[PREFACE: This blog article was started pre-coronavirus pandemic. That’s why the first sentence doesn’t start, “During these difficult times,” and the context doesn’t talk about COVID-19 throughout. However, it’s important to note that building a financially sustainable nonprofit is your best shot to keep services running during tough economic times such as these. So, let’s get to work.]
In the nonprofit world, nirvana is achieved through financial sustainability. We’re talking about a level of sustainability that most organizations only dream about: fully funded operating reserves, available lines of credit, multiple revenue streams, and a full understanding of when the money flows in, how to leverage it, make it grow, and how it is best spent.
Financial sustainability creates its own beautiful cycle. It breeds proactive leadership, strategic direction, and organization growth. Why? Because social impact leaders with a comprehensive understanding of their financial operations can confidently communicate, empower and build trust with their stakeholders. And, trust leads to increased financial support. [6 Step Guide to Build Donor Trust]
This high-performing type of organization is 100% possible! We know because we’ve seen countless organizations transform, including many of our clients.
So, where does a nonprofit start?
Here’s a model of the 4-part system that our CEO, Chantal Sheehan uses to help nonprofits achieve financial sustainability. It’s a cycle. It’s a system. The flow creates continuous improvement and continuous analysis.
Let’s break it down…
Simply put, stewardship is nurturing, supporting, and taking care of something. Its time spent thinking, planning, talking, and taking action to ensure long-term viability.
Ask yourself. Does your team steward your financial operations as much as other organizational activities? Think about how much time your team spends each week on fundraising? How much time do you spend cultivating donors? How much of your time is spent chasing donations and grant money? 50% of your week? 70%? Maybe even 90%?
Now, how much time do you spend analyzing how those hard-fought dollars are used? Do you have regular meetings with your team about finance? Do department or program heads talk about budget in real-time and regularly? In most cases, the time spent on financial management (stewardship) is not even close to the time spent raising the funds. It’s time to change that dynamic and take one huge leap closer to financial sustainability.
“Sustainability starts with a commitment to apply the same principles and stewardship to finance as we apply to fundraising and donor relationships.” – Chantal Sheehan, Blue Fox CEO
The use of modern financial technology is a critical support mechanism for financial stewardship. Tech platforms have come a long way in the last decade. They are more cost-effective and affordable than ever, and it’s time for nonprofits to get on board. Using financial technology appropriately is no longer just a plus for nonprofits… it’s a must. FinTech or bust! [Our Favorite Back Office Technology Solutions]
Some reasons why social impact organizations should adopt or seek out best of breed financial technology:
* Side note on “cloud-based”: Let’s get coffee if you think we’re talking about actual clouds here :)
Data. It’s not just a word for nerdy back-office folks crunching numbers. Data is a word used by proactive smart leaders. Data is what gives nonprofit executive directors, CEOs and board members the ability to make reasoned, educated decisions. Data is the pencil that draws the blueprints for strategic planning. If your last organizational decision was made by intuition, why not generate some data to check yourself and provide evidence? Data breeds buy-in too.
When it comes to collecting data, our CEO always says, “Garbage in, garbage out.” If your FinTech is working for you the way it should be, avoiding bad data should be straightforward. But here are some operational decisions for your team to consider to ensure your data is squeaky clean:
Now that your data gleams, it’s time to use it to generate insights. Data tells you what happened. Insights tell you why something happen, why something failed to happen or what might happen next. Insights result from analysis and discussion. One of the best ways to analyze and discuss data is to make it visual whenever possible.
Here are some tools that make financial data visual and encourage your team to generate insights to aid in organizational decision making:
Once you’ve taken your data from snooze-fest to wow-fest, you’ll notice a fairly immediate shift in how your team discusses it. Insights will begin to reveal themselves, giving you the capacity to make informed decisions and strategic moves as needed.
Stewardship (Yes, Again)
It’s time to close this loop of continuous improvement and analysis. Let’s talk about, plan for and become proactive (a.k.a. steward) about your financial situation to put your organization in a more sustainable position.
Data and the insights they reveal show you what financial risks and opportunities exist. Now, relate those to your external and internal environments. Determine what changes you can make now so that your organization is stronger and better able to mitigate risks. Think about how these new insights should inform changes to your current fundraising initiatives, revenue goals, operational plans, and program strategies. Then plan for a rainy day. Shore up any potential cash flow weak spots by acquiring a line of credit and creating an operating reserve (5 Key Elements Your Operating Reserves Policy Needs). Do this year after year, and you will watch your organization shift from reactive to proactive, and sustainability will follow.
As always, if your team could use support implementing this system at your nonprofit, Blue Fox is her to help! Give us a call at (321) 233-3311 or email hello@yourbluefox. Feel free to learn more about our philosophy, clients, services and our team before you make that call. Now, let’s get to work!
By: Blue Fox CEO, Chantal Sheehan and Marketing Guru, Chelsea Clementi
How Do Your Financials Measure Up?
Dust off those financial statements and put them to work! Our team at Blue Fox created this Magical Ratio Matrix to help your organization measure its financial health against industry standards.
So, how do you measure up? What are the red flags for each ratio? Is your organization in a healthy, sustainable position?
BUT FIRST! Before you start your calculations, make sure your financial data is current. Complete Step 1 on our Ultimate Financial Checklist. Check each box to ensure your data is squeaky clean. Remember: Accurate data = accurate insights = informed decision-making.
LET’S CRUNCH THOSE NUMBERS
How did it go? Are your ratios within the acceptable range? Did you get a red flag? If so, that’s okay. That’s important information to have. The question is: what are you going to do about it? Do you know what steps you can take to improve your nonprofit’s financial position?
If you have any questions about your results, our friendly team at Blue Fox will happily help. Feel free to schedule time with our CEO to get some answers.
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Blue Fox offers monthly back office financial services (bookkeeping, HR, payroll, tax) and financial consulting specific to social impact organizations. Our team members have broad expertise in the social impact space, with backgrounds as nonprofit leaders, board members and volunteers. The entrepreneurial spirit runs deep on our team. This means we manage your back-office from the same perspective as you would. Meet some of our clients!
Tech Thoughts From Our CEO, Chantal
When I started Blue Fox, I was delighted at the prospect of working from home and running a virtual, tech-based company. My list of pros was something like this:
- Yoga pants
- No high heels on the daily
- Unfettered access to the fridge
- A schedule that works for me
- Yoga pants
But I never imagined that one of the benefits of running a firm like Blue Fox would be that our services would remain operational during a pandemic. Zombie apocalypse might've been higher up on my list than pandemic. Sheesh. Talk about unexpected wins.
Am I glad we're operational during COVID-19? Of course. Thankful every day we can continue to provide for our clients and our team. But even with all our tech tools and infrastructure, we've still had to adapt to new and different needs, internally and externally, during the last 6 months.
Technology needs in today's business world are only intermittently static. They evolve, right alongside your business model and your team, over time. You ignore your ever-changing needs in this area of your business at your own peril. Cumbersome, inefficient technologies can become a huge internal burden if left in place for too long. And then it becomes extremely costly (time and $$!) when you finally transition.
Our tagline at Blue Fox is Agile Accounting for Impact. Agile is a tech industry term, in case you're unfamiliar. It has to do with developing and deploying software incrementally and iteratively, rather than just dropping a completed product in the marketplace.
So if we at Blue Fox don't practice an agile approach for ourselves, and support our clients in doing so as well, we aren't living up to our mission. So that's why we've put together a special tech-oriented newsletter curated just for you.
Enjoy & stay safe and healthy,
It’s here. The age of the virtual workforce.
Most of us are working from home right this second (thanks, COVID-19). And, this requires access to technology that is reliable, integrated, safe and cost-effective.
Recently our CEO, Chantal Sheehan wrote a guest feature article for Bill.com that shares one client’s story about maintaining operations during the global pandemic. This client, whose programs include microfinance, education, food, health care, and social support to orphans and women in East Africa, recently revamped their hiring practices and wanted to source talent and services anywhere in the world. But this presented some challenges in terms of payment fees and internal controls. “What is the best way to pay an international vendor?” they asked.
In the full article, International Payments for Nonprofits Made Easy, our CEO explains that this client’s success is possible because they’re using the latest and greatest financial technology. Plus, they recently implemented (per our recommendation) the international payments feature on Bill.com which offers these 4 key advantages:
1.Maintain a consistent audit trail and internal controls.
2.Save big on bank and wire transfer fees.
3.Save even more by paying in local currency.
4.Keep vendors happy with secure, accurate bank data collection and wire/payment codes.
Our full article gives specific details and examples. It’s a must read!
Then, give Blue Fox a call at (321) 233-3311 or email us when you’re ready to “virtualize” your back office operations. When that’s taken care of, you can focus on what really matters: your mission and serving your community.
Nonprofits - It's Time to Automate Your Back Office
How to Make Your Nonprofit Recession-Proof
10 Reasons to Outsource Your Nonprofit Accounting
Did You Hear?
An expansion of the PPP loan program was signed into law early June?
The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act eases restrictions on how nonprofits and small businesses can spend their PPP funds. Here's a brief summary of the changes from the National Law Review. We also put together an easy-to-read #foxtastic chart of the major updates below.
If your organization could use some guidance, give us a call at (321) 233-3311 or email email@example.com. We’re here to help. That’s what we do!
A Letter From Our CEO, Chantal Sheehan
I’m over it.
The government screw ups.
The conspiracy theories.
The unemployment rate.
The food supply.
The feeling of loneliness.
The worry. About everything. All the time.
Oh look, murder hornets.
I’m so over this s#!t. I know you are, too.
That’s why I’ve decided it’s time to break up with COVID-19.
As leaders and business owners, we have a job to do. Yes, we must acknowledge and accept the reality we now find ourselves in, but we can’t afford to lose touch with each other and perhaps more importantly, ourselves. We can’t afford to sacrifice today and tomorrow’s opportunities because a virus just gave the world a horrible, epic swirlie and we’re glued to a device watching things fall apart.
It’s time to break up with COVID-19.
This is a defining moment in time, no doubt. How will this moment come to define you?
Remember: we have work to do. We must get up every day, lead our teams, take care of our families, and provide services and support to communities and people who rely on us. (And hopefully, find toilet paper somewhere in between.)
Need inspiration, or a reminder of why your work matters? Here’s a sample of the amazing things our clients have been up to – also known as why we get out of bed every day:
What are you up to? Let us know and we’ll give you a shout out, too. We’re in this together.
Still in bed? Still feeling blue?
Let’s throw all the damn clichés in here at once and snap the hell out of it:
Just keep swimming.
Be in the moment.
Enjoy the little things.
Or tell someone you wish you could.
Fix something you can fix.
Clean something you can clean.
Make a good meal.
Then give it to someone else.
Rethink your career.
Consider your long-term plans for your business.
(Make a long-term plan for your business.)
Plant a garden.
Plant a tree.
Talk to your neighbors.
You’ve got this.
Here are some of our favorite resources right now for moving on and moving out of crisis mode.
Those of us who successfully break up with COVID-19 and end our internal toxic relationship with all that it brings will be better for it in the end. I know that sounds trite, naïve even. But it’s a hallmark of human experience that when disaster or tragedy strikes, we evolve in response. The exceptional among us turn horror into beauty, discord into order, and brokenness into wholeness.
Join me. Say sayonara to this stupid virus.
Become a stronger, better, more flexible, adaptable, sustainable person, and then empower and support those around you to do the same.
I’m with you.
Focus On: Leadership, Funding, Positiveness and Re-Engaging Your Organization
As some states like our home base of Florida begin to re-open, nonprofit teams are putting their minds together to draw a new map for the future. A map of how to survive, keep a positive mindset and continue to provide critical services in their community.
Our team at Blue Fox has been intently reading and listening to the advice of our peers and advisors on how social good organizations can move forward with fundraising, communication, service delivery and respectfully re-opening their doors? Here is what we think are the most valuable resources on the digital streets.
Fast Company: 8 critical lessons leaders need to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis
CLA Wealth Advisors: Financial Leadership in the Face of Impossible Choices
Beth’s Blog: Five Tips for Nonprofits to Avoid Virtual Fatigue
Funding & Budgeting
Intuit: PPP Loan Relief Eligibility Calculator
Bloomerang: Ask An Expert – How to Balance Your Nonprofits Budget in a Crisis
Nonprofit Tech for Good: How Your Nonprofit Can Recruit & Retain Digital Sponsors (Webinar June 9)
If This Doesn’t Make You Smile…
BuzzFeed: 14 Animal Cams That Are Better Than TV
Today: Jimmy Fallon's giggling daughters take over his Ethan Hawke interview
MSN: Georgia teacher running more than 50 miles to visit each student outside their homes
IRS: Deferral of employment tax deposits and payments through December 31, 2020
Florida Nonprofit Alliance: Best Practices and Considerations for Nonprofit Re-Engagement
U.S. Chamber of Commerce: State-by-State Re-opening Guidance
We’re with you!
Have you ever considered outsourced accounting services for your nonprofit? It can seem overwhelming at first to tackle all the moving pieces: getting your board of directors on board, choosing a provider (firm), preparing data and software for a transition, and finally the transfer of responsibilities and information. That’s why our team at Blue Fox put together this helpful guide to ease your mind: How Client Onboarding Works with Blue Fox. It’s an overview of our philosophy, team, and onboarding process from the very start of our relationship.
We aim to make client onboarding as seamless (and stress-free) as possible. Our goal is to get your back office financial operations up and running in the most efficient way. Simple as that! Then you can focus your time on bigger and better tasks like fundraising, public relations, events, and strategic planning.
Take a look at our guide today! It will explain:
We would love to hear from you!
Feel free to contact us with questions about the onboarding process, for a pricing inquiry, or just to chat.
We exist to help nonprofits build stronger, more sustainable organizations. Now that’s fox-tastic!
Here we are. April 2020 and working our way through a global pandemic. March seemed like the longest month in history. April probably will, too.
So while you're staying home and working out what's next for you and your nonprofit, here are some thoughts on how to manage the next several weeks thoughtfully, fairly, and with a mindset of stewardship and sensitivity to all involved.
We don't know yet what our new normal will look like, but we can still approach this strange and unforeseen situation with equity, transparency, and strategy.
Here are my suggestions on how to do that.
(1) In general, the board, which must act as a fiduciary body, is well within its purview to work with management and:
(2) Do do your best to rally resources and financial support:
(3) Review year to date spending and create a cash flow forecast to assist with decision making:
(4) In terms of communicating expectations and plans to staff here’s what I recommend:
We're with you!
Chantal Sheehan, Founder & CEO, Blue Fox - Agile Accounting
Click here for a high-resolution printable infographic (below)!
Nonprofit organizations are famous for running lean when it comes to budget. But gone are the days of sacrificing service quality for cost. Here’s the secret (and it’s not so secret anymore). It’s outsourcing. A way for nonprofits to maintain control of costs AND benefit from high quality financial back office management.
With advanced cloud-based systems and virtual technology, outsourced financial services are more affordable and attainable than ever for nonprofits. It’s a win-win, especially if you partner with a company like Blue Fox (that’s us) that tailors service to the social impact sector. We employ experienced nonprofit gurus to get the job done – whether it’s virtual CFO service, controller-level oversight, bookkeeping, payroll, tax preparation, or financial coaching, outsourced service providers can provide you the insights and information you need at a fraction of the cost of an employee.
Here are 10 reasons you should consider outsourcing part or all of your nonprofit’s finance function.
So, when is the best time to make the change?
There is no better time than the present! Remember the 10 benefits of outsourcing we just talked about? They can be yours, just make the call. And, when you’re ready, our team at Blue Fox will hold your hand through the onboarding process for a seamless shift of duties. Let’s chat soon! Give us a call at (321) 233-3311 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a quote.
Welcome to the Blue Fox Blog! A fairly entertaining source of info and news related to our company, nonprofits, social sector trends, and, of course, accounting. Enjoy!
What Fuels Financial Sustainability?
The Magical Nonprofit Financial Ratio Matrix
Dear COVID-19, I'm Breaking Up With You
The Latest COVID-19 Resources for Nonprofits
10 Reasons to Outsource Your Nonprofit Accounting
6 Step Guide To Build Donor Trust
Our Favorite Resources for Nonprofit Fundraisers
3 Vital Resources for Nonprofit Start-ups
2020 Nonprofit Trend: The Virtual CFO
How to Make Your Nonprofit Recession-Proof
What Nonprofits Need to Know About the New Overtime Ruling
Double-entry Accounting Made Easy - Essential Desktop Guide, Free Download
Blue Fox CEO Named
As Keynote Speaker for Nonprofit Hub's Cause Camp 2020
5 Steps to Solving Complex Workflow Problems
The Hidden Cost of Wearing Too Many Hats
The Key to Workplace Success - Investments in Professional Development
Accounts Payable Made Easy - The Marriage of Bill.com and QuickBooks Online
Nonprofits - It's Time to Automate Your Back Office
How to Engage Your Board of Directors in Financial Conversations
How to Join the Social Enterprise Movement
Kindness Leads to More Profit & Productivity
Don’t Ignore This Nonprofit Management Advice
Building Blocks for A More Just, Equitable, and Inclusive Work Environment
QB Tip of the Month: How to Use Classes for Painless Grant Writing
Nonprofit Leaders - Talk Finance and Empower Your Staff
When to Hire An Accountant for Your Social Impact Org
Why Outsource Your Accounting?
That Time I Went to Cause Camp
Impact Investments in Yourself
Are You Paying Too Much for Payroll?
Financial Dashboards - Capture Attention, Create Conversations, Drive Results!
Don't Let FinTech Scare You - Our Top 4 Back Office Tech
The Wonderful World of Micro-Donating!
The Case for Kindness in Business
How Nonprofits Build Donor Trust: Be Transparent
5 New Year’s Resolutions for Sustainable Nonprofits
Why We’re on a Mission to Help Conservation Organizations
Money Matters - So Why Aren’t More Nonprofits Talking About It?
Tips to Get You A Clean Audit Every Year
Blue Fox Teams Up With Bloomerang to Develop Nonprofit Resources
Blue Fox Earns Better Business Bureau Accreditation
Blue Fox Launches Protected By Logo
Blue Fox - The Origin Story