Report Cards.

Earlier this week I received a box in the mail, addressed directly to me, with “Confidential” stamped on it.  As soon as I saw the return address I knew what it was.  The official copies of our 2009 audit.  Our fiscal year runs from October 1 through September 30,  so our audit comes at the very end of the calendar year, with the results coming in January/February.

It’s like getting a report card.  You know, you weren’t ever really surprised by what was on it, but to see it there, in black and white, and know you have to show it to other people (like your parents) was kind of unnerving, if it wasn’t all good.

We had a very good audit experience that affirmed many of the positive changes that we’ve made, and gave us a good report on our processes and procedures, but the bottom line is kind of ugly this year.  And I feel a bit like I got a bad report card.

Operationally, we actually did better this year than last, but we had to make some big adjustments on paper to account for an unfavorable appraisal of the frequency that we purchased in 2007. And we had to admit that some people who owed us money aren’t really going to pay us and write those accounts off.  Ouch.  Big ouch.

Anyone really reading the financials carefully would see some very good things and would understand that those were “paper” adjustments, not real cash transactions.  But just looking at the bottom line, you’d have to say, “Hmmm.”  If you read all the way through to the notes at the end, you’d see that we’re working hard to keep things moving in an upward direction.  If you read all the way through . . .

Just like that pesky report card, this gets shown to people who matter.  Major funders, grant makers, individuals who ask for it.  I sent several copies out in the mail today to people who require them on an ongoing basis and I seriously wanted to add a note that said, “Promise you’ll read this carefully, compare it to last year (not just the bottom line), and read the notes at the end.  Promise?”

I really very proud of the accomplishments of this organization over the last year.  We’ve played fairly well with the hand we were dealt, so to speak, and kept expenses unbelievably low. I’m ridiculously optimistic about what’s ahead for us.  So spending much time worrying over last year’s report card seems like an unproductive use of energy. So I’m not going to.

But I do sort of feel like I got a frowny face sticker or a “you can do better” written in red.

Onward and upward,



1 Comment

Filed under Financial fun

One response to “Report Cards.

  1. The more I experience nonprofit reporting, involving multi-year grants, rolling deficits, etc, the more I am dismayed about how complicated it is to read and report finances, especially using the industry standard, accrual method.

    Sometimes I want to just get a big mattress and turn all of our grants and income into cash to stuff into it.

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