Case Studies

Acting as interim FD


The Poppy Factory is a well-known charity that has helped ex-Service men and women as well as their disabled dependents for 90 years. This help has consisted of employment in the charity’s production operation and housing on the charity’s estate of 67 residential housing units.

In 2010 the charity announced its intention to broaden its operations and help 500 wounded, injured or sick ex-Service personnel back into employment. In some cases, the charity contributes towards first-year salaries. A team of employability consultants was recruited to manage this service. Potential funding of clients exceeds income levels, so alongside the employment services model, the charity recruited a fundraising team with the brief to raise £4m in five years to support the employment programme.


The appointment was initially for Robert McLaurin to bridge a short-term gap until a full-time FD was recruited to manage the increased financial complexity of the charity. However, with recruitment taking longer than expected, Robert’s engagement lasted for eight months.

Ongoing tasks

The initial brief was to keep the finance department ticking over, ensure that monthly management accounts were prepared and manage day-to-day tasks such as cashflow forecasting, treasury management and pension administration.

Major tasks

The assignment expanded to cover other items in the Poppy Factory’s financial calendar, including:

Preparation of the 2013 budget – the annual budget was prepared by Robert and presented to the trustees for approval at their quarterly meeting in October 2012.

Completion of the 2012 statutory accounts – the first draft of the annual accounts were prepared in time for the audit fieldwork. The final draft was presented and approved at the trustee board meeting held in January 2013.

Management of the year-end audit process – the annual audit took place in November 2012. The whole process was managed by Robert from attendance at the initial pre-audit meeting, through audit field work, to attendance at the audit committee completion meeting.

Improvement initiatives

While the fundraising platform was being built, expenditure was running ahead of fundraising, so cashflow management and forecasting were essential. Reporting was improved in two areas:

Future fundraising – the level of fundraising activity expected wasn’t clear. A new process was started for the fundraising ‘funnel’ to be closely monitored and assessment of probability used to help predict fundraising receipts.

Forecast of employment spend –additional focus was placed on monitoring the cost of funding clients against budget and reporting was changed to include a forecast of total expected costs in each year. This will identify potential overspend early enough for corrective action to be taken.

Change agenda

Prior to the new FD starting, Robert McLaurin spearheaded preparation of a change agenda to highlight the issues for the FD to review and improve.

More information on the Poppy Factory, its history and work can be found at