Our Top Picks - Social Enterprise News
If you’re like us, your daily inbox is jam-packed with newsletters and educational opportunities from like-minded social impact leaders. These spectacular humans work around the clock to foster positive change in their communities. Then, somehow, find time to share their story. We tip our hat to them! Here are just a handful of our favorite resources this month:
Thanks for stopping by to explore our picks for social enterprise news this month! If you’re interested in hearing more from us, subscribe to our newsletter today!
About Blue Fox: Our team provides customized, boutique financial and back office services for social impact organizations. Services range from standard bookkeeping and payroll services, to coaching and consulting, to comprehensive virtual CFO services. Our mission is to disrupt the traditional accounting model through technology, innovation, and a radically client-focused approach that truly empowers nonprofits and social enterprises. For more information call (321) 233-3311, email email@example.com, and visit www.yourbluefox.com.
Nonprofits everywhere equate giving season with pumpkin spice, peppermint bark, and a development office that’s living on caffeine. But we would offer that before your staff gets to work, the finance and development teams should have a solid understanding of the organization’s financial position. That information can help light a fire with the staff and board, shape your year-end giving goals, and inform the messaging of your appeals.
So, we put together this handy checklist to help you get your financial house in order as we head into giving season. We’re pretty sure this is the first list of its kind – so enjoy and let us know how we can help!
5 Steps to Solving Complex Workflow Problems: How We Designed and Built a Smart Workflow for a Tuition-Based Client
[A Must Read for Nonprofits with Tuition Revenues]
Over the years, I’ve worked with several nonprofit schools. One thing they all have in common when we come on scene? The accounting is a nightmare.
If you’ve ever worked at a school (or been a parent who’s paid school fees) you understand that capturing the ins and outs of daily, weekly, monthly, or annual tuition can be confusing. Throw in scholarships, holidays, and seasonal breaks and you get accounting mayhem.
Last year, one of our clients with an adult day program rolled out a redesign of their tuition and fee structure. They moved from a pay-as-you go model to standardized fee rates, regular invoicing for families, and they also added a subsidy (i.e. scholarship) program to assist families who could not afford the full fare of the program.
Unfortunately, we were brought into the loop a little too late – and after the new process and payment structure was rolled out to the community. The result was one huge, hot mess for everyone involved – the staff, the Blue Fox team, and the participant families as well.
We’ll spare you the details, but as this past academic year wrapped up, the staff and Blue Fox were determined to work together to unpack the issues with the inaugural process and streamline the workflow. In the words of ME Parker, the Keeper of Books from the Blue Fox team assigned to this client, “The overall goal was to make this process not only much more simplified, but to make it a shared process… so everyone is working on the same page.”
It was paramount to Blue Fox that we have a collaborative and inclusive redesign of the workflow. Here’s how the process unfolded… it’s a roadmap anyone can use to work through a challenging workflow scenario.
Step 1. Gather data and analyze the challenges with the current process.
As soon as we realized that year 1 was a giant beast of a learning curve, we began to gather data on what was working and not working (for everyone involved). We made notes throughout the year on the issues we were having on the accounting side, and issues the staff were dealing with as they communicated with parents and managed their own recordkeeping related to the program.
Every time there was “an exception” made on the billing side, we kept a record of that in particular. Participants of the program have a level of intimacy with staff that, while a wonderful endorsement of the organization, created its own set of challenges as the staff tried to (understandably) bend to accommodate different needs and requests throughout the year. A beautiful intention that was followed by a brutal accounting process.
We also developed a spreadsheet to track gross fees and true subsidy amounts per participant, since this information was often incorrectly computed on site and incorrectly accounted for in the accounting software. At year end, we analyzed this information to ascertain the root causes of miscalculations and headaches, and we identified accounting and program policies and procedures that could be implemented to eliminate or avoid those accounting land mines.
Step 2. Determine recommendations and sketch out revamped process.
As this client’s virtual CFO, we were asked to take the lead and design the new workflow and identify the best technology to use in that workflow. We identified the core issues in play and made suggestions on how to prevent those issues going forward. We suggested things like:
Step 3. Collect feedback from staff and TEST the new process.
After we settled on our recommendations, we presented them to the staff and asked for feedback. We had some very deep, meaningful conversations with the client to ensure that our ideas were aligned with their needs. The critiques we received allowed us to further tweak and refine the workflow.
Once our framework was set and agreed upon by all parties, we ran some tests of the new process. These tests revealed a few shortcomings in the revamped approach and gave us time to adjust and adapt the process prior to rollout.
I *cannot* overstate how important the testing component was – the Blue Fox team ran tests on our proposed systems based on the most complicated variables and scenarios that we had encountered in year 1. When we stumbled, we analyzed and clarified why and then refined the workflow (and/or our tools in use) further.
This is the kind of behind-the-scenes value add that we live to provide, and that really makes a difference to our clients.
Step 4. Implement technology solutions to streamline the workflow.
Most of our process improvements revolved around technology that would:
This laser focus on really leveraging the technology at our disposal was key. We all have tech in use at work – but does it really WORK for us? We were determined that should be the case.
So, we did things like:
Step 5. Communicate the changes with staff and stakeholders to ensure unity in approach.
The final and, arguably, most important step was to communicate with and educate staff on the new workflow. The executive director took the lead here as you might expect, and we were on hand to answer questions after the staff had a chance to digest the new workflow.
Did a few additional changes/needs arise after those conversations? You betcha. Were they as onerous or numerous as the prior year? Not by a longshot – at most, we have 5-10% of the curve balls we had last year.
And while the staff was busy taking these changes to their participants and other stakeholders, we were busy developing staff training materials to ensure accounting data entry accuracy throughout the year. These how-to docs sit on staff desks and guide them through every step of the payment receipt process.
You can’t argue with the results.
This consultation was a huge investment of Blue Fox time – candidly, we billed less than half the time we spent on this project. But for us, it was 100% worth it – this was a short-term project with long-term impact across the organization. And critically, efficiency has soared. It’s hard to estimate the amount of time saved this year versus last year, but we think our processing time is down by half or more.
The staff is no longer using paper forms to collect registrations, nor are they using disparate spreadsheets to track data and payments. Winning!!
We spotted the challenges, used our 20/20 hindsight to analyze them in granular detail, and then applied our macro-view foresight to innovate our way to success. Through sheer willpower and a won’t-quit-until-it’s-right mentality, we have iterated our pants off until, as ME says, “we assured consistency across the organization in complex scenarios… we brought fusion to a very disjointed process.”
Does your accountant do that? If not – you might want to email or call us at (321) 233-3311 to find out how we can help solve your back-office workflow problems. Go ahead. We have lots of free time now. ;)
Hint: The High Price is No Growth and Lower Sustainability
[Nonprofit leaders, this one’s for you.]
Are your employees showing signs of burnout?
Have you and/or your organization hit a plateau?
Do you hold the same events, with the same sponsors, every year?
Have you lost sight of strategy?
Sometimes, it’s difficult to identify when your organization is stagnant. You still feel like you’re running a mile a minute. Your day could look like this: Coffee. Email. Staff meeting. Donor presentation. Lunch (hopefully). Blogging. Email. Networking. On and on and on.
When your organization gets stuck on a plateau, reactivity sets in. Innovation slows. You spin your wheels and go nowhere. It’s an endless loop that flings your ability to shore up a sustainable financial position right out the window.
What is the problem? How can you climb up and off the plateau?
THIS PART’S IMPORTANT
(1) Fast pace does not equal growth. When you move at light speed, it’s nearly impossible to focus on capacity building and economies of scale.
(2) Ridiculously low overhead is the opposite of growth. In this hilarious and on-point blog post, our friends over at Nonprofit AF explain why so many nonprofit leaders are “overheadholes.”
MULTITASKING IS NOT HELPING YOU
One of the inevitable effects of wearing too many hats in your organization is the dreaded multitasking syndrome. Remember that open door policy you boast? It may be getting you in trouble!
Check out these negative effects of multitasking:
THE BIG PICTURE CHALLENGE
Truly sustainable nonprofit organizations look for ways to leverage their resources so leadership has time and capacity to be strategic and build long-term growth plans.
Here’s a great example: In one of my favorite case studies on the matter, CEO Zac Carmen explains what happened when he vowed to remove a few hats and start working on his business rather than in his business. The results are astonishing.
Likewise, our CEO at Blue Fox, Chantal Sheehan is a big proponent of the same notion. My first week at the company, I asked her how Blue Fox was different from other virtual accounting firms. She said, “When it comes to building sustainability at a nonprofit or social enterprise, it’s not about penny pinching. It’s about a full understanding of the leverage and power in every dollar.”
SO, STOP WEARING SO MANY HATS
They are simply weighing you down. Hire. Outsource. Delegate. Empower volunteers (here are some tips). Whatever it takes! Allow yourself to be proactive. Allow your team to take a breath and strategize. Spend time on the big picture.
Today’s cloud-based technology and virtual services providers (like us) offer cost-effective alternatives to outsource some of your hats. You don’t have to do EVERYTHING anymore!
Blue Fox can manage your back office in the most effective way possible. That’s all we do and our team is stacked with nonprofit gurus to get the job done. We also go the extra mile to provide your team with actionable insights from the work we do. This helps you make smart and data-driven decisions. What could be better?
Give us a call at (321) 233-3311 or email us when you’re ready to ditch the baseball cap (bookkeeping), sombrero (payroll), fedora (tax prep) and sun visor (financial consulting). We’ll wear those hats for you and look good doing it.
Author: Chelsea Clementi, MBA, Director of Marketing & Business Development, Blue Fox
Your Professional Development Jet Pack!
[3 Minute Quick Read}
One of the most powerful win-wins for the employer/employee relationship is investments in professional development (PD).
The ROI is measurable and here are some stats to prove it:
Recently our CEO, Chantal Sheehan wrote this guest blog feature for the productivity platform Hive on the ROI of Investments in Professional Development. (Side note: We use and love Hive!)
In her article, Chantal shares how employers can begin to invest in their team. And, these recommendations won’t cost an arm and a leg.
Shameless plug time: If your team could benefit from financial management and financial technology training, Blue Fox is your guy/gal/person. Give us a call at (321) 233-3311 or shoot us an email today!
How can your small business, nonprofit or social enterprise relieve this operational pain point?
Ah, pesky little accounts payable.
Without proper technology and oversight, A/P can easily be one of the biggest thorns in your side. The reason for that is two-fold:
So, what’s the solution? How can your small business, nonprofit or social enterprise relieve this operational pain point?
First, we must address the common misconception that QuickBooks Online (QBO) is sufficient for A/P. Solely, it is not. Our team at Blue Fox use both platforms together to most effectively serve our clients. (Our Top 4 Back Office Tech Tools)
Recently our CEO, Chantal Sheehan wrote a guest feature post for Bill.com that highlights the unique benefits only Bill.com software can deliver. They are:
Don’t get us wrong, QBO is simply amazing. We’re just saying that both platforms used together catalyze each other’s benefits.
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 automate and streamline your back office. When that’s taken care of, you can focus on what really matters: your mission and serving your community.
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!
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