Like many worthwhile lessons, financial information can have a value in inverse proportion to listeners’ interest in it. Regardless of interest, however, financial information is important, and it is important for nonprofit staffers at all levels to have some idea of the organization’s financial situation.
With that said, many financial officers encounter a great deal of difficulty in delivering financial information to people who are not in the financial know.
During the 2014 Nonprofit Executive Summit in Santa Fe. N.M., Debbie Johnson, chief financial officer of the American Diabetes Association, emphasized the importance of communicating finance. She stressed the point: “It’s not about the numbers, it’s about information.”
Toward that end, Johnson suggested that anyone conveying financial information to an audience of non-finance experts keep the following thoughts in mind:
- Understand they might not want to be finance experts;
- Say it quick and say it well;
- Avoid financial jargon;
- Avoid meaningless accounting/process minutia;
- Highlight financial data points relevant to the audience’s interest;
- Review in a consistent process so the audience knows the flow;
- Connect the story behind the numbers: simple graphs, dashboards, etc.; and,
- Offer “amnesty” trainings to review the basics.