“There are a lot of challenges being faced by the alcohol and drug support sector right now. There are major shifts in service delivery because of COVID-19… and this is causing a lot of agencies to have to redo their budgets, to review their HR structures… they need to make a lot of modifications to how they manage their finances.”
Larry Pierce is the CEO of NADA – the Network of Alcohol and other Drugs Agencies. We talked to him about NADA’s relationship with True Accounting and how COVID-19 is impacting the sector.
Vital support for the sector
NADA is the peak organisation for non-government alcohol and other drugs services in NSW. They are a member-based not for profit organisation that advocates for, strengthens and supports the sector. With almost 100 agencies in their membership, they represent a diverse range of service providers.
They offer the sector many important resources, such as a variety of support services, including workforce support, organisational development support and data management.
They are also the main reporting body of data through to the Ministry of Health and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Through this connection to the ministry, they are actively involved in contributing to public health policy.
The impact of coronavirus
Larry explains that coronavirus has had a significant impact on the alcohol and drug support sector. NADA have implemented a number of initiatives to help their members work through these difficult times.
“There are a lot of clinical challenges due to government restrictions, but in relation to the business and finance management, many of our members have to review their budgets and make critical changes. For some, hitting budget targets is no longer achievable and they are concerned about how they can carry over or roll over their funds.
Plus, they need to navigate how to integrate government stimulus, such as the cash boost for business, or the JobKeeper Payment. While the support is welcome, the schemes could cause some problems because they are retrospective payments… and could create cash-flow issues in the interim.
The NGOs are fairly fortunate within our sector because the government is guaranteeing their grant payments, even if their activities are changing. At NADA, we proactively connected with the relevant government bodies early on in the crisis, to make sure that NGO grant payments weren’t impacted.
So, in order to help our members, we’ve increased our information distribution. People are getting much more relevant information from the Ministry of Health and both state and federal governments through us.”
NADA has also been involved in the COVID-19 formal response, through the establishment of the “COVID-19 Clinical Council”. Larry is the NGO representative on that council and other NADA team members are involved in the “Communities of Practice”, where individuals from various medical specialities join to support the response across all districts and networks.
“Through our involvement in these processes, we can get very quick resolutions for problems that some of our members have faced.
For example, we have assisted members with information about where to access personal protective equipment and we sought assurances that even though they are non-government drug and alcohol services, they are still classified as an essential service by the health department. We arranged for the health department to write covering letters for our members so that their staff can hold them and not be questioned by police when they are travelling to or from work.
We’ve also been running regular webinars and teleconferences with our members and senior members of the Ministry of Health to answer epidemiological modelling and clinical questions in relation to COVID-19. We’ve been able to work through those issues due to our close involvement with the ministry.”
NADA have also had to quickly address their own accounting. Larry continues,
“The changes have definitely impacted us. We work closely with Carol Tran from AFG and she’s great at helping us adjust our projected cash flow and budget targets. We’ve been modifying them because we can’t do certain things.
Some of the government stimulus benefits that are coming through will assist us, but it is still difficult to get your head around and understand all aspects… Carol has been very helpful in supporting us through that.”
A long partnership with True Accounting
When Larry first started working at NADA, it was a very small organisation. It was just him and an administration officer, so everything was done inhouse. He tells us,
“Our accounts were the simplest double-entry bookkeeping you can imagine… so we really only used external accountants for audits. We managed the payroll for two people and the simple set of accounts.
But over the years, as the organisation grew, we started to need more professional support and it was around that time that Morri got in touch with us. He outlined the company’s services and we decided to sign up, rather than continue to do the accounts ourselves.
There were a few of us in the team by then and the accounting was becoming more complex. We also started to gain additional project funding over our base grants, so it became more complicated to manage.
With AFG specialising in not for profit accounting, we were really happy to be working with them. They understand the nonprofit environment extremely well and they have a philosophical interest in working with NFPs… you know there’s a true ethical interest in the services we provide to the community.
Our board of directors has always been happy with having AFG as an outsourced team… they feel it provides a good external set of eyes and brings transparency to the management of accounts. It’s always worked very well for us and it’s a great principle to maintain.”
Not only does AFG work with NADA, but many of NADA’s members have engaged our accounting services. Larry continues,
“Over the years, we have recommended AFG to our members who were having difficulties with their accountants and wanted to switch to a different system. We know that a lot of our members are very happy with AFG.
The AFG team is truly client focused and they recognise the needs of the sector. Plus, they are quite different to other ‘for profit’ organisations. They are willing to do a bit extra when needed and not necessarily charge for every hour of additional work. This type of action creates a lot of goodwill.”