Accountability and Effectiveness Evaluation in Non-Profit Organizations

By James Cutt; Vic Murray | Go to book overview

7

From concepts to practice

Improving cost information for decision-making in non-profit organizations

I Introduction

It is the normal state of affairs in human service non-profit organizations (HSNPOs) that demand for services increases much more rapidly than the resources needed to meet demand, and that managers and boards face a constant problem of allocating scarce resources internally, on the one hand, and competing for scarce public and voluntary resources externally, on the other. Managers and boards should therefore have the answers to the following basic costing questions at their fingertips: What do administrative support services cost in your organization? How do you respond to the government’s proposal that you take over a new clinical programme with a grant covering only the salaries of the clinical staff? How much does your prevention programme cost compared to your treatment programme? How does the cost of treating a client in your rural office compare with that in your downtown location? Do you use programme cost information in your budgeting process internally, and do you use this information in your funding requests to governments, federated charitable associations, and other donors? Could you respond to a request from a public auditor to demonstrate your efficiency in resource utilization compared to other non-profit organizations and commercial alternatives?

As a step in focusing the broader research project on performance information, we asked managers and board members in the same four HSNPOs in Victoria, BC, described in Chapter 5, whether they had cost information, and, if not, whether they would find it useful for making policy and management decisions. This chapter demonstrates the development of a relatively simple cost accounting model 1 for a hypothetical HSNPO—Victoria Community Centre (VCC)—that was used to demonstrate and, frankly, promote the case for costing in the four HSNPOs examined in the research project.


II Attitudes to cost information in HSNPOs

Without exception, managers and board members observed that their major preoccupation was living within very tight budgets, and that detailed

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