Embracing Flexibility in Your Organization's Accounting Practices

Antique weather vane.

I recently planned a birthday party for my young son. As per his request, we decided to hold an outdoor party at his favorite playground. He has a spring birthday and we have always been lucky with the weather in past years; however this year, our crazy Michigan weather wasn’t making things so easy. As we anxiously watched the forecast bounce from sunny and warm-enough to cold and snowy and everything in between, I realized we might need to hold the party in a more flexible space - somewhere that could work in any weather conditions.

I naturally try to embrace flexibility in my life, to keep my mind from getting too set on one particular thing. This same philosophy can be applied to my working environment as well. Accounting needs can change quickly, especially with nonprofit organizations that are just getting started or are quickly growing. What worked for a time might not be the best course any longer. There are (of course) certain rules and standards that we must follow as accounting professionals, but there are also countless ways to get to that end point.

If you find that you are struggling with a certain part of your accounting – maybe it’s a chart of accounts that is poorly organized or too long, a class list that’s being used for too many purposes, or difficulty pulling the information you need in reports – take a minute to think about what is at the root of the problem and if there is a change that could be made going forward. An overhaul might seem overwhelming but in the long run it’s easier than struggling for years with a system that's rigid and inflexible.

As accountants who serve many different nonprofit organizations of various sizes and missions, we see firsthand that what works for one organization may not be the best solution for another. It’s important to stay flexible and open-minded in order to find the best course to suit each situation. Remembers that your processes are not set in stone and should be revised if needed. Just because you've "always done it that way" doesn't mean you have to continue doing it that way tomorrow.

And as for my son's birthday party? We ended up holding it at our house instead, with an outside activity available and our whole house to retreat indoors if necessary. The weather held out and all the kids had a great time!