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Putting the FUN in Financial Statements

Putting the FUN in Financial Statements

By Erin Welch, CPA

There are roughly 580,000 board members serving non-profits in the State of Washington. These committed volunteers bring a broad range of expertise – and share a few common responsibilities. One of a board member’s most important responsibilities is exercising his or her fiduciary duty to ensure that the organization’s financial resources are effectively managed and sufficient to assure the organization’s long-term financial viability.

Unfortunately, most board members were not nominated to serve because they had exceptional financial insight. In fact, many board members have as much difficulty reading and interpreting
financial statements as I do reading a text in Latin. Worse yet, most would say that financial analysis, the key to exercising their financial duty, simply isn’t much fun.

This may explain why half of all nonprofits in Washington State are operating without a budget, and thousands of the 58,000 nonprofits in our state will lose their tax-exempt status this year because they failed to file required returns.

Fortunately, Washington Nonprofits and Jacobson Jarvis have a solution to that problem: a new interactive learning tool that makes financial education FUN!

Finance Unlocked for Nonprofits (FUN) breaks with traditional nonprofit financial training in providing fun, interactive learning. It takes Jacobson Jarvis’ deep expertise in nonprofit accounting and places it into the context of a BINGO game and short videos featuring Jet City Improv actor Andrew McMasters. Accompanying kits elaborate on key learning objectives and give board members the chance to apply knowledge to their own accounts. In the vein of Khan Academy and TED, FUN’s “learn on your time” resources were designed to integrate into when boards or their committees are already meeting and talking about nonprofit finance.

Math can be an intimidating topic for many board members. FUN helps turn those negative associations around by creating learning opportunities that engage participants in play and laughter while challenging each other to improve their financial chops. With the help of FUN’s short, engaging videos, board members will gain:

  • A deeper understanding of nonprofit finance terminology;
  • Greater familiarity with how to read nonprofit financial statements and IRS Form 990; and
  • The basic knowledge required to ask questions and identify red flags in your organization’s statements and 990.

By incorporating FUN into your board meetings, you’ll develop a culture that supports greater financial literacy. Financial oversight will no longer rest on the shoulders of your board treasurer or a small subset of the board. The entire board will be able to engage in critical thinking and constructive
conversations about the financial implications of important decisions, and about your organization’s
financial health.

And here’s the best news: this FUN solution to board financial literacy is available to your board at no charge.

You can also take part in one of the two free events designed to demonstrate how to bring FUN into your organization: December 2 (Webinar): How to Elevate Finance Knowledge & Practice on Your Board, a free event sponsored by Washington NonProfits, and December 12 (WN Member Call): FUN and your other nonprofit finance questions, which is free to members of Washington Nonprofits.

About the Author
Erin Welch, CPA, Consulting Partner, has worked as a consultant and nonprofit auditor to for the last 14 years. She helps clients develop internal control programs and other processes, conducts financial health assessments, reviews and designs charts of accounts, assists clients with board communications including dashboards, and facilitates board trainings. She can be contacted via phone at 206-628-8990, or via email at erin@jjco.com.

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