Using Quickbooks for reports

August 2, 2009
Hi Carol,
Our Board of directors for our homeschool group of 100 families just received your 2 books (Money Management for Homeschool Organizations and Tax Exempt 510c3 Status for Homeschool Organizations).  I have read them.  It has reassured me that we are on the right track and that we have instituted many of the things that you mentioned.

We have purchased Quickbooks and our treasurer is working hard to learn  the software.
What financial reports do we need to generate monthly?  We need these reports to be a simple process.The Balance Sheet and P&L (Profit and Loss) statement in Quickbooks looks are overwhelming.

We are not accountants and double entry lines are confusing.We have reconciled our checkbook successfully.  YEAH!
Any advise would be helpful,
Hilary S

Hilary,

I’m glad that my books were helpful.  Your organization sounds as if they are getting things set up well.  I hope you’ll be serving homeschool families for a long time to come.

I think Quickbooks (QB) can be as simple or as complicated as it needs to be. The reports your treasurer generates is dependent on what the board wants to see. When I was treasurer, I gave my board a P&L (Profit and Loss) statement.  They really liked to see the budget in one column and actual P&L in another column.  Then they could see how we were doing compared to our budget. This report can be generated in QB as a Budget Report.
I also created a mini balance sheet at the bottom of the P&L.  I took the amount in the checking account and then listed payments to be made.  This gave the board an idea of how much cash we had on hand and where it was planned to go.

If the P&L statements in QB are too overwhelming, then perhaps you’re not using QB correctly.  I frequently see QB users make their Chart of Accounts too long.  Then the P&L becomes 2-3 pages long.  I recommend that a P&L be condensed into one page or less.

If your treasurer would like my help in setting up QB, I’d be happy to help.  She can e-mail me with what needs to be done and I’ll give you an estimated cost.  I also do QB training over the phone. I keep things as simple as possible.

I hope that helps.  I wish you the best of success! (Congrats on balancing the checkbook!)

Carol Topp, CPA

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Returning co-op supplies to parents

July 6, 2009
Carol,
logosI wanted to ask you how your homeschool co-op handles classes where there are nonconsumable items purchased.  We had a class where kits were purchased for a LEGO class.  Students shared kits so we charged a lesser fee.  Now people think they should get half of the kits (kinda silly because there is only one motor) or that future classes in future years should have to pay and they receive a credit each time.  We have never done that with any classes in the past.  It has always just become property of the co-op.  It sounds like it would be a bookkeeping nightmare otherwise.
Thanks for your input.
Becky P in KY

Becky,

You’re right, the logo kits sound like a bookkeeping nightmare.  I like to keep things simple, but as fair as possible.

We had a similar situation in my homeschool co-op with Spanish books.  The teacher bought a curriculum to use and was planning on spreading out the cost of the teacher manuals and CDs over two years of students. It took some guess work to figure out how many students she would have this year as well as future years.  In the end we decided  that this year’s students would end up paying for a portion of the teachers books and CDs.  The rest of the cost was absorbed by the co-op as a whole. The co-op then owned the teacher books and CDs. Future Spanish classes were charged a small supply fee so that the co-op could recoup the cost of the teachers books and CDs.

In summary I think the co-op should own non consumables, not the individual parents. Sounds like that’s how you have done it in the past. Parents pay a supply fee, but are not entitled to the equipment afterward nor a credit from future students.
Carol Topp, CPA



How Much to Keep in Cash Reserves?

May 23, 2009

Bag of coinsHello,

I am wondering whether you have any guidelines about a good amount of cash to keep in reserve, or what to use as a basis for determining the amount of cash. We have a substantial surplus, growing every year despite our efforts to price classes at a close to break-even rate.

Thank you!
Shaun S in Minnesota

Shaun,

What a wonderful position to be in-cash reserves growing each year! Many for-profit businesses are not doing that well!

It’s a little difficult to be specific without knowing how you operate, such as do you collect all fees at the start of the semester or do you operate month to month.  Can families drop out or join mid semester? Do you offer refunds of fees paid if a family drops out? etc…

Basically, the tighter you run your cash flow (i.e., only collecting a month at a time), the more you need in reserve.

I recommend that you look at your sources of income.  Imagine any one item being eliminated, such as a major fund raiser. How would you run your co-op without that source of income? Sometimes when a nonprofit loses a major source of funding, it needs to fall back on cash reserves for a while.

Here are a few guidelines to help you determine the amount of cash reserves needed:
1. Have at least 10%, maybe 15% of your income in reserve for emergencies, damages or disasters.
2. Have at least one or two month’s rent in reserve in case you need to move locations.
3. If you pay employees, have at least three months of their pay  in reserve.
4. Consider creating a future plan of major purchases (like a computer or software) or programs you’d like to offer. Your surplus could be applied to your “wish list.”
5. Have at least enough in reserve to cover the deductibles on your liability and medical/accident insurance.

Here are a few ideas of what to do with your cash surplus:
1. Offer reduced fees to hurting families. In my homeschool co-op, we have a widow and another family with a disabled father, so they get free access to our co-op classes.
2. Offer reduced fees for significant volunteer efforts. We offer teacher discounts and discounts to our co-op director.
3. Make a contribution to the location you are renting if  it is a church or community organization.
4. Have an end of year party with a catered dinner.
5. Give appreciation gifts to all your volunteers.

I hope that helps!

Carol Topp, CPA


Group using personal Paypal account

April 2, 2009

money_exchange_100Hi Carol,

Our (homeschool group’s) yearbook is looking take in the money thru my personal paypal account, then deposit it into an separate bank account so that our Assoc. does cross over the $5000.00 mark. How is this done so that I don’t have to claim the money as extra income.

Currently the association is trying to do a paypal account not just for yearbook for membership dues, they are hesitant because they set up the a paypal account under non-profit, paypal is wanting proof of this and we don’t have it. I suggested that they explain to paypal that they we are a Unincorporated Non-Profit Assoc. and it should be fine.

Sandy in TX

Sandy,

The ideal way to operate is to set up a Paypal account for the association/homeschool group and not run anything through your personal Paypal account.

I understand from other homeschool leaders, that Paypal expects to see proof from the IRS of tax exempt status. They may also accept a nonprofit incorporation certificate from your state. They told one homeschool group they would accept “certified Articles of Incorporation.”

One homeschool registered with Paypal as “Category: Education, Subcategory: Elementary and secondary schools.” While not as accurate as “Charitable/Nonprofit”, it got the job done!

If your organization is not a nonprofit corporation or doesn’t want to be classified by Paypal as as a school, then tell your board that you are using your personal Paypal account and have them record it in the minutes of a board meeting. (“Sandy agreed to allow use of her personal Paypal account for the yearbook project”) Keep a very clear paper trail just in case you are ever audited by the IRS. Keep paper records of every transaction and especially the transfers in and out of the Paypal account. Make print outs from Paypal and file them away with wherever you keep your tax return information. (Do NOT send them to the IRS with your tax return.)

Anyone had problems setting up a Paypal account for their homeschool organization? Id like to hear your experience.

Carol Topp, CPA


Board, Bylaws and Budget

October 18, 2008

A homeschool leader is asking some excellent questions about writing bylaws, establishing a board and collecting money.

Dear Carol,
I am co-directing an established homeschool group and we are in the process of writing by-laws. My question is, is it okay to not allow members to have a vote pertaining to the decisions of the homeschool board? Can the by-laws be set up to allow suggestions and recommendations from the members at the approval of the board? Our concern is to protect the vision of the homeschool group. Also, is it legal to initially appoint a board without a vote and then fill vacancies at the discretion of the established board? When it comes to handling dues from the members are there guidelines that must be followed such as becoming a formal non-profit? Can we handle dues without needing to apply for non-profit status or 501c3?
Your website has been a tremendous help to us as well as your article in the Winter 2006-07 issue of The Old Schoolhouse. Thank-you for your time and ministry to homeschooler’s.
Misty M
Misty,
You have asked several good questions. Your group is fortunate to have you as a co-director.


Yes, it is OK to not have members vote; I have been on several nonprofit boards that do not have members vote.

Yes, you can set up your bylaws to allow final approval of ideas to be a board responsibility. You may establish a practice of considering suggestions and recommendations; you may not need to formalize the practice in the bylaws.

Yes, you can appoint a board without a member vote. This is done quite frequently on nonprofit boards, especially fine arts boards (i.e., art museums, symphonies, ballets, etc). Many boards find their own members from interested members, volunteers or patrons.

You can accept dues without being a 501c3 or having nonprofit corporation status. If you have a large surplus you may wish to consider nonprofit incorporation to legally establish your group as a nonprofit. My co-op filed for nonprofit incorporation last year because we have been carrying a large cash surplus for several years. We didn’t want our state to think we are a for-profit business and charge us business income tax. These articles might be helpful:

Do We Need to Incorporate?
7 Great Reasons to Incorporate

As a guideline, your board should remember their fiduciary duty (duty of care and duty of loyalty) to manage the funds with the purpose/mission of the organization in mind and not for private gain or benefit.
The board’s job is

  • to provide for fiscal accountability,
  • approve the budget, and
  • formulate policies”

(from “Major Duties of Board of Directors),

In other words, think first of what is best for the organization.

I hope that helps!

Carol Topp, CPA