Back to Blog

Why Doesn’t Anyone Read These Reports?

Sometimes working in nonprofit finance can be frustrating.  A tremendous effort goes into carefully planning, recording and reporting financial information to meet regulatory and funder reporting requirements and provide actionable decision support information to the organization’s management team.  What we hear very frequently is that managers in some organizations seem indifferent about the information that is provided to them as part of the monthly reporting cycle.  In the worst cases, the emails containing the carefully prepared budget and transaction reports go unopened.

Why do the managers in your organization seem disinterested or indifferent about the information you are generating?

You don’t have a lot of room for creativity when it comes to producing mandatory compliance reports.  Let’s set those aside for a moment.  When generating decision support reports for internal audiences, here are some considerations that can help improve the relevance and utility of the reports for the audience.

  • Don’t assume they understand your Chart of Accounts – whenever possible, summarize information into categories that are understandable and meaningful to the audience.
  • One size does not fit all – While practical and efficient for finance to produce identical reports for every context, not all audiences have identical requirements for information.  They also can vary widely in how they use the information.  Customize the content be produced to make it usable and relevant to the consumer.
  • Identify context for the financial results – Dollars and cents alone don’t always tell a complete story.  How many clients did we serve during the same period?  What was our cost per service unit?  Is that improving or not?
  • Timeliness matters – If the reports don’t go out until three weeks after the reporting period ends, the information is mostly stale and is often not actionable.  If there is no practical way to put near real time data in the hands of managers, put it in a longer term context so they can see the trends and anticipate where they will end up.
  • Consider the vehicle – Some managers immediately start feeling drowsy any time they see anything that looks remotely like a financial statement.  Use tools that allow you to provide appropriately formatted content characterized in a way they can readily consume.  Providing visually rich, interactive dashboards is much more affordable and easier to realize than you might think
  • Educate – Don’t assume that non-finance managers know anything at all about how to properly read a financial report, regardless of what form it takes.  Invest the energy in educating the consumers about what they are viewing and how to use the information.

As a finance professional, the biggest impact you can make on your organization is to empower good decisions.  Compliance is important, but the long-term growth and sustainability of your programs is dependent on the operational foundation of strong business process, healthy systems and access to actionable decision support data.  If you are suffering from some of these issues and would like assistance examining your reporting processes, JMT is standing by to help.

Related Posts:
Communication Service for the Deaf; A Sage Intacct Success Story
October 2, 2017
Communication Service for the Deaf; A Sage Intacct Success Story

Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD) is a 501c nonprofit organization based in the United States and New Zealand, providing a plethora of services to the deaf.  They recently worked with JMT Consulting Group to enhance their financial management solution by implementing Sage Intacct and Nexonia.  We recently sat down with Brad Hermes, CFO and…

Is Your Nonprofit ready for ASU 2016-14?
August 21, 2017
Is Your Nonprofit ready for ASU 2016-14?

For the first time in over 20 years, there will be considerable changes in the way nonprofit organizations are required to prepare and present financial statements. On August 18th, 2016, The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued Accounting standards Update (ASU) 2016-14, Not-for-Profit Entities (Topic 958), Presentation of Financial Statements of Not-for-Profit Entities. The goal…

Top 5 Myths about Fund Accounting in the Cloud
January 15, 2018
Top 5 Myths about Fund Accounting in the Cloud

In the mission-driven nonprofit world, fund accounting software can sometimes slip down the priority list. It’s not always easy to allocate budget dollars to back-office infrastructure that doesn’t directly support the nonprofit agenda and harder to find the time and expertise to make it all work. Some of the obstacles include: Capital investment for software…

Reap the Benefits of Your Hard Work: Practical Strategies for Using Impact Data
June 29, 2018
Reap the Benefits of Your Hard Work: Practical Strategies for Using Impact Data

Can you imagine spending months tending to your garden, only to let the vegetables you’ve been growing rot before anyone can enjoy them? Hardly. Yet when it comes to data collection and use, many organizations do just that. They toil away setting up plans to deliver services and track results. They pour sweat and tears…

 Back to Blog