Jitasa Nonprofit Blog

Nonprofit Employee Expense Reimbursement Plans Part 4

Part 4 of a 4 part Educational Series from Jitasa

Employee Expense Reimbursement Plans: Execution & Driving Buy In

As we wrap up this blog series (Reference Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3), let’s turn our attention to the partnership needed between senior management and finance.

In my experience, the best policies result from team efforts.   Creating and implementing a good employee expense reimbursement policy is no exception.  However, many times teams disband after implementation.  While natural to do, the work has really just begun.

Maintenance requires constant vigilance and enforcement.  While the expectation will be that accounting or administration department is now responsible for enforcing expense reimbursements, things will go more smoothly if the Executive Director AND Senior Management not only follow the expense reimbursement policy, but also continue to be strong vocal advocates and enforcers of the policy. 

Too often, I have seen the accounting department left on their own to enforce employee reimbursement policies.  It can be a lonely, pressured situation for that individual to go ahead and process an expense report when an employee doesn’t have all the signatures/receipts, but needs the reimbursement ASAP.  It gets even tougher when that employee who is pressuring the bookkeeper is the Executive Director or Senior Manager.

If the individual responsible tries to follow the policy, but is not supported by leadership, he / she may feel ‘what’s the point in following protocol’ and will be very tempted to let things slide in the future.  On the other hand, if there is support from the top and if approving managers take their job of reviewing expense reports seriously (not just rubber stamping), then there will be more confidence in making sure things are done correctly.

As a former Accounts Payable clerk and bookkeeper, it was important to me when my manager sat down with me from time to time to review procedures, asked how things were going, asked for ways to improve the system, and encouraged me to always come to them if I ever felt pressured to do something I was uncomfortable with by another employee.

When a CFO, CEO, board member, or other senior manager made a verbal affirmation in a meeting before I introduced or reviewed an accounting policy to the entire staff, it greatly encouraged me and gave me a sense of encouragement.  Knowing that the CEO has your back is huge!

Now that I’m in a senior management position, I make room in my busy schedule to remember what it was like to work as a junior accountant and, more importantly, to periodically talk to and listen to my team.  We’re constantly checking to make sure that we’re following best practices and looking for ways to improve how we work.  Creating and implementing a good expense reimbursement policy is just the tip of the iceberg; maintaining and improving this will take a lot of effort and time.

Be encouraged as you work to improve this part of your organization.  There is beauty and importance in the details.

James Strombeck, Director of Delivery Support Team, Jitasa
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