International Auditing on a Budget: Auditing a Paraguayan Non-Profit
I help The Superkids Foundation, a Paraguayan non-profit, manage its finances. This is a fairly tricky problem! We do not have a Paraguayan bank account, Paraguayan receipts are inconsistent, and transactions are almost entirely in cash. Not to mention, I don’t speak Spanish and I live in Seattle! I can’t read the receipts or talk directly to our amazing staff!
While there are a bunch of interesting places I have injected technology, we'll go over just one issue in this post: how do we track receipts without adding any overhead.
We came up with a system that leverages our existing tools, Google Sheets, phone cameras, and WhatsApp, but integrates with Twilio and the Google API to make our receipts auditable, discoverable, and accessible.
What is Superkids?
Outside of my work for Microsoft, I am the treasurer of the board of The Superkids Foundation. Superkids helps mobilize children as agents of change in their own communities. We train and mentor kid teachers (SuperKids!) to give back to their own communities by helping younger students learn to read. In 2019, kid teachers spent more than 7,000 hours teaching younger students through our after school programs.
As the treasurer, I get to spend time working with our wonderful coordinators and my colleagues on the board while managing Superkids' cashflow. We have two coordinators and seven facilitators who work out of our rented space. To operate the space, we hire cleaners, pay for office supplies, utilities, maintenance and more. We also provide transportation, snacks, and other miscellaneous goods to the kid teachers and our students.
Among other things, I monitor donations (from FB, PayPal, Direct, Corporate Match, etc), process and audit receipts, approve bankroll, approve marketing, and gather financial data for grants.
What we did before
Superkids uses Google Sheets for accounting and WhatsApp for communication. We track all of our Income & Expenses and our cash on hand against our yearly and bimonthly budgets. If you dove into our 2019 “Contabilidad” (Accounting), we had the following.
- “Resumen” - (Summary)
- “Efectivo” - (Cash)
- “Presupuesto Enero Febrero” - (Budget January February)
- “Ingresos y Gastos Enero Febrero” - (Income and Expenses January February)
- “Presupuesto Marzo Abril” - (Budget March April)
- “Ingresos y Gastos Marzo Abril” - (Income and Expenses March April)
Receipts were put into a WhatsApp chatt and the expenses were added to the Efectivo.
By the end of business each day, every receipt had to be photographed and all expenses had to be put in the Efectivo. To audit this process, someone would need to look through all the WhatsApp history and compare the receipts to the Efectivo line items.
This was never going to happen! It was impossible to track and hard to use. It was too easy for us to misplace a receipt and be slightly off at
A WhatsApp bot ("SuperAuditor") that receives incoming images and puts them directly into our monthly Efectivo. The rest of line item can then be filled based on the information in the receipt. By the end of the day, receipts should line up with cash on hand.
I was worried that we'd have duplicate photos or that the number would get spam. Luckily it's much easier (and more satisfying) to delete a line item than to chase down all the staff for receipts.
Twilio's generous non-profit stipend has made WhatsApp bot free for our non-profit. Google's API is always free at the scale we're operating at.
If there's interest, I'll spend some time making the code easier to use and share it out!