Your bookkeeper is a key member of your team. To get the best out of them you need to manage the relationship, as you would any staff.
- Be involved in the process. You may have hired a bookkeeper to “make it all go away.” But, no matter how wonderful that bookkeeper is, they can’t do a good job without your input. Yes, they should be able to code the phone bill to the telephone expense account – but there will be other transactions where they’ll need your clarification and instructions; and you need to understand the underlying logic as you prepare your management reports.
- Bookkeeping feeds into financial management. You are still the manager. You must be in charge even if you hate numbers. Ditto for your board.
- Ask questions. Provide feedback. Ask more questions.
- Decide how much detail you require for program decision-making, management/board decision-making. Use this to shape the chart of accounts, as well as the nature and frequency of reports you require from the bookkeeper.
- Make things simpler where you can. Standardize processes for gathering information.
- Provide a space, a desk, a computer, storage for active files (waiting to be processed) and completed work.
- Provide advance warning of meetings/other needs for reports – e. g. grant deadlines – to avoid scheduling conflicts.
- Know what your government reporting obligations are for payroll, sales tax, charities reporting, etc. Learn what the tax returns look like and how to read them. Put the due dates in your calendar. Check up from time to time.
- Know how the work is verified. In particular, learn what a bank reconciliation looks like and read it from time to time.
- Read your statements . . . no surprises!
This tip sheet was created by Heather Young of Young Associates. Founded in 1993, Young Associates provides bookkeeping and financial management services in the charitable sector, focused on arts and culture. Young Associates also provides consulting services in the areas of data management, business planning and strategic planning. Heather Young published Finance for the Arts in Canada (2005), a textbook and self-study guide on accounting and financial management for not-for-profit arts organizations.