Financial management for community organisations

Effective financial management is critical to the success of community organisations. Good financial management processes not only enable you to continue operating and delivering the services you provide to the community, it also allows your organisation to expand and develop services and facilities for the future.

What is financial management?

'Financial management' is the procurement of funds and their effective utilisation. It entails planning, organising, monitoring and controlling your community organisation's financial resources to ensure you can achieve your vision and goals.

Key roles in financial management

It is important that your organisation understands the key roles in financial management.

It is critical your management committee understands they (not just the treasurer) are responsible for approving and ratifying all items of expenditure, as well as formulating and approving the budget.

It's also important that your management committee understands the difference between being 'accountable' verses 'responsible'. Accountability cannot be delegated, but responsibility can.


Management committee

The management committee is responsible for the financial management of your organisation.


The treasurer is part of the management committee and not the only person responsible for your organisation's finances. The treasurer's role entails reporting and providing strategic financial advice and may also include bookkeeping. The bookkeeping component is a good role to outsource to free up the treasurer's time to focus on financial strategies, budgeting and reporting.


An accountant may be engaged by your organisation to provide financial advice and guidance.


An auditor checks whether your financial report reflects your financial operations.

Good financial management processes

Do you have the right financial systems and processes in place to effectively manage your organisation?

Do you have adequate information (such as properly prepared balance sheets, profit and loss statements and cash flow reports) to make informed decisions?

Key financial management processes

  • A defined set of accounting policies and financial responsibilities, including set limits on spending with relevant approval processes.
  • Clear approval and ratification processes where approval is pre-expenditure and ratification is post expenditure.
  • The treasurer provides bank statements to reflect the figures in the financial report to ensure transparency.
  • Using a financial management system that integrates with other systems such as point of sale and online payment systems.
  • Having a process on how to prevent, identify, and respond to incidents of fraud.
  • Choosing secure internet banking passwords, which are changed regularly.
  • Limiting the amount of cash handled on site.
  • Keep good records of grant funding and use separate bank accounts to manage large grant projects.

Apply appropriate auditing processes. If you have:

  • $100,000 in income or assets (including grant funding), you are required to get your financial records audited
  • $20,000-100,000 in income or assets, your financial records don't need to be audited, but do need to be verified by an accountant.
  • $20,000 or below in income or assets, you must prepare a financial statement for verification by the management committee. You financial records do not need to be audited, or verified by an accountant.


Refer to the Australian Taxation Office website for advice about taxation requirements and goods and services tax.

The Australian Taxation Office does audit community organisations.

Annual return

All incorporated organisations are required to prepare an annual return and lodge it with the Queensland Government Office of Fair Trading within one month of your annual general meeting.

Financial management success factors

Annual budget

Prepare an annual budget with the committee and key employees (if applicable). 

You may decide to establish several budgets within a master budget (e.g. operating income and expense, capital expenditure and cash budgets). 

Your organisation should monitor its progress against the annual budget and produce monthly financial reports for committee meetings.

Appropriate maintenance expenditure and sinking fund

Your organisation should have  planned maintenance expenditure to maintain your assets and a sinking fund for their replacement as they come to their end of life.

Visit Maintaining and developing community leased and licensed premises for more information on your maintenance obligations and responsibilities.

Appropriate membership fees

Review your fee structure annually to ensure all membership and activity fees cover the associated delivery costs. If the fees do not cover the costs, you should understand what is being subsidised and from which income sources. Income from fundraising and sponsorship should not be relied on to deliver basic services or cover facility maintenance costs.

Once your organisation is generating an annual profit, you should plan to increase your fees by at least the consumer price index each year to cover your expenses. If you organisation is not yet making a profit, look to increase your fees incrementally each year until you are.

Chart of accounts

A chart of accounts is used to group together transactions of a certain type such as sales revenue or maintenance costs. A well-structured chart of accounts allows you to produce detailed reports for specific areas of your operations and finances.

Your chart of accounts should be correct, coded, clearly labelled, simple and used consistently.

Income versus profit is key

The difference between gross profit (income minus cost of goods sold) and net profit (gross profit minus all indirect costs (e.g. electricity, lease fees)).

Your organisation should operate with a profit each year. It is an organisation's profit that allows it to grow.

Level of service versus cost for the service

Your organisation needs to decide where it wants to be in terms of the level of service you provide versus cost. It's all about value.

If your organisation wants to provide a higher level of service, then this cost must be reflected in the fees you charge. It is essential you charge appropriately for the services you provide - you not only need to cover the costs of the service but also ensure you're able to continue providing the service in the future.

Online financial management system

Invest in an online financial management system to manage your finances.

Operating a quality, user-friendly financial management system:

  • saves time and fees
  • is secure
  • reduces the risk of errors and prevents the likelihood of fraud within your organisation
  • allows your treasurer to focus strategic financial management
  • allows connection with all bank accounts without the need for manual reconciliation
  • enables integration with your online point of sale system to enable tracking of stock 
  • integrates with your online payment systems.

Record keeping and financial reporting

All incorporated organisations are required to keep good financial records.

Good record keeping includes:

  • a cash book or statement of amounts received and paid
  • a receipt book and register of receipt books
  • bank statements (with a financial institution in Queensland)
  • a register of assets
  • a petty cash book.

Larger incorporated organisations may also be required to use a journal and/or ledger. Speak with your accountant or auditor for more information.

Your cash book should be balanced at regular intervals (e.g. monthly) and a reconciliation made between the cash book and bank balance. This reconciliation can then be provided as part of the monthly report to the committee.

Your management committee should record the approval or ratification of all payments in meeting minutes.

Any invoices that need to be paid must be raised by the treasurer at a management committee meeting for approval. Any payment greater than $100 should be paid by cheque or electronic funds transfer. Any amount less than $100 can be paid from your organisation's petty cash. All payments from petty cash must be recorded in the petty cash book.

All financial records for your incorporated organisation must be kept for at least seven years after the final entry.

Return on investment

Consider all your operations in terms of return on investment, particularly in relation to paying employees, players and coaches. Your organisation should be able to articulate the value in each area of service delivery.

Financial analysis - diagnosing your organisation's financial health

Your management committee should always understand the financial health of your organisation and thoroughly review your position to ensure you can meet your current financial obligations and future commitments.

Key areas for consideration

Appropriate maintenance expenditure

Ensure you have allocated appropriate maintenance expenditure to continue maintaining all assets.

Visit Maintaining and developing community leased and licensed premises for more information on your maintenance obligations and responsibilities.

Balance sheet

  • Your balance sheet should 'balance'. If it doesn't, what is the discrepancy?
  • Does your balance sheet, including the 'cash at hand', reflect your bank statements?

Buildings (owned by Council) listed as non-current assets

  • If the value of buildings owned by Council are listed as non-current assets, it can mask the true financial situation of your organisation. Ensure you review your financial position without the value of buildings owned by other parties such as Council.
  • If you have built a building within your current lease term, the depreciation claimed against the building should be allocated into a sinking or facility maintenance fund.

Current assets versus current liabilities

Your total current assets should exceed your total current liabilities.

Current assets versus net profit (operating surplus)

Your total current assets should far exceed your net profit (operating surplus).


  • You should have detailed information on the previous year's expenditure. 
  • Are there trends in expenditure over recent years? Are there any new expenses or times throughout the year when expenditure peaks and should be budgeted for?
  • Have you reviewed your suppliers and contracts recently to ensure you are getting value for money?

Financial statements are up to date

Your organisation's financial reports should be up to date and signed. They should include the previous year's amounts on the statement and the auditor's accompanying notes.


  • Does your organisation have more than one source of income? How predictable and reliable is each income source?
  • Does your income peak and trough throughout the year? Your annual budget should reflect these trends and your organisation should have measures in place to deal with any low cash flow periods.
  • Have you experienced any unplanned reduction in income in the past few years? If so, your organisation should determine the reasons for this change and put measures in place to address the issue or create alternate income sources.

Visit funding and income sources for more information on income sources and ways to generate more income.

Net profit (operating surplus) or loss

  • Is your organisation making a net profit or loss? What has been the trend over the last five years?
  • Does your income and expenditure reflect and align with your operating activities (e.g. your canteen makes a profit and payments to coaches are appropriate)?
  • Are you charging appropriate membership fees to cover the true cost of your operations? 

Outstanding debts

  • Does your organisation have any outstanding debts with the Australian Taxation Office, Queensland Urban Utilities or other peak body? If so, you should have a payment plan in place to rectify the situation as soon as possible.
  • Does your organisation have any personal member loans and if so, what are the payment arrangements in place, and are they registered with the Personal Properties Security Register?

Any debts owed, including those to members for loans, should have a payment plan or arrangement in place

Trade debtors (accounts receivable) versus trade creditors (accounts payable)

  • Does your organisation have trade debtors? Are you collecting all membership fees owed?
  • Does your organisation have significant trade creditors? Are you paying your bills as required?

Your organisation should collect all income owed to it and should not be writing any unpaid fees off. Similarly, you should be paying all bills as required or have payment plans in place.

Undeposited cash or cash floats

Cash should never be held or stored in large floats.


If your organisation doesn't have enough assets to service its liabilities and is unable to meet its financial obligations, it means it is 'insolvent'.

If you identify that your organisation is becoming insolvent, or is insolvent, you should contact Council (as landlord) and the Queensland Government's Office of Fair Trading for advice and guidance. The office provides information about how to close down an insolvent incorporated association.

Resources and support

  • Community Finance Centre by and Institute of Community Directors Australia - tools and resources to help improve your organisation's financial management and find more cost-effective banking solutions
  • Damn Good Advice for Board Members by - 25 questions not-for-profit board members should ask about finances
  • Damn Good Advice for Treasurers document by, Institute of Community Directors Australia and Commonwealth Bank - includes 25 questions a not-for-profit treasurer needs to ask 

Related links

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