"Simple is Beautiful" is a series of leaflets explaining how "ordinary" volunteer Trustees, without any special financial expertise, can set up their small charity accounts to be easy and understandable to all. And in a way that does NOT require them (or even the Treasurer) to be professional accountants.
"Simple is Beautiful" has been inspired by the 1970s (but even more relevant today) iconic book, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, by E.F.Schumacher, and the more recent (2017) Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist by Kate Raworth.
Both review the follies of thinking that the solution to all our problems is big global market-driven, profit-hungy corporations and the financial thinking (and obfuscational accountancy practices) which go with that.
The notion that "greed and capitalism" is the solution to human/social problems is not new.
The leaflets are accompanied by a downloadable spreadsheet to show how those principles can be put into practice. And, in the process, the spreadsheet is a working demonstration - using data from "real life" small charities - of why accountancy practices designed for the commercial/capitalist sector are fundamentally not fit for purpose for the charity sector.
Click on the leaflet titles (below) to open them as downloadable PDF files.
The leaflets are NOT a full and comprehensive guide to Charity Law and all the associated regulations. They are just an overview, in simple everyday language (rather than legalistic/accountancy jargon) of the main points for those who want to run their small charity efficiently and effectively, or to help trustees who have encountered one of the many common difficulties.
So if you are expecting your charity’s annual income to be more than £250,000/yr, or to own property, or to employ more than 3 staff then you will probably need to seek additional professional guidance elsewhere.
The topics covered in this series are:
A Bank Account
Originally written for new charities being set up, this leaflet may also be useful to existing charities wanting to review their banking services.
Preparing the Trustees Annual Report & Accounts
ALL charities, regardless of their size MUST prepare Trustees Annual Reports & Accounts and make them available to the public on reasonal request WHETHER OR NOT they are required to submit them automatically (ie: without being requested) to the Charity Commission.
Preparing the Trustees' Annual Report
Trustees' Annual Report Template (Editable Doc)
Preparing the Annual Accounts (Financial Statements)
Accounting Issues Facing Small Charities
Slides, with the presenter's notes, from a webinar given by Small Charity Support at the invitation of the ACIE, 22 June 2021. The webinar demonstrated how the typical non-accountant trustees of small charities can avoid some common difficulties.
The "Accounts Spreadsheet" referred to in the leaflets above can be downloaded (click on the links below) so that you can see if it might be suitable for your charity. If you think they might be useful you are welcome to save them to your own computer(s).
Both spreadsheets are "open source" - ie: all the structure and formulae used are open and visible to users to see how the spreadsheet works so that they can adapt and develop the ideas and concepts to suit their own needs.
But the spreadsheets remain the copyright of Small Charity Support and exploiting them for commercial gain is NOT permitted.
First devised more than 10 years ago and used by many small charities since then, the spreadsheet has, inevitably, been regularly "tweaked" and updates since then. But in 2020 & 2021 the spreadsheet (both the "Blank" and the "Example" versions have been extensively revised to:
- Make the structure and formulae of the spreadsheet more robust, efficient and reliable;
- Increase the functionality of the spreadsheet;
- Demonstrate that the complexity of Accruals accounting procedures and the distortions of Cash(Receipts & Payments) accounting procedures are due more to those "obfuscational accountancy practices" than to any fundamental differences in the way that charity's financial transactions have to be recorded, monitored and managed to run the charity in a "business-like" manner (ie: Efficiently, Effectively & Economically (AND Ethically and Ecologically as well);
- Enhance the spreadsheet's role in producing regular internal monitoring & management reports as well as also being able to produce end-of-period external reports, in both Accruals and Receipts & Payments formats - eg: the statutory Annual Report for submission to the charity's members, donors and other stakeholders, whether or not the charity is also required to submit it to the Charity Commission;
However, the underlying data structure and way that the spreadsheet works have not been changed, other than to add the facility to #-tag transactions with the fund to which they relate. So it is straightforward for existing users of earlier versions of the spreadsheet to download the new version, configure it to their existing Categories structure. They can then transfer their existing transaction data to the new version and continue working as before.
If your charity is an existing user of the spreadsheet and needs some guideance on transferring to the new version, let us know and we'll do our best to help if we can.
The spreadsheet comes in two versions:
(1) an Example version, containing real (but anonymised) data to illustrate how the spreadsheet works in practice;
(2) a Blank version, in which there are no transactions data and none of the categories have been set (other than the main headings suggested by the Charity Commission) to avoid the need for new users to clear away existing data in order to set up their own requirements.
There is also a comprehensive set of instructions showing how to set up and use the spreadsheet.
Version without any data (revised 12-Feb-22)
Version with data to experiment with (revised 01-Apr-22)
The instructions on how to set up and use the spreadsheet, all illustrated with screen shots, now come in 4 separate volumes:
- Introduction: An overview of what the spreadsheet does;
- Setting Up: How to configure the blank worksheet to meet the needs of your charity;
- Data Entry & Analysis: How to enter transactions data into the spreadsheet, amend the data when necessary, and produce both in-built standad financial monitoring & management reports (eg: Budget & Cash-Flow) and how to use facilities like Sorting & Filtering to produce your own ad hoc reports;
- End-of-Year Operations: How to re-set the spreadsheet for use in the next financial period.
Note that the instructions are still being updated to include the most recent additions (eg: the facility to do simple stock monitoring for charities which have a small shop). But as the changes are mostly related to improving the robustness of the formulae they make very little difference to the way that the spreadsheet functions in practice. It is hoped that updated instructions will be available soon.
Both spreadsheets have been created using Microsoft Office 365(R) but appear to work satisfactorily in other compatible software, eg: LibreOfficeCalc(R). But please note: The on-line/web version of MS-Excel DOES NOT interpret the formulae correctly and so cannot be used to run this spreadsheet.
To use the spreadsheet you'll need to be rather more than a spreadsheet novice - ie: you'll need to have a reasonable understanding of how formulae work, copying & pasting, etc. But you won't need to be an expert.
Comments from a user
......The Small Charity Support multi-tab spreadsheet appealed to me. It was intuitively simple while carrying data around its tabs so that it only had to be entered once. Errors could therefore be reduced. It took a short while to understand the places where data could be entered and modified and where formulae lurked behind to make this unwise. Yet it had the flexibility to name and assemble category lines to represent our own operation.....
To read the full comment click HERE
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Compliments, queries, criticisms, brickbats (so long as they are constructive) are all welcomed.
Small Charity Support's mission is to make life easier and more effective for other small charities.
If we are doing things right, that's good and encouraging to know so that we can try to do more.
But if we're doing things badly we need to know about that, too, so that we either put it right or stop doing it to avoid harming others.
Intellectual Property and Copyrights
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All the other materials on this website are the intellectual property and copyright of Small Charity Support. All Small Charity Support's services & materials are made available free of charge & royalties for use by bona fide small charities & not-for-profit community organisations.
Use of the materials, directly or modified, for commercial or other for-profit purposes is NOT permitted.