Finance support: Raise your expectations

Your project’s financial health is key to its longevity, and understanding it can be a source of stress. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you’re responsible for managing a project or organization, you should expect financial data to effortlessly support your decision-making – even if the decisions in question are difficult and involve uncertainties! This means having access to approximately real-time information, clear data visualizations, robust analysis, and further support when you need it.

If you’re managing your finances internally, and your project is growing, finance support is perhaps the most important thing to consider outsourcing. Accounting and bookkeeping are unlikely to be a founder’s comparative advantage, and involve specialized knowledge and skills. There are also plenty of providers out there offering this service – and it doesn’t typically warrant a full-time position. All this means that outsourcing finance can be particularly cost-effective – and can free up your team’s capacity to focus on strategy and executing the mission.

Below we’ll share some things to look out for when considering finance support from a third party. We’ll also include tips for implementing some of this yourself if you’re not in a position to outsource.

Expect a deep understanding of your organization

If you’re managing finances in-house, then you’re already an expert in how your organization works. In fact, this may be the reason you haven’t outsourced it yet! There’s no substitute for a deep interest in, and understanding of, your organization. So, this is the first thing you should expect from a finance support provider if you’re interested in a fruitful and long-term partnership.

A deep understanding of your organization touches all aspects of finance support, from bookkeeping to budgets. Bookkeeping becomes considerably more efficient when your bookkeeper already understands, for example, which project a given invoice relates to — without needing to ask you. A deeply engaged bookkeeper can also use their understanding of the organization to advise on account structure itself — such as grouping your chart of accounts in a way that matches how budgets and dashboards are set up, or predicting how new codes interact with existing codes when the project expands its remit.

A deeply knowledgeable partner can also help you design bespoke financial control policies — by advising on anything from investment and reserves to managing cryptocurrency donations.

Expect near real-time finance information

Any fast-moving project or organization should expect to have a near real-time picture of its financial performance. This allows you to make decisions as and when they arise, rather than waiting for the necessary data to be scraped together into a report.

Modern accounting software, like Xero or QuickBooks, should let you do just that. Notable advancements here include:

  • Automated bank feeds
  • Rule-based coding of transactions (reconciliations don’t need to wait until month end!)
  • Automated dashboards to track budget performance

That said, siloing your data within the accounting software doesn’t always give you the flexibility you need to parse the data, compared to something like Google Sheets. If you’re managing this stuff yourself, consider using G-Accon to automatically export, refresh, and bulk upload data from Google Sheets to both Xero and QuickBooks. Pricing begins at $40 per month, and in our opinion it’s well worth the investment. Automation is perhaps your biggest lever for ensuring that financial data is both timely and accurate, and at Impact Ops we take an end-to-end approach that ensures the processes from bookkeeping through to financial reporting are smooth and efficient.

Expect robust analysis & clear visualizations

A robust and efficient financial infrastructure, with accurate and well-structured accounts, enables insightful cost effectiveness analyses. For example, you may want to analyse: 

  • spend by individual department, unit, and fund
  • individual accounts or account groups vs. historical results or expectations
  • multiple scenarios relating to staff, funding, or expansion – forecasted from historical data.

Analysis benefits from supporting visuals. Many bookkeepers and finance managers under-invest in data visualization, yet founders and decision-makers rarely have time to parse tables of numbers. Modern software enables clear and insightful data visualizations at the click of a button. 

Data visualization is a tool for decision-making, and not an end in itself. You should therefore expect data visualizations from your finance support provider to be clear and purposeful. Complex and multifaceted charts can be beautiful (and even inspiring!) But if they aren’t helping you quickly identify trends, anomalies, and/or risks, then they probably aren’t supporting your decision making to the degree that you should expect.

The keystone of any data visualization exercise is accurate data, so expect your finance support provider to begin by:

  1. creating budgets by unit, department, and fund (which, with well-structured books, can then be compared individually to actual results)
  2. reviewing your chart of accounts and mapping them to appropriate categories
  3. splitting accounts according to the projects you want to track
  4. organizing your data with the end goal of creating action-guiding visuals.


If you’re managing this yourself, don’t be afraid to start simple. Native charts in Google Sheets can be perfectly fit for purpose. More sophisticated tools include Looker Studio, Tableau, and Power BI, though these can still benefit from an earlier prototype in Sheets.

Expect more support

A financial support provider who has a deep understanding of your organization, delivers near real-time data, presents clear data visualizations, and offers robust data analysis, can be transformative.

In particular, the efficiency gains from automated, near real-time accounting should free up your finance provider’s time. That time can then be spent more effectively by taking a deep interest in your organization’s goals and needs, and supporting in ways not typically expected by a bookkeeper or accountant. 

We’ve been supporting organizations in a broad way by handling expense management, invoice processing, payroll, and bookkeeping. By taking this integrated involved approach we’re able to ensure accuracy and efficiency throughout the financial stack. We’re really proud of the feedback we’ve received so far:

“We now have a near real-time understanding of our financial position thanks to Impact Ops. They have built us an automated dashboard that provides informative insights on our fund balances and runway for our various funds. This has freed up our capacity to focus on mission-relevant work. I believe other projects in a similar position would strongly benefit from Impact Ops’ finance support.”

– Jeffrey Poche, Operations Manager at the Centre for Long-Term Resilience


Our mission at Impact Ops is to enable high-impact projects to grow and thrive. As part of this mission we’re excited about helping decision-makers raise their expectations of finance support.

If your organization would benefit from upgrading its finance support, please get in touch at

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