Setting up systems to support rapid growth

Operated by Project Crimson Trust, Trees That Count Te Rahi O Tāne is an ambitious conservation charity bringing together business, community, and everyday Kiwis with the vision of helping to plant 200 million native trees across Aotearoa. When Tanya Southgate joined the Trees That Count team as Head of Finance and Operations the charity was on the verge of rapid growth. The organisation had been operating for just under 30 years to achieve its conservation mission of planting native trees with a limited budget and a team of part-time and volunteer staff. That all changed in 2018 when they received government funding of $6.7 million to plant millions of native trees across the country. Tanya explains “we needed to ramp up very quickly. With big funding coming in, we had to make sure we were set up to manage the funds well and ensure we had the systems in place to report accurately and regularly.”

Enter: Connected Accountants  

At the time of the funding grant, The Trees That Count accounts were being managed in excel spreadsheets - a situation many small and start-up businesses can relate to no doubt. But this was no longer going to cut it and Tanya needed help to set up fully auditable systems and easy-to-produce reports. Tanya was referred to our team at Connected Accountants and said the first thing Anne and Jaimi did was to “sit down and find out what we wanted to achieve”. It was this collaborative approach that Tanya says made all the difference. They were able to work together to create a plan to deliver short-term reporting outcomes and develop a longer-term approach to getting the organisation set up for rapid growth.

Transparency into currency   

Tanya explains that Jaimi helped her to set up the systems needed so that Tanya could manage the reporting and audit requirements. The first year was “a bit of a nightmare” and according to Tanya, Jaimi was “bloody fabulous” in working to get everything audit ready. After that Tanya and the Connected team worked to get the systems set up, get everything on Xero and upskill Tanya to manage the new systems herself. Anne said, “our role has been principally to support Tanya and the team at Trees That Count from the beginning.”  

Trees That Count also took the opportunity given to them with the funding grant to develop a sustainable business model allowing them to continue their growth without ongoing funding. Tanya says, “we wanted to ramp up our organisation to get more native trees in the ground, to get our organisation to a point where we wouldn't need that sort of funding support to move forward. It was a major success, and we exceeded all targets.” Trees That Count have grown from planting around 50,000 plantings in 2016 to over 235,000 plantings in 2021. During this time a total of 898,272 native trees were donated through Trees That Count by generous New Zealanders. We think that’s pretty impressive!  

Source: Project Crimson | Trees That Count Impact Report 2021  

   “It was a major success, and we exceeded all targets” - Tanya  Southgate

Now Trees That Count is set up as a stand-alone organisation funded by people and businesses across New Zealand. They are at the point where they can easily report on individual flagship projects or overall performance. This reporting accuracy means their accounts are completely transparent, driving trust in their brand. So, they were ready when in 2022, during the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, there were a million dollars allocated to New Zealand to plant native trees. Trees That Count became the obvious choice for the funding. Tanya said, “they knew they could trust our programmes and our accounting systems.”  

The project entailed not only organising the of the planting of 100,000 native trees across 15 locations throughout New Zealand for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee but also tracking, by project, the event cost, the tree cost, etc. Tanya said, “I'm able at any given point to show the budget status of any project. This is thanks very much to Jaimi’s coaching and accessibility." The availability of Jaimi and Anne and the whole Connected Accountants team has been key to helping Tanya and her team grow and learn. Not only are their systems robust, but Tanya is fully across everything, leading to clear and understandable reporting.  

“Being so squeaky clean and trustworthy meant that when that money came in from Queen's Platinum Jubilee, it was a no-brainer for the Department of Conservation to trust Trees That Count to deliver!” - Tanya

As for the team at Connected, we are huge supporters of Trees That Count and its mission. We measure and actively try to reduce our carbon footprint and rather than offset our carbon emissions by buying carbon credits overseas we wanted to mitigate them locally. Trees That Count partners with Tāne’s Tree Trust to share access to their easy-to-use carbon calculator. Tāne’s Tree Trust National Carbon Calculator helps us work out how many native shrubs and trees we’ll need to plant to mitigate our carbon footprint from today as our trees grow over time. We love working with Trees That Count as clients, partners and friends.  

It has been a privilege to be integral to their rapid growth. They are having a significant impact on our environment, literally reshaping the landscape of New Zealand. We are looking forward to seeing how they will feature in the well-being of our nation in the coming years.

Need a hand? Get in touch.

If you are growing and need support to get your accounting systems in order and upskill your team, get in touch with us. We can help you manage your cash flow, balance sheet and profitability through times of change and rapid growth. And if you’re still using Excel spreadsheets, we need to talk today!