Accountancy Software Checklist

Thoughts on criteria for selecting accounts packages

Suggested criteria to use in selection

Adapted from Accountancy Software Challenge, 1996. More work to be done!

So what was it that make our needs different? Disregarding any thought of larger charities (e.g. Save the Children or Cancer Research), we came up with three areas. Your comments are welcome.

Sector Specific Criteria

1. REPORTING AND ANALYSIS
Concentrating on Cost of Sales and Gross Profit before Overheads in reporting structures, typical in accounts software, is not a helpful approach. What flexibility is there in report formats, and/or what facilities to produce reports to charity requirements?

SORP (Statement of Recommended Practice) makes certain principles essential for registered charities in compiling annual accounts. Can the package satisfy these, and can reports during the year reflect the principles where appropriate? This requires good analysis facilities to feed into the report ‘extraction’ routine.

Even for small charities and voluntary organisations which aren’t registered, there will be pressures from funders and others who will be increasingly familiar with SORP formats. The need for management reports very different from standard business formats, with complications around multi-funded projects for instance, makes this area important in judging.

2. COMPATIBILITY
Import facilities: There are a number of packages around dealing with specialist income areas: covenants, membership, relationship fundraising, rent accounting, investments. Transferring data directly to the accounts prevents errors in re-keying as well as saving time.
Export facilities: This is closely linked to reporting. If a package has enough analysis available, but not the reports, a spreadsheet (or possibly database) can solve this as long as the data can be transferred to it easily. This can also be useful in building cash-flow projections and ‘what-ifs’ around changing budgets or establishing new projects.

3. COST
Obvious, but commercial companies can justify investment in terms of better financial management and therefore improvements to the ‘bottom line’ more easily. Smaller voluntary organisations are less likely to be in-house computer or finance experts, increasing costs where the package requires a lot of setting up.

General Criteria

A. Ease of Use

B. Adaptability (for changing needs), upgrade path

C. Robustness (doesn’t crash a lot, and doesn’t corrupt data if it does)

D. YEAR/PERIOD END PROCEDURES
In our experience this can make the difference between pleasure and pain in using a package. Some insist on complicated ‘clear-down’ procedures, others have no means of closing off a year (or month) to late alterations, which can confuse reporting or even audit preparation.

E. KNOWLEDGE BASE
This is mainly for organisations big enough to employ finance staff. In recruitment, is there a large enough pool of people out there who will have some idea of how to use the package, without a long induction period or expensive training? Are you severely limited in who will be able to re-jig reports or compile annual accounts? Will the package be around for some time?

Features Checklist

To develop further/add

A well-featured package should nowadays have:

– ability to hold bank accounts details for suppliers, ready for electronic payments (e.g. BACS).
– bank reconciliation facility (manual definitely, and possibly interface with electronic bank information).
– variable VAT rates (minimum of 10), but may be ignored if not registered for VAT.

Quite possibly:

– job costing and/or project management add-on, which may be capable of adaption to track restricted income and expenditure.

Useful for most volutnary organisations:

– analysis levels
– reporting flexibility
– import facilities: specific packages, ODBC or OLE
– export facilities: ditto

Downsides/limitations to check:

– demo version: what operating system is it being run on, what add-ons or extras are included to get the functions you are interested in

Also:

– known sector clients or other comparisons

Mission: Sample Document

A draft mission statement for VolResource, written in 1999.

Why (Mission)

VolResource wishes to make resource information accessible to aspiring and existing voluntary organisations in the UK, using information technology, to assist them in developing and improving their organisation’s effectiveness. We are particularly interested in innovative action that involves communities in progressive developments.

What (Aims)

We aim to

  • Be the first or second line information provider for our field, for a significant proportion of organisations and individuals able to access the internet (or other appropriate technologies).
  • Provide useful, practical, accurate, timely, relevant and accessible information, avoiding mere reproduction of data lists.
  • Promote use of the technology, and good practice, within the sector.

How (Objectives)

By

  • Collecting, interpreting and publishing information:
    • on resource providers, sector contacts, opportunities
    • practical briefings and useful models for running a voluntary organisation
    • other relevant material
    • actively seeking items of interest, not restricted to sector sources
    • reviewing all pages quarterly, updating dated information fortnightly (minimums)
    • involving those with specific areas of interest or expertise, but avoiding reliance on the self-appointed and preferring alternatives to the established mainstream
    • editing minimally to fit style and interests of target audience.
  • Exploring and exploiting new facilities and technology appropriately.
  • Working in partnership where this is the best approach for the sector.
  • Using the web/Internet to promote the site.
  • Taking into account the needs of all types of internet users within our target audience.

The above could also be roughly grouped in reverse order as Inputs =>Outputs => Outcomes
(although it might be better to see Activities as Inputs, leading to achieving Objectives/Outputs, Aims/Outcomes, Mission/Impact)

Note: The term ‘voluntary organisations’ as used here includes all non-profit organisations of a voluntary or community nature, normally excluding statutory and academic bodies.

Key Questions for Online Communication Strategies

A contributed checklist

This document was produced by Nick Buxton, Website Development Manager, as part of an exercise at CAFOD. Originally written 2009 (?), so needs updating re social media etc.

Audience/Stakeholders

–          who are the key audiences/stakeholders you want to reach on the internet?

–          What are their needs? How well does your online communications currently serve their needs? What do they want from the website/email communication? What information are they currently using or which pages are they visiting most often? Have you asked them what they want/would like?

–          How will you seek to answer their needs?

Content

–          what is the core content you need for addressing your audience/constituency?  Is it currently there on the website or will some material need to be produced/redone? Will you have capacity to deliver the key essential first parts of this by the end of November?

–          Does your core content speak to both people new to the organisation but also encourage deeper involvement by those already signed up?

–          Could putting some targeted content on your website help minimise the number of requests you receive?

–          What do you want to update regularly? How often? How will it be resourced?  Are there things that you already produce that could be adapted to be more relevant for the web/email?

–          How will your online communications work with your other communications? What is the best medium for each of your communications? How can you make sure your online communications complement other communications and does not unnecessarily duplicate?

Email

–          Is email an effective way to communicate with your constituency?

–          What groups/lists of emails would be useful for your section’s communications – based on occupation (eg student, teacher), based on geography, based on interests/issues etc.

–          How many people would you expect to join the elist over 1 year/3years?  Would the list be public?

–          How often do you imagine sending out emails to groups? Who would be in charge of doing this?

–          Would you want to send html emails (ie look like web pages in your inbox but not accessible to everyone) or text-only emails?

–          How would you recruit for the groups? Through your other channels (eg magazines), through the website, by other means?

–          How do you want your email groups to be linked to your other communications such as mail-outs/web pages? Do you want emails to replace mailings for some people, to be an additional communication which strengthens your mailings? Do you want your mailings to be accessible on the web so that people can refer to old messages at a later stage?

–          How will you ensure your emails are relevant to the audiences you go to?  Would you want to personalise emails (by name, content)? Would you want to monitor whether they open their emails/visit certain web pages/forward it to their friends?  Would you run occasional surveys of your list? Would you want the egroup to be linked to other data we hold about that person eg how much money they have given, what other groups they belong to, plus other information stored on the supporter database?

–          Would it be a discussion or announcement/broadcast list? (ie one where all members can post information to the list, or one where only you or someone in your organisation can post to the list).



Interaction

–          How would you encourage your audience/stakeholder to engage with your communication?  What options would you give for them to feedback?

–          Would it benefit your work if your audience/stakeholders could communicate with each other or with other groups directly (eg by email groups/web discussion boards, chatrooms)?

–          What options would you like to explore?  What options are your audience most likely to use and benefit from? What issues/resources/skills are your audience most likely to want to focus on?

–          How would you build and nurture the community interaction?

Learning from best practice

–          Have you looked at other websites covering a similar field to yours?  What do they do well/ what do they not do well? What lessons do they provide for your organisation’s strategic development?

–          What other sites are your key audience/stakeholders using?

Training

–          What training might you need in your section in order to use the internet more efficiently for your communications?

Promotion

–          How will you promote and market the internet communications you are providing?

Evaluation

–          What would you want to be able to monitor in terms of usage of your web material?

–          What processes will you set up to ensure evaluation of internet usage feeds into ongoing and future work on the web?

Overall

–          Are there ways you could integrate online communication into your work (eg include on agenda of team meetings, attend awareness courses etc)

–          How do you see your online communications developing in the long-term?

–          Are there things we could be doing to generate income from your online communications?

Text © Copyright – CAFOD

Risk Assessment: Sample Document

Please note that sample documents are supplied as examples which can act as starting points and prompters. They should not be taken as definitive, complete or even sufficient for your purposes – you should at the very least consider how your circumstances (requirements, organisational structure etc.) differ. But they should be a lot better than a blank sheet!

The following was produced as part of a Trustees Manual, rather than a stand-alone document.

Risk Assessment

The risks associated with the activities of AN ORGANISATION and the assessment of those risks are as follows:

a.     Fundraising:

Risks

Investing in a fundraising scheme that produces no return, or too low a return, on the investment.

Participating in a fundraising scheme that contravenes legislation.

Lack of information about fundraising activity.

Assessment The fundraising strategy including financial budgets is reviewed by the Board on an annual basis.  The Chief Executive reports at the meetings of the Board on progress against budgets and targets.  The Board will review fundraising activity on a regular basis.  The level of risk is low

b.     Grant making:

Risks Directing grants to inappropriate projects or not in accordance with the wishes of the donor

Assessment There is a clear audit trail of earmarked donations and their destination.  The level of risk is very low

c.     Students

Risks A student, sponsored by AN ORGANISATION, breaches the terms of her/his entry permit.

Assessment AN ORGANISATION can only give a statement of support and not any advice on immigration related matters.  The Immigration Service has powers to deport anyone who breaches the terms of their entry visa.  The risk is low.

d.     Financial management

Risks       AN ORGANISATION’s employees defraud the charity.

Assessment All post containing or likely to contain donations is opened in the presence of two people.  There is an audit trail to match cash donations received with cash banked.

All expenditure payments are made with two signatures at levels agreed by the Board. (See section 5.2). The risk is low.

e.     Software licences

Risks AN ORGANISATION exceeds the number of users it has licensed for using software.

Assessment The Board has instructed the Chief Executive to carry out an annual audit of software licenses to ensure that no unauthorised copies of software are used by any employees and to report the results of the audit to the Board.  Level of risk is low

f.     Employment

Risks AN ORGANISATION breaches employment and employment-related legislation.

Assessment The Board has instructed the Chief Executive to review on a regular basis contracts of employment and to provide all employees with access to AN ORGANISATION’s policies on key issues such as personal use of computers [,equal opportunities].  The level of risk is low

g.     Health and Safety

Risks      AN ORGANISATION breaches health and safety regulations

Assessment The Board has instructed the Chief Executive to review health and safety policies on a regular basis and to ensure that all employees are aware of their obligations.  The level of risk is low.

The trustees annually review the risks faced by AN ORGANISATION, assess them and agree policies to mitigate those risks.

 

VolResource Addendum on other potential issues

h.     IT

Network security, backups and uninterruptible power supply. Virus protection. Data protection regulation breaches (especially around membership, marketing).

i.     Slander and Libel

Risks from badly worded emails; lack of clarity on who should/can speak for the organisation on which issues. Address partly by insurance?

j.     Purchasing

Inadequate control leading to major unauthorised commitments.

 

NOTE: Some of the above items might appear in other documents, such as the Financial Procedures, in which case a cross-reference is usually better than a repeat (in case of later revision or minor differences leading to confusion).

Appraisal Form: Sample Document

Please note that our sample documents are intended as examples which can act as starting points and prompters. They should not be taken as definitive, complete or even sufficient for your purposes – you should at the very least consider how your circumstances (requirements, organisational structure etc) differ. But they are better than a blank sheet!

Background

What you cover in an appraisal will depend to a large extent on how management works in the organisation over the rest of the year. If there aren’t regular supervisions sessions, or similar, issues like time keeping, sickness record, understanding of work objectives and standards ought to be included somewhere.

Part One

Appraisal Checklist

Questions to be considered and anwered by the appraisee before the appraisal session:

How accurately does your job description describe the job you do? What changes could be made to the job description in order to reflect the job you are doing?

What are your main achievements of the last twelve months?

What would you like to have achieved over the last twelve months but have been unable to do so? What prevented you from doing so?

What has gone well over the last year, and why?

What has not gone well over the last year, and why? How can the situation be improved in the coming year?

What specific targets do you think you can achieve over the coming year? These can include your current areas of work or new areas of work which you would like to take on.

What do you need from the organisation to help you reach these targets?

Can you identify any specific areas where training would help you improve your performance?

Are there any other issues you would like to raise? These can include any ideas or concerns you have either with your career, your role, your management, or with the organisation in general. Please be a specific as possible.

 


Part Two

Appraisal Form

Name (appraisee) __________________________

Job Title _________________________________

Line Manager/Appraiser _____________________

The following should indicate dates for achievement/action and who to do, where appropriate.

  • Agreed targets for the year:
  • Agreed training needs:
  • Other action points (including any amendments to job description):

Line manager comments

Job holder comments

Director’s comments

Signed __________________________ Job holder. Date:

Signed __________________________ Line manager. Date:

 

Copies to be kept by both parties (during following year) and on personnel file.

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Induction Checklist: Sample Document

Sample documents are generally based on ones developed for particular organisations. As such, you should use them as a starting point rather than a definitive statement. Organisations differ in how they function and your circumstances (e.g. organisational structure, priority issues) should be taken into account. But better than a blank sheet!

Introduction

This simple checklist was created for paid staff. While volunteers will need much of the same, some areas will need to differ. Legally, there should be some care not to use words that imply an employment contract. Clarifying mutual expectations is the suggested approach (whether there is a minimum time commitment, training needed to undertake certain roles, what roles are available). Also who they report to if providing, for example, admin help across departments can be a concern.

BEFORE STARTING

  • When, where to arrive, who to meet.
  • Terms and conditions, contract.
  • Job description, any further background notes.

FIRST DAY

  • Introductions to immediate colleagues (Team).
  • Office basics:
    • Office access and security
    • Health and safety.
    • Fire drill
    • First aid procedures/officers
    • General office facilities – post, copier, stationery supplies, drinks, phone answering, diaries etc.
  • Workstations, equipment
  • Clarify personnel issues – holiday arrangements, office hours and cover, dress code, sickness reporting
  • Introduction to other office staff (as available).
  • Basic structure and purpose of organisation *.
  • Clarify job, key relationships *.
  • Starting tasks *.

FIRST WEEK

  • Communication channels, responsibilities *
    • – within Team
    • – outline for whole organisation.
  • General work standards *.
  • Specific facilities/resources for the job.
  • Supervisory sessions *.
  • Organisation’s history, policies, goals, structure *.

FIRST MONTH

Those items marked * above will need to be revisited and developed over time.

Assessment of initial training and development needs.

WITHIN FIRST SIX MONTHS

First appraisal interview/probationary period review.

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