Simple Accounts Spreadsheet
Comments from a User

I came into our small community managed library when the treasurer of the time decided to step down.   It was an amicable departure and he took me through the series of Excel separate spreadsheet that he had put together for the task.   They did the job well for a small operation like ours.

There was a high level of granular detail being analysed for what was a small operation.   Reporting concentrated on quarters that were brought together at the end of year.   End of year data was assembled and transferred over to a separate format for sign off and reporting.   I struggled to follow the detail information flows between these individual spreadsheets particularly round a series of grants with different conditions and found that it was easy for me to be inconsistent as data was updated in one place and then manually transferred.   I did not feel I wanted to provide hard linkage between them that would, while reducing one source of discrepancy, created a system that would resist change as well as generating its own opportunity for mistakes and inconsistencies.

I ran this system for a year to get to grips with it and understood both how it worked and where data from it was used.   I produced a flow chart of the information and data transfers to aid my understanding.

Towards the end of the first year, I started looking at charity finance systems to be ready for the next year.   There were many around usually based on membership systems.   Some linked membership to marketing.   Most were outside our budget.   I realised that their cost might be justified for large charities but were unrealistic for us.

From my professional engineering life, I was also wary of systems that were tailored to your own environment that would limit freedom of activity especially when we were a service organisation where membership was not a key feature.   I was also aware that Charity Commission documentation, while very detail and comprehensive, totally appropriate for a national body, was less than helpful to us looking daunting and unappealing to someone considering becoming a team member with us.

This was the point that I found and made contact with Small Charity Support.   They appeared to be an organisation that was trying to influence the wider charity world to understand that processes for large organisations were unhelpful at our size.   I was a spreadsheet person and did not feel confident to put together a schema for a database.   I was also not an accountant by profession and felt I wanted to resist the more formal methods necessary in Company reporting.   Whatever I did would need handing on at some stage

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.   I also found that I could insert more of my own sheets to summarise and control information in one place and so reduced the separate spreadsheets outside this workbook.

The thing that appealed to me most was that I could request colleagues to submit expenses, enter them and then use the budget reporting to generate immediate reports to our Trustees and Committee colleagues every month with no additional effort beyond printing a PDF and mailing it out where previously this had been quarterly.   Reporting increased threefold to help decision making.

I am aware that more lies behind this workbook than I use but that fits our principle of promoting our dedication to service against time spent in administration.   I took a decision early on the simplify the analyses done and stick to simple Receipt and Payments process that is sufficient for our Library operation.

So far, I have no regrets and our whole Committee now tries to put our service users before granular analysis.

JC    24 Feb 21