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Basic Bookkeeping

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An introduction to bookkeeping for community non-profit organizations.

Quick Start

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The purpose of this section is to introduce core concept: "always leave a papertrail", and give easy tips for a person who is immediately assuming financial duties, but hasn't yet read the rest of this document. Mention multi-signature bank accounts and other good habits?

So you've volunteered to be a treasurer for a community organization. Good for you! Now what? It can take time to take over from your predecessor and/or setup accounting practises for a new organization. In the mean time, your organization still needs to move forward. But here are some simple guidelines that will immediately help:

  • get for receipts for everything. Write on the receipts memos of what it was for and who paid it (and if they need to be reimbursed)
  • avoid cash, prefer cheques.
  • if you have to accept cash, have two people count the money and sign a statement to the effect: "On this day, at this event, we counted $money in the cashbox. There was $float at the start of the event, so we collected $net total. (Person) is going to deposit $deposit in our bank account."

When in doubt, ask yourself: "if someone else looked at my records, would they understand how the money was spent?"

Paper Trails

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The purpose of this section is to introduce a simple single-entry accounting system, building on the previous section. Do this by showing ready-to-use examples of photocopiable forms, or showing how to use spreadsheets or chequebooks to track (and annotate) bank accounts. If possible, try and sneak in terminology and techniques from double-entry accounting.

Cheque Book

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(Using a cheque book to track and annotate bank account activities.)

Event Cash Flow Sheets

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(one 8.5x11 sheet of paper to record cash collection—e.g. from ticket sales. Have a chart to help cash counting, then a form for folk to sign off on the results. Organization-specific stuff would also be handy: e.g. new members.)

Next Steps

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The purpose of this section is to introduce double-entry accounting, building on the previous section. Show how to do this using low-tech supplies (eg. a dollar-store notebook). Lots of examples. Suggest spreadsheets.

(ideas: introduce "cash flow sheets" to replace the signed statements described above. Talk about banking. How to record transactions. Generally how to set up a simple bookkeeping system.. possibly including low-tech examples.)