Trellis - Treasurer Vacancy

Introduction

Trellis is the Scottish national charity for therapeutic gardening, the art of using gardening to help people take care of their physical, emotional and social wellbeing.  Trellis supports a network of over 250 therapeutic gardening projects throughout Scotland so they can share skills, good practice and get connected.  Further detail can be found at: http://www.trellisscotland.org.uk/

Trellis now seeks to recruit a Treasurer to its Board of Directors.  This is a voluntary post, ideally based close to the Trellis office in Perth. Meeting approx. 6 times per annum, the Board plans the secure future of the organisation and provides oversight and governance.  A board member induction pack is available.  

The Treasurer should be a qualified accountant and experience of the voluntary sector (including OSCR) would be desirable. An interest in horticulture and healthcare would be helpful though not essential.  Whilst the volume of accounting entries is relatively low, there is a requirement to formalise our accounting procedures to improve statutory, external and internal reporting.  Initially, we would expect the job to be project-based to define and implement the changes, then progress to supervision of the new operation.

Current Operation 

We use Excel spreadsheets for budget, cashbook and internal reporting.  The process is fairly basic, and is low-skill/low-overhead to run.  We use an Independent Examiner who assists with year-end accruals and the separation of restricted and unrestricted funds.  The downsides of this method are exposure to manual error; no assistance with fund/funder reporting during the year; reliance on in-house maintenance; limited ability to tie into online and contacts database developments; limited expansion potential (more staff, funders, supported projects, coding of transactions, etc.).

Upgrade Project

We expect an incoming Treasurer to develop a plan which covers the major commitments required by regulators, funders and internal reporting; select a package which covers at least the majority of these; set up the processes and coding structures to implement this then phase out the existing tools.  We’ll probably need to upgrade our book-keeping and management skills to support the new set-up.  We may be able to get external funding to assist with development.  Some of the elements which need to be covered are:

 

  1. Budget.  Currently we lay out projected income and expenses using simple categories.  For income it’s by major funders (separately), minor funders (grouped together), plus internal sources like membership, conference and network meetings.  For expenses, it’s by type, e.g. salaries, travel, postages, IT & website, etc.  This would need to extend to cover all funders separately, with expenses allocated to defined restricted and unrestricted work packets.  Separation of project monies (mostly people time) and overheads (e.g. supervision, office rent, supplies) would also be required.

 

  1. Work Packets.  Starting with the analysis done at year-end, we need to establish a method of laying out and coding packets of work against which we allocate funding and reserves.  Packets may be large or small; use restricted or unrestricted funds; be funded by one or more funders; run over financial year-ends, etc.  This area will be volatile due to funding uncertainties and complexities, so the chart will need to be regularly updated and re-balanced against budget and income & expenses logging.  There’s a danger we could be over-zealous in coding types of work and allocating expenses against them – ‘keep it simple’ will be paramount.

 

  1. Funding.  Each funding bid currently includes project resource plus allocated overheads so that the total cost of doing the work is assessed.  Funders vary: some accept explicit mention of overheads; some don’t; some ‘ignore’ real costs and base awards on preset bands (which may require us to vary targets or approach further funders to make up the cost balance).  All this will need to be charted against our budget (as above), and it’s likely that re-calibration will be required through the year.  A system could help to manage this and should at least be able to part-automate funders’ reports based on our logging of expenses against work packets.  Our diary system of funders’ reports could be automated.

 

  1. Income.  A package should make it possible to code each funder separately regardless of size and to maintain a history of funds received and work packets supported.  Handling invoices and other incoming payments should also come under the system umbrella, so helping year-end accounts.

 

  1. Expenses.  Each expense transaction should ideally be coded on entry so we can report as flexibly as possible.  So, a salary payment can be split across work packet(s), overheads, etc. and a cash expense likewise.  However, the volatility and heterogeneous nature of funding awards described above means that the allocation and tracking processes will need manual supervision and some override.  Some joint reconciliation work (maybe each month-end or quarter-end) involving the Treasurer and office staff probably needs to be budgeted for.

 

  1. Software.  There are plenty moderately-priced accounts packages around, but we should probably start by looking at Paxton which has been specifically designed for charities who need to report on restricted and unrestricted funds.

 

  1. Other Reports.  A package approach should allow us to set up OSCR and other regulatory requirements, and also assist with accrual accounting at year-end by managing invoices and cheques within the system.  (NB SCIO status may be worth considering as it would remove Companies House requirements and exempt us from full accrual accounting if our income stays under £250,000.)

 

  1. System Links.  A commercially-maintained package should be able to send and receive files which allow other systems to communicate.  Examples are collecting online payments (e.g. via Paypal, and maintaining records on our Paypal account), and updating our contacts database to log monies received and paid to organisations and individuals. 

 

Iain Mackintosh

February 2015