Finance for Non Financial Experts

Financial information can seem daunting to the new inexperienced non-financial expert. This need not be the case. You can learn what to ask and how question and take advice when you need to on matters financial. It’s what you do with your own finances - you just need to learn the jargon and conventions so you can:

  • read budgets and accounts to know if the annual accounts properly reflect the true state of affairs
  • interpret financial reports and advice
  • challenge professional advisers entrusted with property and financial matters

Getting meaningful information

This is the key and board members/trustees should ask for financial information to be presented in a form that they can understand (e.g. tables, charts and graphs) and the information should be accompanied by a written commentary. Some organisations give new board members/trustees a glossary of the terms used in their accounts.

Key questions to ask at board meetings

  • Are we running a gain or a loss?
  • Are key expenses under control?
  • Do we have sufficient reserves?
  • Do we have an investment policy (if appropriate)?
  • Is cash flow adequate?
  • Where are we compared to budget?
  • Is our financial plan consistent with our strategic plan?
  • Are we filing reports on a timely basis?
  • Are we fulfilling our legal obligations especially to funders?

Can financial responsibilities be delegated to a treasurer, financial advisers, staff or other board member?

As a trustee/board member you cannot escape your financial responsibilities by delegating control and supervision of the finances to someone else; you remain collectively responsible as a board or governing body for the financial affairs of the organisation and would share liability for any financial wrongdoing.

To help you stay on top of your financial responsibilities, here is some further information and useful resources you can get from BDA: