A Story About How We Serve Clients…
When Bill.com calls to interview your CEO, you jump at the opportunity! Especially when they mention that your CEO is viewed as an industry-leading financial services provider and they want to share her expertise. And, now we’re blushing!
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE:
Blue Fox, AI, and Maximizing Value for Accounting Clients
Our CEO, Chantal Sheehan has first-hand experience with the challenges that nonprofit face and has structured Blue Fox services to support those unique challenges. In this interview, she explains how Blue Fox takes advantage of Bill.com’s AI-powered Intelligent Virtual Assistant to most efficiently serve clients.
One of our favorite quotes from the interview is when our CEO, Chantal Sheehan said, “We focus on leveraging technology like AI so that we can apply human time where it counts for clients.” This is part of the Blue Fox philosophy and why we work so hard to provide the latest and greatest technology solutions for our clients.
If your nonprofit or social enterprise is looking to professionalize your back office operations, give us a shout any time at (321) 233-3311 or email@example.com.
Why one of 2020’s hottest nonprofit trends will continue to be the rise of the virtual CFO.
CFO. Chief Financial Officer. Head Honcho of All the Numbers.
If you’ve ever met one, your mental picture of a traditional CFO is likely one of a middle-aged white guy wearing glasses, khakis, and a button down shirt hunched over a computer with paperwork all over his desk. Let’s call him Bob.
We’re happy to report that, while Bob lives on in many businesses, a growing trend in finance is about to disrupt the C-suite for good. Enter the outsourced, virtual CFO, or vCFO.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, vCFOs may be called outsourced, part-time, or fractional CFOs. Google those terms and be amazed at the number of results. We think that 2020 will be another banner year for outsourced CFOs everywhere, so we thought it might be time to break it down for you.
Here’s what you need to know:
vCFOs may either be a firm or an individual. Usually they are CPAs, senior accountants or bookkeepers, or other experienced and educated individuals who’ve held CFO or senior finance or accounting roles in the past. Likely female (more than half of all accountants in the US are women), these folks are highly skilled numbers nerds who can fill the CFO role just as well as (better than?) Bob.
What does an outsourced CFO do? She may be charged with a variety of tasks including bookkeeping, accounting, month-end closes, payroll, and financial reporting. But the real leverage in a vCFO is the strategic guidance and financial planning she provides. Interpreting financial data in a way that makes sense to other members of the C-suite is job #1. The rest of the job is to take a proactive approach to finance with sustainability in mind. A vCFO helps organizations streamline its financial systems and processes, develop strategic budgets, manage financial risk, raise capital, and figure out exactly what is needed to get from where your business or nonprofit is today to where you would like it to go.
A growing number of nonprofits and social enterprises turn to vCFOs for these reasons:
When to hire a vCFO is something we’ll cover in a future blog, but a different type of when question we get about Blue Fox is: when can we call you? The answer is: anytime. One big bonus of a vCFO is that, in most cases, they are available to support you, ask questions, present at meetings, and generally do whatever you need them to do anytime. 100% uptime, to poach a tech industry phrase. That’s because vCFO firms like ours pair a bookkeeper and a senior accountant on each client’s work. You can always reach someone on your virtual finance team and you’re never left in the lurch. Again, our singular agenda is: support you and your organization to the best of our ability at all times.
(5) WHERE & HOW
This is an easy one – outsourced CFOs can be remote and tend to deliver their services through cloud-based technology. It’s actually the recent evolutions in cloud-based accounting tech that make what we do possible – 10 years ago, the tech just wasn’t there. But now we can work with any client anywhere at any time. As a vCFO client, that also means you can pick from the nation’s top service providers, rather than just your local market. You can source vCFOs who specialize in your industry, and they can work for you from anywhere. Video and conference calls bridge the communications gaps, and our cloud-based tools allow us to securely exchange data and provide live, real-time accounting information all day long.
Hopefully, now you can see why one of 2020’s hottest business trends will continue to be the rise of the virtual CFO. Your nonprofit or social enterprise can be an early adopter. Start the new year off with fresh and clean books, and the leverage a vCFO can provide to ensure you lead with 20/20 vision for this year and beyond!
Author: Blue Fox Founder & CEO, Chantal Sheehan
OUR TOP PICKS: News & Resources for Nonprofits
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 with fellow nonprofit enthusiasts. We tip our hat to them!
Here are just a handful of our favorite nonprofit resources this month:
Thanks for stopping by to read our picks for top nonprofit news this month! If you’re interested in hearing more from us, subscribe to our newsletter today!
Why You Need It. How to Start It. Best Practices to Leverage It.
WHY YOU NEED OPERATING RESERVES
The news is full of warnings about the next economic downturn and possibly even a recession. Is your nonprofit ready? Is your financial house in order? Is your capital position and structure strong enough to withstand the ebbs and flows of our economic system?
Recession aside, does your organization have enough moolah in reserves in case your air conditioner goes out (a catastrophic event in our sunny state of Florida)? And if your funds are used for an unexpected occurrence, will you still have the ability to deliver services in your community? This article is all about shoring up your ability to sustain operations when the unexpected happens (like when your office temp is 88 degrees) internally or externally.
First off: do you have an operating reserves policy? If so, when is the last time your leadership team reviewed the policy? If it’s been a while read on as we guide you through the process of building an operating reserves policy, and the implementation and ongoing oversight of that policy.
[ALSO READ: 5 Key Elements You Need in Your Operating Reserves Policy]
According to Propel Nonprofits, “An operating reserve is an unrestricted fund balance set aside to stabilize a nonprofit’s finances by providing a cushion against unexpected events, losses of income, and large unbudgeted expenses.” Likewise, an operating reserve policy is meant to, “define and set goals for reserve funds, clearly describe authorization for use of reserves, and outline requirements for reporting and monitoring.”
Our team at Blue Fox hears comments like this all the time, “Yes, we have a policy. I think my operations coordinator found a sample on some website. We presented it to our board a couple years ago and they approved it right away.”
Oh boy do comments like that scare us!
Look, it’s helpful that your nonprofit found a sample policy on the interwebs for free. But that’s all it is – a sample. A starting point. The very first step in the process. Your organization is not like others. Your cash flow is different. The diversity of your income varies. And your liquid assets are unlike that of the organization that wrote the sample. Your operating reserve policy should be as unique as your organization, plain and simple.
So, let’s talk about the best practices for starting an operating reserves policy. And don’t hesitate to call on the Blue Fox team for advice and support along the way. We want all the organizations in our den to achieve fiscal sustainability and security. We can help assess your financial position today and provide some benchmarks to help you make decisions as you set up your operating reserves for tomorrow.
HOW TO START AN OPERATING RESERVE
As with most strategic decisions, the first step is to broach the conversation with your board and/or finance committee. Your treasurer, in particular, is a good first call. If you already have a policy in place, request a call to discuss revising/refinement of the policy. Most boards are eager to have this discussion because they understand the importance of a rainy-day fund.
Once you have board buy-in the next step is to get your collective arms around how much you want to allocate to reserves. When times are good and the bank account is flush it can be tempting to allocate TOO much. (Especially if your organization suffered during the Great Recession.) On the flip side, some leaders skew to saving too little. We want to Goldilocks this thing and get it juuuust right. How?
In order to determine the target reserve amount, you’ll want to take a look at your organization’s historic “burn rate” – i.e. how much you spend each month to keep the lights on, pay your staff, and, critically, deliver on your mission. How far back you should go to determine your burn rate can vary, but a good rule of thumb is to look at your average monthly spending for the last 12-24 months. Most accounting software should be able to produce a profit and loss report broken down by month for any given period. That’s the report you want to start with.
As you review the data, you’ll next want to back out/offset your expenses by any unusual expenditures that occurred within your report time period. For example: if your organization went through a website redesign over a 6-month period in the last year and it cost $60k, you’re going to want to subtract $60k from the total expenses during that period. The idea here is to back out expenses that won’t be normal and recurring.
The next step is to settle on how many months of expenses you want to (or are able to) set aside. Smaller organizations may be comfortable with 1-3 months, or even just enough to cover 1 pay period. Large organizations may take a more aggressive approach to saving and shoot for 12+ months of reserves. No more than 2 years of operating expenses should be held in reserve.
We find the sweet spot for most nonprofits is 6-9 months of expenses.
Once you have an amount in mind and the data to back it up, propose it to your board/treasurer/finance committee and discuss. With their blessing you can move forward with developing a policy.
TIP: Don’t move any money or add “operating reserves” to your books as a line item until you have an operating reserve policy approved by the board!
BEST PRACTICES TO LEVERAGE YOUR RESERVES: THE POLICY ITSELF IS THE KEY
The first step in deriving leverage from your operating reserves is to structure a board approved operating reserve policy for its use. If you have a sample, great. If not, you can easily find one online through a search. We recommend the staff/leadership develop a policy draft and then pass it to the board/finance committee for review, feedback, and approval.
We recommend that your policy should have these 5 key elements in order to be fully and appropriately leveraged!
Once your policy is drafted with solid answers to these questions, you’ll want to put it back in front of your finance committee/board for review and discussion. Policy approval should be unanimous. All board members should be on the same page with this strategic use of capital! If consensus is hard to find, keep working until you get there. What you don’t want is a dramatic, painful moment when you eventually have to use the funds. So bring everyone together on this from the get-go.
When you get approval, go ahead and move that money (if you have it) or formalize your procedures for building the fund. Be sure to add the operating reserves to your accounting general ledger, too, so it’s clearly there for all to see.
Operational touchstones like operating reserves aren’t sexy, we know. But there is no doubt that, as with our own individual savings accounts, we feel better when we know that emergency fund is there. We feel empowered to move ahead with our lives and financial decisions. We feel confident in our ability to deliver the critical services and support that we do to all our stakeholders and clients.
If you need assistance starting or updating your operating reserves policy, Blue Fox is happy to consult with your leadership and we will even take those pesky tasks like bookkeeping, payroll and tax prep off your hands. We do that too! Give our friendly team a call any time at (321) 233-3311 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Authors: Blue Fox CEO, Chantal Sheehan and Blue Fox Director of Marketing, Chelsea Clementi
Nonprofits, take note. This is important!
T-Accounts are a visual representation of the fundamental concepts of double-entry accounting. If you're a bookkeeper or controller, you're no stranger to the double-entry system. But if you don't have formal accounting training, it can be tough to remember what goes where when you're making a journal entry adjustment to the books.
Grab this quick cheat sheet for an easy 1-page guide to T-Accounts. Complete with a pneumonic helper, the more you refer to this in the short term, the more it will get locked into your brain! You won't be that bookkeeper referring to a cheat sheet multiple times a day after a few weeks of using this handy guide.
There's an old accounting story that professors still tell to this day:
She locks the drawer every night before she leaves, and the other office staff gossip quietly every day about what's in the drawer. Chocolate? Can't be. It's not edible. A pet rock? Possibly. She's a little quirky. They speculate endlessly.
One day, the bookkeeper dies suddenly. The business owner gets her desk drawer keys from her family a few days later. The office gathers around as the big secret of the drawer is revealed. What's in it?
A simple piece of paper with the words "Accounting Bible" at the top. On the sheet is a strange coded set of words and symbols labeled "T-Accounts." The office staff stares in wonder, unable to make anything out of it. Then someone puts it back in the drawer and they walk away... Guess she really was an odd duck.
Get your very own Accounting Bible here ;)
"Sheehan will speak on how to drive organizational sustainability though financial stewardship."
Dubbed by her clients as a nonprofit numbers guru, Sheehan will speak on how to drive organizational sustainability though financial stewardship. Her presentation, Count Less - Measure More, focuses on how nonprofits can best leverage their hard-earned funds.
She explains, “Nonprofit leaders spend 90% of their time chasing funding, and 10% of their time analyzing how they leverage those hard-fought dollars - if that! Financial stability and sustainability depend on your ability to disrupt that dynamic. What you do after the money comes in is the true secret sauce in sustainability.”
Conference organizer Jordan Geisert commented on Sheehan’s participation, ““We chose Chantal to speak at Cause Camp 2020 because we are striving for next-level content and we know she can deliver on that. Her presentation on stewardship within nonprofits will include tangible steps that our attendees can take right back to their organizations, which is what our conference is all about.”
Sheehan is a nonprofit organizational leadership expert and financial management coach with over 15 years executive-level experience across the private and public sectors. She guarantees Cause Camp attendees a fast-paced session loaded with takeaways and she promises, “We will make finance fun!”
As an avid blogger she spices up the topic of financial management in publications for Bill.com, Bloomerang, and Hive. Her company blog at www.yourbluefox.com features content aimed to educate and empower nonprofit and social enterprise professionals. From QuickBooks hacks to advice on how to talk finance with a board of directors, the Blue Fox blog has it all.
A recovering nonprofit executive director herself, Sheehan started Blue Fox in 2015, and the company has doubled or tripled in size each year in response to high demand. For more information about Blue Fox call (321) 233-3311, email email@example.com, and visit www.yourbluefox.com.
ABOUT BLUE FOX: Blue Fox provides customized financial and back office services for social impact organizations (nonprofits and social enterprises). Services range from standard bookkeeping and payroll services, to coaching and consulting, to full-blown virtual CFO services. The Blue Fox 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www.yourbluefox.com.
ABOUT CAUSE CAMP: Cause Camp is an immersive boutique conference in Lincoln, Nebraska presented by Nonprofit Hub, dedicated to teaching nonprofits to hone their skills and welcom change. For more information visit www.cause.camp/home.
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!
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
The Ultimate Nonprofit Finance Checklist for Giving Season
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 Earns Better Business Bureau Accreditation
Blue Fox Launches Protected By Logo
Blue Fox - The Origin Story