When Kent Union, the students union for the University of Kent, carried out a review of the way it managed its finances, it found a number of deficiencies.
The union runs a variety of services for students, ranging from bars and cafes to advice services and a nursery. The review found that it was not hitting its budgets, its bars and other licensed outlets were not delivering the expected profits and it was not carrying out an internal audit or benchmarking against comparable organisations.
The union reacted by introducing reforms to its financial management processes. The finance team made presentations to all budget holders to explain how to set their budgets properly, conducted a review of its risk management processes and provided project management training to senior staff members.
It also completed a benchmarking exercise comparing the union with others on margin, staff costs and several other metrics. The risk register review identified 146 changes that needed to be introduced, of which all are expected to have been carried out.
As a result of the changes, the union's financial performance has improved over the year, moving from a deficit of £196,000 to a projected surplus of £69,000. Significant improvements have been made in the amount of revenue generated from alcohol and other licensed products, which are now projected to bring in an additional £33,000 this year. The senior management at the university has also recently approved the union's proposal to build a new £2m nursery after the finance team developed a robust business plan.
The team has changed attitudes towards risk throughout the organisation and has allowed the union to adopt a more strategic approach.
Caron Bradshaw, chief executive of the Charity Finance Group and one of the judges, said: "This was impressive pan-organisational engagement. The move from a fairly large deficit to a projected surplus is strong evidence the approach has helped."
Bradshaw was also impressed by the way the union had made savings through restructuring its risk management processes and by improving the way it manages projects.
Caron Bradshaw, chief executive, Charity Finance Group
Chris Harris, partner, MHA MacIntyre Hudson
Malcolm Hayday, chief executive, Charity Bank
Alison Paines, partner, Withers