The Language of Numbers

March 13, 2009

“I love numbers,” Kathy DeYoung said.

Kathy is a CPA and the founder of Financial Stewardship Resources, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides training to charitable organizations. I attended FSR’s “Nonprofit Organization Board Training in Corvallis in January.

I love words. Numbers unnerve me, which is why I sought Kathy’s advice and she graciously offered to look over my IRS Form 1023 as I prepare it for submission.

I know numbers can tell stories. Someone like Kathy or my friend, Jeanene, can look at a spread sheet or a balance sheet–heck, any sheet of paper with numbers–and read a story among the digits and columns and lines. Exactly the same way I read a sentence or a paragraph and uncover a story, or a theme, or a visual picture in my mind.

Numbers are indeed a language. I speak English, French and Arabic. I don’t speak numbers.

Kathy said for most people the narrative of the nonprofit is the most difficult part of the Form 1023 application. The applicant is asked to tell the story of the nonprofit. My favorite part. I did it first.

But, do a three-year budget? I whimper. I procrastinate. And then I run for help.

I want to learn how to tell, share and read a story in numbers. With a little help from my friends, I’ll learn a new language.

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