The Charity Accountant - Accountant VS Volunteers

Accountants VS Volunteers

This is the first blog of many to come from The Charity Accountant (Ben Stephens owner of Chadmin). There are many topics to cover from fund accounting to bookkeeping to independent examinations. I may also stray into topics such as fundraising and administration but everything on this blog will be focused on charities.  All these topics and more will be discussed overtime but for the first blog I want to talk about why so many charities still rely on volunteers for their accountancy needs.

1. The number one reason is of course it’s free which sounds perfect and makes charities feel like they are saving money.

The trouble with free accounting services or free bookkeeping is that there is normally a lack of professional knowledge. This can regularly become more of a hindrance for charities than a benefit. Most accountants will always do their best to save money for their clients (charities or businesses) and this is something that a volunteer would not necessarily have the skills to do. Of course if your volunteer who does the accounts happens to be a qualified accountant then you are very lucky!

2. Accountants are often not trusted as we are occasionally perceived as money grubbing monsters!

This is true for some accounting firms who unfortunately care about money more than people. But there are plenty of practices around who genuinely care about making a difference to the world. They can be difficult to find but when you do find one that works well with your charity make sure you keep them. Whilst we are on the subject of charity accountants don’t forget to check out my website Chadmin For Charities.

3. The transition can be difficult going from volunteer to paid accountant.

If you have had a volunteer who has done the accounts for years but the charity has grown beyond their capabilities it can be difficult to say we need to get an accountant now. But it is very important that you do! Otherwise you could end up on the wrong side of the law simply by trying to keep costs low and not wanting to lose a committed volunteer.  If you are respectful of the work the volunteer has put in and include them in some other way, perhaps get them to work with the accountant, then you can have the best of both worlds.

4. Trustees think an accountant is not necessary.

This can happen easier than you might think. Trustees get used to the volunteer doing the accounts and as the charity grows and expands probably forget or do not realise that they are asking too much of their volunteer. Communication is essential between trustees and volunteers to ensure volunteers are not being given responsibilities they are not qualified for. Obviously in the first year or so of starting up your charity there is probably no need to be paying for an accountant. As you start to grow your accounts will inevitably get more complicated. (Keep reading my blogs to see what I mean by complicated!)

5. Worst case scenario is that the people running the charity think reporting and keeping accurate accounts is not necessary.

I personally have not come across any situations like this yet but there are bound to be people who think like this for one reason or another. Even if you hate all the endless amounts of reporting it is essential that you don’t ignore it or make it less of a priority. The reason reporting is so essential is to ensure charities are legitimate and not committing fraud or being used as fronts for organised crime. If your sat there thinking “well my charity is clearly legitimate” think on this. How are the Charity Commission or HMRC meant to prevent charities being used for fraud or fronts for organised crime without some kind of information exchange?  

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next topic I cover! I will be posting a new blog at least twice a week. Perhaps even more if there is something really exciting going on in the world of charity accountancy!

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