Thoughts on bookkeeping:

The style of bookkeeping you choose should reflect two things, your previous experience and the level of activity of your group. If you have experience as an accountant or as a treasurer, then you don't need my advice, choose what you are comfortable with. If you have only the experience of balancing your checkbook, read on.

Simple Bookkeeping

For a small group with little activity, using the checkbook register is a perfectly fine bookkeeping system. If your group usually writes one check to reimburse a lot of receipts (people save up receipts until they see you) be sure to keep good, clear records in the checkbook register. The bank will give you checkbook registers as needed, so don't be afraid of using too much space. If you look over the Income Statement (page 2) you will see that income and expenses are divided into various categories. Those are all you really need to know, an entry such as:

4/15/00 #153 Mary James $25.25
9.15 printing/O&A
16.10 postage/O&A
will give you all the information you need to do the reports. Having more information is good since it is easier to write things down as they happen than to remember them later on.
4/15/00 #153 Mary James(Maire of Shrewsbury) $25.25
9.15 printing/O&A(March newsletter)
16.10 postage/O&A(March newsletter)
If you figure out what categories expenses are as you write the check (or during the monthly reconciliation), it's easier to fill out the reports later. There are a limited number of categories on the reports, you will probably use only a few of them. Quick guide to deciding expense categories

If you are reimbursing a group member, please write their mundane name in the register! SCA names change far more frequently than mundane names. Writing the SCA name (or part of it) can be handy for us, but the mundane name is the most important (remember, this office deals with the mundane banking and IRS community.)

Along with the idea of using space, write in all the notes you will need when asked to explain what happened in a year or two. These records must be kept for 7 years, so it is always better to take too many notes rather than too few.

Be sure you will be able to match receipts up with checks. When your office changes hands, or every 2 years, the "books" are to be gone over, including asking to see the receipts for randomly selected checks. I labeled each receipt with: date check was written; person check was written to; check #; and # of receipt (1 of 3, 2 of 3, etc.) Another group used a sheet of paper for each check, wrote the check information in the corner and fastened the receipts to the paper. Look and see what has been done in the past in your group, if there is a good system in place, keep using it.

Receipt books are pretty much a necessity for non-profit groups, anyone giving us money has a right to a receipt. I highly recommend using a 3-part receipt book for anyone in the group who is authorized to accept money on behalf of the SCA (seneschal, herald, chronicler, treasurer or any others you may have.) The person accepting the money fills out the receipt, the donor gets the top copy, the middle copy goes with the money, and the last copy stays in the book. That way there is something with the money that says what it is (you might be suprised how often "misc income" turns out to be "money that we found and couldn't remember where it came from")

There are two things that can make using the register as the only bookkeeping system difficult. A high activity level and Special funds.

High Activity Level
When using the checkbook register as the only bookkeeping system, you usually have to copy out the expenses on a sheet of paper and add them together (assuming you have more than one expense per category.) Fine for a few checks, unwieldy for many checks. A spreadsheet, either paper or computer, will be a big help in keeping track of many checks divided into many categories. Just label the columns with the categories that your group uses off the forms (be sure to make separate columns for O&A, Event, and (if necessary) Fundraising) and divide the checks into categories when you enter them on the sheet. Then, every quarter, sum up the columns. Note that this still requires the entries in the register to be clear! Quicken and other checkbook or money management programs can do this for you also.

Special Funds
Special Funds are moneys that are set aside, outside the "general fund" for some reason. Some possible reasons for special funds:

There is one big thing to keep in mind about ALL special funds. You can't set them up, even casually, without having an idea of how to get rid of them. What if the fighters raise half the money they need? They may feel entitled to use the rest for another purpose (like tools), but someone in the group could raise a stink "because that's not what the money is there for." All funds must have a secondary purpose specified, after which the money defaults to the general fund. As a matter of fact it's such a good idea that you aren't allowed to set up special funds without it. This example is from the Handbook: "The Pavilion fund is primarily for buying a pavilion. If we cannot buy a pavilion, this fund will be used to buy materials to make a pavilion. If there is money left over, or the pavilion idea is abandoned completely, this fund reverts to the General Fund." Of course, you have the responsibility of letting people know about this policy when they start talking about raising money for a special purpose.

Do you need special funds? This is a good question. Sometimes groups try to track money that they don't need to. Just because the heralds take money doesn't mean you need to keep a "heraldic fund." If the heralds need copies or markers, are you going to refuse because their fund is too low? If you run your newsletter off of donations, will you cease publication if/when you run out of money in that fund? If not, then do you need to track it? If your newsletter has never gotten enough donations to cover costs, but everyone wants to keep publishing, then why worry about it? Our shire, at one point, kept a spreadsheet showing that the newsletter was over a hundred dollars in the red. Other than being a burden to the Chronicler and the Treasurer, what good did it do?

BTW, there is a difference between a "Budgeted Amount" and a "Special Fund." If your group wants to set aside $15 every year for each offices expenses, and you keep a running total of how much they have left, that is NOT a special fund. The money came from the general fund at the beginning of the year, and to the general fund it shall return :-)

If you must have or want to have special funds, you will probably need to use double-entry bookkeeping to keep track of everything. There are many accounting books on this subject and the Treasurer's Handbook also goes over the basics (Chapter 3.) You should also get any special funds cleared by the Kingdom Treasurer (to make sure it is set up correctly.)

Tips to make even this basic bookkeeping easier:

If checks are cheap and no charge for processing, consider writing separate checks for each expense (within reason, no need for 85cent checks)

Use the memo line on checks. When you are writing the check out is when you know the most about the transaction. That's the time to write it down. Be sure to write the information in the check register or ledger also.

The Kingdom, and some of the baronies, use a check tracking form (see forms page), that gives more room to write information. If you like the idea, feel free to adapt the form.

Make separate deposits for separate things:

And be sure the deposit slip says more than "cash" If it's gate receipts (or site fees, or troll money…) then SAY SO on the deposit slip and in the register. Banks don’t usually care if you have additional information on deposit slips, the ones I’ve talked to seem to think it’s good for you to have information. If your bank doesn’t care, write what each deposit is for:

Try to write clearly on deposit slips for the site/feast fees from an event and note on the slip (someplace the bank doesn’t mind) “Event name -# of 3” (if more than one slip is necessary)

Ask if your bank can get a book of deposit slips preprinted with your group account # (and name if possible) Our bank printed us a whole book of deposit slips for free with our account number on them.

Another way to do the above is by having a form for every deposit where you list all the stuff I talked about. If you like the idea of another form, but don't want to create one yourself, then there is one I created for the Kingdom accounts on the forms page. You can feel free to adapt the form to suit your needs, the Kingdom tends to get a lot of transfers from groups (and is very thankful for them.)

What we are trying to accomplish is making it easier to do the reports and check the files. Anyone in your group has the right to see the files (after requesting such) and it is just much more pleasant if everything is self explanatory. It’s also easier when you get step down from the office, as your replacement won’t be calling you asking “what is…”

Imagine you are taking over as treasurer after an event. If the above recommendations were followed (as much as possible) then you will see a few checks written in advance (usually one to reserve the site, one for food, maybe one or two for supplies) and one check for a nice even amount such as $50 or $100 that is troll change. Immediately after the event date you will see deposits clearly labeled as being the: troll change redeposit; site fees & feast fees deposit; heraldic fees deposit(from the consulting table); and possibly a few more deposits after a few days (late site fees) and more checks written for expenses. If the check register has the breakdowns (i.e. #153 – Golightly $23.51 food $3.01 supplies) it is very easy to see what was going on.

Now imagine another situation. Before the event a few checks (including one that advanced money for feast food, reimbursed for site rental and paid for a few supplies)and what is obviously the troll cash check (but not marked as that, but what else would it be?) After the event 1 large deposit, consisting of all moneys taken in and the troll cash, sometimes even held a few days because “Bob is going to get his site fee to you”. The deposit lists the mundane names of the people who wrote checks, but there is no indication of which are site fees, and which are from sales of inventory (which was going on at the event) 3 heraldic submissions were included in the deposit, since the consulting table was going strong, but they aren’t identified either. Checks are written to reimburse people, but it was just too much work to break them down in the register or on the check. The treasurer is sure he’ll remember what they were for. They’ve got the receipts, so what could go wrong?

Well, what could go wrong is the report. Since this isn’t our personal money, we must report on its use to the corporation and eventually the IRS.

In the first situation, filling in the blanks on the report will be easy, practically a no-brainer. The kind of situation where the treasurer can’t figure out why others have problems with the reports.

In the second situation, the treasurer could spend hours figuring out the deposits and receipts, since he/she didn't write the information down when it happened.

Balance each bank statement!! This is required by Society and Kingdom Financial Policy (FP), and a darn good idea too. There is usually a form on the back of the statement, but you can use the front of the statement as well (if there's room.) The advantage of the front is that it alleviates the need to copy the back. It might look like this:

Statement Checkbook
544.63 503.51
-40.00 #1003 +1.12 interest
504.63 504.63

If your group has a lot activity, there might not be room on the front, so use the back. If you use a computer program such as Quicken, print out the reconciliation report and file it with the bank statements. Your regional will need a copy of whatever reconciliation you do.

Filling out the Cash Reconciliation Worksheet is NOT a replacement for reconciling the monthly statements. The Worksheet is a tool used quarterly, bank statements (usually) are monthly. You can use the Worksheet to determine what your ending balance was at the end of the quarter if your bank statements come several days later, but you CAN NOT substitute the Worksheet for monthly reconcilement.

On to Part 4 - REPORTING
I changed my mind GET ME OUT OF HERE!