Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Explaining finances

Cambridge Evening News came over for a photo-session at the clinic today, with a view to doing a follow-up on the feature they did last month. I think they found my explanation of how our finances work confusing, if not positively evasive, and I'm wondering how it can be made more understandable.

Part of the problem seems to be an assumption that most charities have some kind of regular funding, either from grants or donations, which may dip (if the grant is cut, for example), in which case they then have a fixed sum they need to appeal for in order to fill the gap.

In our case, our regular income is generated by our shops. The good thing about this is that it's possible to increase it by working harder. The downside (and what's confusing) is that shops have running costs, so it's possible to have a very impressive turnover  (money taken) but relatively modest profit (money generated for use by the charity). 

So, for example with our new shop in Newmarket (I've rounded up the figures):

Monthly takings: £6,500
Monthly rent: £2,300
Monthly Wages: £1,000
Rates, heat etc: £300

That still means a net monthly profit over running costs of nearly £3,000 (although you need to bear in mind that we spent money fitting out the shop, so it's not an actual profit until we've fully covered those costs, which we should do in 10 months time). 

This is why the shop takings we need to achieve in order to fund our clinic and the rehoming and emergency veterinary treatment are such a lot larger than the costs of the programs themselves.

Once the shops' fixed running costs have been covered, everything else is a bonus, so if we can generate more sales, increase donations of items we can sell and so on, the percentage profit available to finance animal welfare will increase. More sales mean some extra overheads (for example electricity used to heat water for steam cleaning donations), but they're comparatively minor.

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