Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Balancing Checkbooks

"Nonprofit accounting is designed to ensure that the recipients of grants from the federal government and other benefactors are held accountable for the funds they receive. Regrettably, the big banks that have been granted billions from the Troubled Asset Relief Program are less transparent in their financial reporting than the local soup kitchen that gets federal support."
Today's op-ed in the NY Times, offered up by a pair of accountants, brought me back to the ranch. I instantly thought back to year after year of spending nights and weekends frantically pulling together the necessary details to complete the financial reports required monthly/weekly/quarterly/annually to keep the grants that kept my program running. It was a time suck and an energy suck. It was a distraction of resources to an infinite degree. And yet, somehow, financial documentation was correlated with program success for our nonprofit. And so I obliged.

Explain, please, how financial institutions, with very hard bottom lines and very tangible products, are not held to this same process. Explain why my MBA counterparts in the private sector were not up at nights with me, matching their dollar for dollar revenues and expenditures, always making sure that in the end, they were working with the amount that they were given, no more and no less. For me, finances were secondary to program mission. For banks, finances are their program mission. I did both. TARP recipients, and many of their private sector and banking peers, apparently are not being required to do either.

Here's hoping that the Prez, with his obvious passion for the nonprofit sector, puts a spotlight on the many soup kitchens and the like, that manage to produce balanced budgets, even while doing their real work of feeding the hungry. And here's also hoping that in the same vein, the Prez hands TARP recipients a basic checkbook balance sheet-- with a mandate to use it. 

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