Out On Screen Goes Digital with Core Accounting Functions
Out On Screen is a charitable organization that illuminates, celebrates, and advances queer lives through film, education, and dialogue. Out On Screen is a leader in Canada working to create an equitable society where sexual and gender diversity are embraced. The organization currently manages two core programs; The Vancouver Queer Film Festival and Out In Schools.
The Vancouver Queer Film Festival, which will be 35 years old this year, creates a dynamic platform for queer cinema that reflects a diversity of experiences while connecting and strengthening communities. The award-winning Out In Schoold, program, started in 2004, brings age-appropriate queer cinema into school classrooms to combat homophobia, transphobia, and bullying, and provides the language and tools for inclusion.
Brandon Yan, has been the Executive Director at Out On Screen since the summer of 2020, and prior to that, managed the Out In Schools program for five years. Brandon grew up as a mixed-race queer kid in Langley who never saw role models who looked like him on TV or film. From an early age, he realized that representation of diverse and complex intersecting identities was important, and became an activist, advocator, and educator for inclusion and support for 2SLGBTQIA+ in society. Prior to joining Out On Screen, Brandon worked in various nonprofit and for-profit organizations, and took the helm as ED just as the global pandemic was upending the world as we knew it.
As was the case with most organizations, the global pandemic forced everyone to rethink the way they were operating and look for ways to optimize and improve. For small nonprofits like Out On Screen, finding people that understood the unique accounting needs of NFPs and could work within tight budgets had always been a challenge that was just getting tougher.
It’s not uncommon for nonprofits to hire a “unicorn” role – someone that could do 7 jobs in one – knowing that they would likely enjoy and excel at about 3 of the 7 responsibilities. Brandon realized early on that this approach was less than ideal because it was both hard to hire that person, and because it doesn’t really serve that person very well in the long run. The key challenges facing Out On Screen were:
Nonprofits operate differently than their for-profit counterparts and finding accounting staff who are well-versed in the unique aspects of NPOs is difficult. Out On Screen needed people with institutional, sector-wide best practices who knew what they were doing and didn’t need to “learn on the job”.
While bookkeeping and financial oversight are critical at any nonprofit, they don’t typically require full time employees to manage day-to-day, especially in smaller organizations. Finding part time team members with the right skills and experience was difficult, if not impossible. But without dedicated resourcing in those areas, there was a constant knowledge gap that often led to instability in the function.
Out On Screen needed help with Bookkeeping, Accounts Payable, and Controllership support. At the time, a number of activities were still being done manually, and even required staff members to drive from house to house to get signatures from various stakeholders. When it was clear that a change was needed, Brandon canvassed the market of both accounting firms and individual bookkeepers, and interviewed a number of different resources before deciding to go with Enkel.
While the phrase “people, process, and technology” may be a bit cliche’ in this day and age, that’s exactly what Enkel brought to the table. Out On Screen was able to access a broad range of expertise in different areas of accounting, proven processes for operating, and a suite of cloud-based technology that connected all the moving people and parts. In effect, they were able to take their accounting completely digital.
Perhaps the most compelling reason for working with Enkel was their dedicated nonprofit division. Their deep knowledge of the industry and all the nuances of NPO accounting practices was unique in the market. Many members of their team previously worked in the nonprofit world and had done the accounting and controllership roles in NPOs.
When I first considered outsourcing, I was worried about accountability, accessibility, and the ability to have a seamless workflow with an outside service provider. With Enkel, not only do we get deep expertise in the nonprofit sector, but their services come with all the technology and processes we need to go digital. Everything is done in a more timely fashion and the reporting and support I get from Enkel is helping me be a better ED to both our staff and Board of Directors.”
As a “Covid ED”, Brandon and Enkel have not only navigated the pandemic together, but have developed best practices for operating more efficiently. Some important results include:
- Everything is done in a more timely manner because of the systems and workflows in place
- Fewer delays
- Audit processes ‘are a breeze” now
- Starting to better plan for the future using the reporting and forecasting that Enkel provides
- Saving time and money by reducing manual processes and non-core staff
Brandon’s advice for other NPOs thinking about outsourcing their back office functions is to clearly understand your own organizational needs so that you can effectively communicate with your accounting partners.
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