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by Pam English, New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

Originally published in ReShape: Personnel Transitions (Winter 2010)

This article is directed at a new financial hire (or officer or employee) at a State Coalition or local domestic/sexual violence program, and mostly for leadership-type positions such as a business and finance manager or administrative director.

1. Read, read, & read some more. Along with the usual orientation-type materials that would hopefully be given to you on your first day, such as an Organization Chart, a history of the Coalition/program, and a personnel handbook, etc., you should find the Fiscal Manual/and or procedures book-read it. Familiarize yourself with it and keep it handy. People ask me, “how do I know what a grant pays for?” The answer is to read all the current contract/grant award documents, including the applications for those grants. This is essential as those documents hold the information on how the Coalition/program is to spend its funds. The sooner you understand all of the complexities of the grants/funding of your Coalition/program, the more comfortable you will be able to handle the duties of your job.

2. Calendar due dates/grant requirements, and observe your calendar daily. Now that you’ve spent the first several days reading all the contract requirements, etc. in number one above, you will have noted all the due dates for reports submission, both program and expense reports. Every time your program receives a new award or contract, you should carefully read through the requirements and note all future dates on your contracting calendar. This is one of many tools for success ensuring timely submission of all data/reports. Funders don’t approve of late submissions!

3. Organize what activities are paid for by contract/grant.   From completing number one above,  you’ve found that the funding can be quite diverse and maybe even confusing. A spreadsheet, or fund accounting program, showing all salaries paid for by grant is essential. Also a one or two page narrative showing that for instance, a VAWA Coalition grant pays for public policy staff and a certain outreach program, VOCA pays for direct service to member agencies, and Rape Prevention Education funds pay for education coordinators salaries providing education sessions delivered to middle school students. Once built, this “tool” is most helpful to update on an annual basis as new grants are acquired, others end, and funding may change allocation provisions.   Another helpful tool is a checklist that shows pieces of grants/contracts that need to be completed and then are checked off as done. This checklist could be used in conjunction with the calendar above. Budgets are an important part of the organizational tools, but aren’t the only tool used to organize the funding of the Coalition/program as that usually doesn’t allow the finance manager to easily see in one place the funding complexities of the Coalition/program.

4. Don’t assume that “the way it was done before” is the right way. When you look in a file to find last year’s report or expense sheet, go a step beyond that by making a connection with the funder.   You may ask the funder if they liked the report/data that was submitted last year because you want to make sure that you are giving them the information in a way that they can easily understand or that works for them. You can reach out to auditors, Board members, really anyone in this way and this type of conversation can be excellent means of developing the relationship between yourself and the funder/whomever positively. In these tough economic times, funder “networking” can provide a mutually beneficial edge. With the competition for funding sources, you must get the documentation and paperwork right.