Focus: Finance and Governance - Outlook - Thoughts on a modern finance team

Fiona Young is director of finance and resources at Crisis.

This will be my last article as the director of finance and resources at Crisis - I'm leaving to go travelling. It's always interesting when you leave somewhere you have come to know very well and you begin to reflect on what you have achieved.

Mostly, I will remember the opportunities I have had to develop new projects.

Over the past four years, Crisis has developed a new strategy that has led to a number of achievements: opening an activity centre, Crisis Skylight, in a new building (we also had to relocate our head office at very short notice); opening the Skylight Cafe; setting up a new charity; and floating off an existing Crisis project, FareShare, as an independent organisation.

More recently, we have started to offer our clients the opportunity to learn and develop new skills. All of these projects have involved adopting different financial planning and monitoring tools, making my time at Crisis far from dull and reflecting the need within charity finance teams to be flexible.

I will also remember a number of events that, were we to have included them within the strategic and operational plans (together, of course, with supporting budget), would probably not have seen the light of day.

The most memorable of these was at the end of November last year, during our annual search for a building to use as our main Christmas centre.

The then head of Open Christmas asked me if I thought we could insure the Millennium Dome for eight days, because we had been offered its use.

The way the team at Crisis pulled together to sort out the agreement with English Partnerships - which was in charge of the Dome - and get the whole event organised was like nothing I had ever seen. As a result, we held a very successful Christmas at the Dome.

The voluntary sector is going through a period of change, and a number of new challenges are presenting themselves, to the extent that any modern charity finance team needs to be chameleon-like if it is to adapt successfully.

Finance departments will always need to be aware of their responsibility to record and report on financial transactions.

More than that, however, they need to be able to communicate with the rest of the organisation and develop new methods of working. As I have often said, everything eventually has a financial effect.

Overall planning for both operational and financial activities is important, but when done well it also allows for the unexpected. And the unexpected, as I have found, is part of the magic of the charity sector.

KEY POINTS

- Diverse charity activities often involve adopting different financial planning and monitoring tools

- As the sector enters a time of change, new challenges mean charity finance teams must be flexible

- This includes a need to communicate effectively with the rest of the organisation.

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