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not for profit

Accounting For Good turns 25

Accounting For Good (AFG) celebrated 25 years in June 2022. It’s an incredible milestone and we are very proud of this achievement. Ever since its inception, originally as Matrix On Board, AFG has focused on supporting not for profit organisations achieve sound financial management and empowering them with invaluable fiscal insight.

The nonprofit sector is filled with remarkable human beings, all wanting to make their small part of the world better. Today, we have invited some of our founders, our current team and our clients to comment on their thoughts and experiences of the last 25 years.

Colleagues working on a project together using a laptop

In the beginning

Morri Young, Nonie Wales and Kirsten Forrester recognised there was a gap. They had all been involved in a national project that was supporting the implementation of tax reforms and they realised that the nonprofit sector wasn’t prepared for what was coming. Kirsten says:

“We understood that many organisations weren’t big enough to have all the components of a finance team in-house. 

They didn’t have the resources to have a person for each role, but of course they still needed all the roles covered. These roles cover everything from bookkeeping to technical compliance, standards, achievements through to analytical insights and CFO strategic work.

It’s very hard to find one person who can offer all those skills so that’s what we created. At AFG we have all of those people and all of those skill sets – and we package them into a flexible, scalable solution.”

Volunteers holding hands together

When Nonie thinks back to the beginning, she recognises that the decision to start AFG was very strongly connected to social justice. She explains:

“We were all really committed to the importance of nonprofits and charities in making a better, more just society. We could see how tax reforms could really undermine the capacity of these organisations and we were worried about the impact on the sector.

We could tell that NFPs were poorly placed to be able to respond to the government requirements… and without good business skills, they were going to fall over.

We are all really big social justice advocates, and we believe that for social justice to be healthy in Australia, we need healthy conduits – these are the nonprofit organisations and charities… but they were at risk because of the reforms and also the changing funding environment. This is why we started Accounting For Good.”

Challenges along the way

Like any business, as AFG grew there were some challenges along the way. Developing new processes, refining our service model and even building relationships are all aspects of the business that have evolved over the years. Kirsten remembers her early days when we adopted Xero and implemented cloud-based accounting – it was something very different for both our team and our clients. It enabled us to be far more agile but also changed the nature and conduct of our relationships when our bookkeepers were no longer visiting clients’ offices.

“Those ‘early adopter’ decisions really positioned us well for the future – and years in advance of much of the accounting industry. We’ve had lots more flexibility on how we can provide services. While bookkeepers no longer visit the clients, it’s created space for our Account Managers to develop stronger relationships with their clients and to reshape that senior role and our outsourced CFO service.”

Female colleagues happily having conversation while having a coffee

Nonie knows that it’s the connection between people that is central to the company’s success.

“Nonprofits and charities really value human beings and relationships. It is a signature feature of the NFP sector. So for us, one of the main challenges we faced was to get prospective clients to understand that outsourcing was OK.

For many NFPs, their perception of how to honour people was to employ them and there was an understandable resistance to outsourcing. It wasn’t very common back then, so we needed to be able to prove to clients that we could be trusted… we understood their mission and their passion for their cause.”

Thankfully, many clients did recognise and resonate with our vision. This was a prerequisite for Dr Belinda Russon, CEO at Tranby National Indigenous Adult Education & Training, when she was looking for new accountants.

“I wanted to partner with someone who understood the NFP world and could recognise the impact of our​ Aboriginal led community organisation. It was imperative to me that the accountants we selected understood our values and philosophies.

With AFG there is a generosity of spirit. They want us to be successful and work diligently to support us to achieve our organisational goals. That is something I truly appreciate.”

Female accountant computing financial graph

It’s the people

Finding the right people is key. Whenever we look to recruit new AFG team members, we look for people who have expertise in the NFP world, but more than that… we need to find people who fit the culture. We want them to be experienced and knowledgeable but also friendly, helpful and kind. They need to be the right fit for us as well as our clients.

And Jane Chen, one of AFG’s Account Managers, was a perfect match! Committed, loyal and diligent, Jane has been with the organisation for almost nine years. Over that time she has not only gained extensive experience working with a whole range of clients but has also been on a personal development journey.

“The nature of my work means I interact with lots of clients… it gives me the chance to work with a lot of different people. I like watching how people do things, how they interact. It helps me to rethink the way I do things – rethinking is a crucial part of my learning process. And I learn so much from others.

I feel like every time I can help a client, if they come to me with something they are worried about, asking me for help… when I see them relieved, I feel really fulfilled. I know what we do is really important. It keeps me going and always enjoying my work. I feel like everything I learn is not just career development but also personal development.

Being fulfilled in your work is essential, and I know that my contribution is valuable. I can help make the place better by using my knowledge and being able to solve problems, helping people understand their finances, being considerate and helping one another. I love that everyone here at AFG is on the same page!”

Partnering with great organisations

Central to AFG’s longevity are the partnerships we have built over the decades. And the fact that after 25 years we are still growing and supporting more and more NFPs every year is cause for celebration.

Allevia Limited is one of those NFPs and Philip Petrie, CEO, acknowledges just how much of a difference AFG has made to them.

“We started with AFG in 2017, when working within the environment of the NDIS was a fairly new experience… it’s very commercial and financially transactional. It required a style of account keeping that we were not experienced with, but AFG brought the commercial overview.

In fact, the very first AFG budget we put up to the board… well, it just blew everybody away because it had so much depth – more than any budget ever given to the board before. At the time, our board had been in a very difficult position where they were even questioning their solvency, so bringing AFG to the table meant that they were able to sleep at night.

Our directors now have financial oversight, and they feel very comfortable – anything that might go wrong they know about and when they are making decisions they are always underpinned by good financial intel.”

It is a similar story for NADA – the Network of Alcohol and other Drugs Agencies. Larry Pierce, former CEO, says that when he first spoke with Morri Young about our not for profit accounting services, NADA was still just a small NGO but needed to partner with someone who understood the nuances of nonprofits.

“Morri said to me, ‘we understand your mission, we understand the legislative framework and we want to work with organisations that do good things’ – that’s what got me.

They’ve helped us with a whole range of accounting needs. Early on it was GST issues that were all new, then we needed help dealing with government grants and their intricate requirements, accountability in specific ways of spending. They have always been incredibly helpful. And what stands out to me is just how ethical they are – as a company and as individual people.”

Business woman smiling at the camera while holding a table

Proud of our work

Finally, we can’t deny how proud we are of what we do. Working in the not for profit space is vastly different to corporate settings where everyone is focused on profit. We know that the people we work with are really making a difference. Nonie says:

“I feel really so proud of the way AFG supports service for the greater good. It does that through our team being able to do work of mission and purpose for them. They are inspired by that and it’s why they come to work every day. Knowing that they are helping amazing clients achieve their goals is very fulfilling – it’s palpable.

They really bring power to the muscle of those incredible people trying to change whatever patch of their world they are trying to change – having a firm hand on their finances helps them not only survive, but thrive! We support people who are changing the world for the better and that is our greatest success.”

From the bottom of our AFG heart, we would like to thank you for being part of our 25 years and we look forward to 25 more.

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