisation to organisation. The drivers directing the content of these reports can come from different corners within the organisation.
Certainly, a pro-active and dynamic board will have a strong input in what they need to discharge their responsibilities. Their time dedicated to the organisation is short and to the point, so the reports need to reflect this. They make important decisions in a short period of time. Ultimately the buck stops with them.
CEOs hold a more delicate role, balancing their own requirement of getting the full picture so they can answer board questions without notice. But they also need to represent the organisation in the right (best) light with snapshot information to empower the board.
The Finance Manager
Often, the in-house Finance Officer has the final opportunity to influence report content. They can build their credibility and develop powerful allies within management and the board by providing a professional set of board reports that have the right level of information. They should focus on providing reports that give enough details for the board to make decisions but not so much that they can’t get a clear view.
Selecting the Right Reports
The reports will need to answer some elementary questions. Here are our favourites and we’ve added some reasoning behind it.
This report shows actuals and budgets for the month and year-to-date and the full year budget as well as what is left to spend. This is best done at an organisation level. Reserve the more detailed of the unspent budgets for program managers.
Ask: Are we generally travelling in the right direction? Is all under control?
It shows actuals for year-to-date and projections for rest of the year. It is important to know early if the organisation is running into trouble and allows to make decisions based on that.
This forecast will answer: How does the year look so far? Are we on track, how does it compare to the budgeted amounts.
Cashflow Forecast Chart
The question here is simple: Can we pay our bills when they’re due?
This visual report makes it easy for the non-accountants on the board to see that the organisation is solvent and provide direction if there are upcoming cash shortfalls.
Cashflow Forecast Report
This is the same as the previous snap shot chart – just not as visual but full of numbers. We see this report as optional, the preference is the chart unless a Board request this. If you deliver this, again lean towards a summarised version rolled up at a higher level.
Business Unit Summary
So, this is a frequent question: How do our programs, activities, departments stack up? Are any in trouble or are they travelling well?
It holds department managers to account. Give the board just an overview – the treasurer may request a more detailed version to tick off the boxes and answer any concerns. Providing this report with one line for each cost centre or program, is a great and quick overview.
Wages to Turnover
At this point we suggest throwing in a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) or two to answer questions like: Are staff costs in proportion to our operational spending?
These KPIs can compare Wages to Income or Wages against Total Expenses and show the trends over time. They are good indicator for potential future problems.
Doing this in Calxa
To get started just wants a bit of a plan along the lines:
- Use Report Bundles to batch these reports. If you’re only just getting started, there is a pre-built bundle called the Not-for-Profit Bundle Kit.
- Create Workflows that updates actuals to the latest data from your accounting system. Then set another one that automatically emails reports to board members at a chosen time. Maybe schedule the report bundle to your own inbox a few days prior. This allows you to cast an eye over the reports first and vet their validity.
- Add your Story and Annotations: Now is an opportunity to write up a story and make some annotations and add this to the bundle.
So that’s all there is to it. Simple right? Think about the hours you spend each month doing this in spreadsheets and then visualise setting this up once and then just watch your inbox, check and sit back. The time-savings can add up to hours or even days each month.
Watch this webinar recording to see a first-hand view of how you automate board reports in Calxa.