The Treasurer's Report

By John Paul Dalsimer
From Self-Help Accounting, 2nd Edition, Energize, Inc, 2003, pp. 29-31

The treasurer of any organization must report on the financial transactions of that organization. This report should be made monthly. If the organization meets bimonthly or quarterly, it may be sufficient to report only at each meeting. The purpose of financial reporting is to make sure that any decisions that need to be made can take into consideration accurate and up-to-date financial data. Therefore, regardless of the frequency of meetings, it is probably still useful to give board members a treasurer's report monthly.
Let us now consider the treasurer's report of a small nonprofit organization with a volunteer treasurer. An example is on the next page [not copied here]. As you can see it shows:

  • the name of the organization
  • the period which the report covers
  • the cash balance at the beginning of the period
  • the income received during the period
  • the expenses paid during the period
  • the cash balance at the end of the period
  • the signature of the treasurer

As you can see from the example, the cash balance at the end of the period equals the cash balance at the beginning of the period, plus total income, minus total expenses. Note that the cash balance at the end of the period should agree with the “ balance per checkbook” on the bank reconciliation.

This format is usable both for a report to the board of directors or for a general membership meeting. Accuracy is important, but great detail is not. You do not need to show every single transaction that occurred during the period. In reporting income and expenses, show only significant items and combine small amounts as “other.” A report that people understand is better than a detailed one that is confusing.

On the example, the proceeds and expenses of the “Dance” are shown separately. An alternative way to report on the dance would be to “net” income and expenses and show the result as an income item or an expense item only. In this example, since the dance generated $1219.15 but cost $1462.45, the result was a net expense of $243.30. So the dance could have been reported only under the “expense” column as: Dance—net, $243.30. Had income exceeded expenses, the dance would have been reflected only under “income.”

This alternative should only be considered for special fundraising events, not for regular, ongoing programs. A disadvantage to the “net” method is that in the months before the event, the net amount may be income one month and expenses the next. Such fluctuations should be explained to the board. Regardless of the method you use in the treasurer's report, a detailed financial report on the special event should be prepared.

The treasurer's report should always be in writing. There should be copies for all members who will be present at the meeting when the report is presented. Ideally, members should receive the report in advance of the meeting so they can more thoughtfully fulfill their responsibility of understanding the treasurer's report and asking questions, if necessary.

You, as treasurer, will present the treasurer's report orally at the meeting. Keep this oral report brief and succinct. All that need be stated is the opening balance this month (or quarter or other period), the total income, the total expenses and the ending balance this month. It is easier for listeners to understand if you read the figures as dollars only, without mentioning cents. Explain any large or unusual items, either income or expenses—this is one of your responsibilities as treasurer.

On the written report can be a list of any significant amounts due the organization or any significant unpaid bills on hand. This can be summarized in the oral report. Once the oral report is presented and all questions answered, the chair should say: “The treasurer's report is filed.” Following proper parliamentary procedure, the treasurer's report is never “moved, seconded, and adopted.” The appropriate term is“ filed” or “filed for audit.” The reason for this is that the members present have no way to “approve” the details of the treasurer's report; they can only “acknowledge” it.

The secretary should be given a copy of the treasurer's report for attachment to the minutes. It is unfair (and unwise) to expect the secretary to write down numbers as they are being read aloud. One more point about the treasurer's report. Your organization should have a budget. It may be a formal one approved by the board of directors or an informal one, but you need some estimate of income and expenses for the forthcoming year. The categories of income and expenses on the treasurer's report should be the same as those in the budget. At the very least, they should be consistent from one report to the next. Things may have to be added from time to time, but the order should be maintained. This makes it possible for the board or the members to compare treasurer's reports from month to month and year to year.

One final hint. You can standardize your treasurer’s report by creating a simple form in a computer word processing program or on a typewriter, showing all the various categories, with blanks where the numbers will go. Print out or photocopy this blank report and each month simply insert the correct month and numbers. This saves time and ensures consistency. A handwritten or partly-typed, partly handwritten report should be acceptable as long as it is legible. Financial software, of course, can produce reports easily. Even a simple spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel® can work very well to format treasurer’s reports.

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