Charity Accounting and Financial Management

  1. 2017 Entry


This unique course is one of the only management courses in Europe to focus on the specific needs of senior staff and professional advisors focussed on Charity Accounting and Financial Management. This academically rigorous and practically applied postgraduate course is designed for those hoping to develop a senior management career in a charity finance function, or become an advisor, auditor or independent examiner to a charity.

This is aimed at those currently working in the sector and also at people exploring a career shift into the Charity Sector and consultants looking to develop their financial expertise in the charity sector.

What sets the Cass Business School Charity Accounting and Financial Management course apart is that it is:

  • Accredited: The programme is accredited by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW). Students will be eligible for the Institute's Diploma in Charity Accounting (DChA) upon completion of the Cass Postgraduate Diploma.
  • Both academic and applied: The course combines the academic rigour of an internationally respected management school with a highly practical and applied approach. The course is delivered by NGO Management practitioners with decades of first-hand experience and ongoing involvement in the sector. In addition we have guest lectures by senior NGO staff or consultants presenting the latest issues and exploring the real-world challenges they face. The shadowing exercise, a key component of the course, provides students with a unique insight into the day-to-day realities of NGO management.
  • A rich learning environment: The course lecturers are among the most highly regarded in the University and have been awarded prizes for the quality of their teaching. Personal reflection and learning is encouraged through action learning sets and the coaching opportunities that are available. We place considerable emphasis on student participation and interaction. Together with the diversity of the student cohort each year, this creates a stimulating learning environment.

Course structure and content

Postgraduate Diploma

The aim of the Charity Accounting and Financial Management course is to enable you to develop key management competencies and analytical capabilities needed by those in leadership and management positions in charities.

The course has been developed in partnership with the Charity Finance Group, the ICAEW and leading experts. It is one of the five postgraduate courses offered by Cass’s Business School’s Centre for Charity Effectiveness (Cass CCE). Cass CCE inspires transformation and delivers positive change within the nonprofit sector through a mix of educational programmes, consultancy services and convening activities.

The MSc course is taught on a part-time basis over a period of two years. Alternatively, some students wish to graduate after the first year with a Postgraduate Diploma.  The Diploma consists of four core modules, common to all Centre for Charity Effectiveness postgraduate courses. These modules provide the essential underpinning of management skills. You also study three specialist pathway modules. The MSc requires the completion of the Research Methods for Managers module. This is followed by either: a further six months of personal, supervised research and the presentation of a 15,000 word research-based dissertation. Or alternatively, you can opt to take a taught Masters which allows you to choose specialist modules from one of the other courses in the Charities Masters Programme.

All courses are taught at Cass Business School and will require attendance one weekend a month commencing on the Friday afternoon at 13:00 to 21:00 and on Saturday at 09.15 to 18:00.

Additional times of attendance will be required:

  • On the Induction Day
  • For Action Learning Set meetings (usually alternate months on the Friday morning of the teaching weekend)
  • The Resource Management module and the Advance Charity Accounting, Audit and Taxation exams

Term dates

October 2017 intake


06 October 2017

Learning and Understanding the Voluntary Sector

06 - 07 October 2017

Strategy, Diversity and Governance

10 - 11 November 2017
08 - 09 December 2017

Marketing & Fundraising

12 - 13 January 2018

Resource Management

09 - 10 February 2018
09 - 10 March 2018
06 - 07 April 2018

Exam*  04 May 2018

Advanced Charity Accounting, Audit and Taxation

18 - 19 May 2018
08 June 2018

Exam*  06 July 2018

Voluntary Sector Financial Management

09 June 2018
13 - 14 July 2018

Fieldwork exercise

process to be completed by early August 2018

Course Review Day

07 September 2018

April 2018 intake - exemption route

Induction/Learning and Understanding the Voluntary Sector

13 - 14 April 2018

Advanced Charity Accounting, Audit and Taxation

18 - 19 May 2018
08 June 2018

Exam*  06 July 2018

Voluntary Sector Financial Management 09 June 2018
13 - 14 July 2018

Fieldwork Exercise

process to be completed by early August 2018

Course Review Day

07 September 2018

Strategy, Diversity and Governance

09 - 10 November 2018
07 - 08 December 2018

Marketing & Fundraising

11 - 12 January 2019

(This route is only open for applicants who are members of one of the six CCAB organisations. Applicants will need to have qualified within the previous five years, or provide confirmation that their CPD records are current.)

*All other modules are assessed by coursework.

Module outlines

Learning and Understanding the Voluntary Sector (10 credits)

This module represents the starting point for you and the opportunity to learn about the process of learning and establishing plans for learning on the programme.  The vital 'Learning Contract' is developed on this module, and forms the basis of the learning throughout the Masters programme.

It also offers a perspective on leading public/voluntary sector debates within an historical context, alongside a more enduring understanding of scholarly approaches to the understanding of developments and changes in the relationship between government and the voluntary sector.

Resource Management (30 credits)

This module aims to enable the student to:
  • Provide students with an understanding of the principles of resource management within the specialist context of charities
  • Definitions and the legal framework of charities and voluntary organisations
  • The role of the Charity Commission
  • Sources of finance for the charity sector
  • Introduction to general accounting principles
  • Charity accounts and regulatory framework
  • Understanding, interpreting and analysing charity accounting statements
  • Costing and budgeting in voluntary organisations
  • Risk assessment
  • Outsourcing
  • Appraising, appointing and dismissing auditors and other resource consultants and experts
  • IT Strategic appraisal and implementation
  • The nature of Human Resource Management
  • Human resource and personnel issues including training and development, reward and retention and effective selection and recruitment

Marketing and Fundraising (10 credits)

This module aims to enable the student to:

  • To provide students with the concepts, underpinning knowledge, skills and techniques to plan and develop marketing and operations systems
  • Enable students to analyse marketing needs, evaluate marketing plans, in the context of applying marketing concepts to their own organisation
  • Effective Marketing Information Systems
  • Development of a marketing strategy
  • Product/Service policy and new product development
  • Role of communications
  • Branding
  • Pricing as a value-added marketing tool
  • Capacity planning - resources planning and allocation
  • Total Quality Management
  • Stakeholder/Customer care

Strategy, Diversity and Governance (20 credits)

This module aims to enable the student to:

  • To develop a broad knowledge and conceptual base in the field of strategy development, diversity and governance
  • Introduce practical tools to help improve the quality of an organisation's strategic response to the changing environment
  • Introduce practical tools to help improve the ability of the organisation and its managers and leaders to build a diverse workforce
  • Enhance appreciation of the constraints and opportunities offered by the changing governance and service-delivery frameworks which affect voluntary organisations
  • Improving an organisation's strategic response by use of strategy and diversity management and theory
  • Approaches to developing strategy
  • Approaches to managing diversity
  • The changing environment of the voluntary sector
  • Case studies on the application of strategic planning and diversity

Fieldwork Exercise (20 credits)

This module aims to enable the student to:
  • Undertake a 'tailored' learning experience centred on a 5 day consulting assignment on a financial project within a charity
  • Negotiate a series of learning experiences including studying in an organisation different from your own.
  • Bridge the specific charity technical knowledge and management application modules.
  • Consider any ethical issues that have arisen from your placement and how you dealt with them
  • 4-5 days consulting project - observing and learning from it
  • Use all the theories and models learnt on the programme in preparation of a report containing analysis and reflection.

Advanced Charity Accounting, Audit and Taxation (15 credits)

This module aims to enable the student to:

  • Provide students with advanced knowledge of charity accounting, audit and taxation principles and practice requirements
  • The SORP and regulatory framework
  • Statement of Financial Activities
  • Branch accounting consolidation, mergers and associates
  • Disclosure of accounting policies
  • Accounting for smaller charities
  • Audit/independent examination of charity accounting statements
  • Main tax exemptions
  • Tax effective giving
  • Charity trading
  • VAT

Voluntary Sector Financial Management (15 credits)

This module aims to enables the student to:

  • Provide you with an in-depth grounding of the principles of financial management applied to the charity sector
  • Strategic Financial Management and the role of the Finance Director
  • Managing, including outsourcing the finance function
  • Social accounting, audit and ethical investment
  • Internal audit and control
  • Reporting to trustees and stakeholders
  • Working with, appointing, reviewing and dismissing financial advisors and services
  • International Financial Issues
  • Banking and Insurance
  • Investment planning and decision making. The module links the technical knowledge in Charity Accounting through the fieldwork exercise in delivering the management component of the module

MSc conversion

Upon successful completion of the diploma, you will be given the option to continue to the MSc. This requires completion of the Research Methods for Managers module.

This can be followed by a further six months of personal, supervised research and the presentation of a 15,000-word dissertation.

Alternatively, you can opt to take a taught Masters which allows you to choose specialist modules from one of the other Charities programmes.

Term dates

For students progressing from the Postgraduate Diploma Intake in 2017

Research Methods for Managers January 2019

(for October 2017 and April 2018 intake)
Dissertation or Taught Masters Option completion by mid-September 2019

(for October 2017 and April 2018 intake)

Our course professionals

The Course Director Professor Paul Palmer is the Associate Dean for Ethics, Sustainability and Community Engagement at Cass Business School. As author of several books on charity finance and governance, he also contributes to NCVO's web-based helpline, and is a member of the Charity Commission's SORP committee. Previously he worked in senior positions in the voluntary Sector.

Professor Andrew Hind is a Visiting Professor in Charity Governance and Finance. He is the joint module leader for Resource Management and Voluntary Sector Financial Management with Professor Paul Palmer. He was previously the Chief Executive of the Charity Commission and former Editor of the Charity Finance Magazine. His senor charity finance director roles include Barnados and Action Aid.

Mark Salway has a wealth of global experience in developing and implementing strategy, plans and KPIs, and financial innovation and new funding models including crowd funding, social finance and social impact investment. He has worked to form financial strategy and growth plans for CARE International, Depaul, Tomorrow's People, Edexcel, The Children Society and Cats Protection.

Kate Sayer is a Partner at SayerVincent, Nonexecutive Director of Development Initiatives Poverty Research, and Trustee of the Association of Chairs as well as a Visiting Fellow at Cass Business School. She teaches on the Resource Management module, and will be co-leading the Advanced Charity accounting, Audit and Taxation module.

Alex Skailes is a Director at Cass and leads the consulting and professional development practice that sits within Cass' Centre for Charity Effectiveness. She is an experienced strategy and finance director with a successful track record of advising and leading clients in the nonprofit and private sectors. She believes passionately in the power of cross sector working.

Guest lecturers on the Charity Accounting and Financial  Management course have included:  Don Bawtree,  Partner and Head of Charity Unit, BDO Stoy Hayward; Paul Breckell,CEO, Action on Hearing Loss; James Brook-Turner, Finance Director, Nuffield Foundation; Geoff Burnand, Social Finance; Jim Clifford, Partner BWB; Kenneth Dibble,  Head of the Legal Division, Charity Commission; Graham Elliott,  VAT Partner, Withers; Neil Finlayson,  Charities Partner, Kingston Smith Chartered Accountants; Stephen Fisher, Hays MacIntyre; John Harrison, Visiting Professor in Charity Investment, formerly: CIO, UBS Asset Management; Bob Humphreys, Oxfam;  Rick Payne,  ICAEW Finance Innovation Lab;  Adrian Poffley, Worldbank; David Rowe, Head of Charities Unit, UBS; Alan Sharpe,  Finance Director, RSPB and Chairman, Charities Consortium; Julian Smith,  Partner, Farrer and Co; John Tate, IT Advisor; Andrew Wauchope,  Head of Charities, PSigma.


All students will be highly motivated graduate-level people who bring a wide range of professional competencies, skills and experience from a wide range of backgrounds.

In general we ask for a good first degree, normally an upper second-class honours degree from a British University or a relevant professional qualification: e.g: ACCA, CIMA, ICSA; and three or more year’s relevant experience at a senior level. In exceptional cases we will also accept those without a degree but with significant work experience. Provided you have more than three years relevant experience, two professional references are acceptable.

Overseas students are welcome to apply to these courses, but need to be aware that they cannot be sponsored for Tier 4 visas due to the part-time modular delivery of the course. In order to participate fully in the collaborative learning process all students who have not previously studied in English must sit an IELTS exam.

Past students have come from a variety of organisations, including business and the public sector.  Their feedback has been very positive:

" I wanted to experience a professional course at one of the world's leading Business Schools that delivered both technical specialism and more generalist leadership and management training across all the areas relevant to running a professional not-for-profit organisation. The course offered both extremely relevant and current theory, but also very practical knowledge from those working in, or running such organisations."

Tom Bilton, Global Finance and Operations Manager, PEAS

"I came to the Charity Finance MSc as a mature student, wanting to move from being a commercial Finance Director into a portfolio career, and since graduating, have achieved that. As well as working in a consulting capacity, I have recently become a Trustee and Treasurer of a high profile charity, which I would never have been able to do without the MSc behind me. And the breadth of modules on offer meant that I ended up with a taught Masters rather than writing a dissertation, which had been my original intention."

Nicola Silverleaf, Treasurer, CLiNKS

" I recently made the transition from the public sector to being a Finance Director in the Charity Sector. In advance of this, I completed the PgDip in Charity Accounting and Financial Management. I think I gained both from learning about the overall framework for charities in the UK and the current issues facing the sector, and from learning the specifics about the accounting rules and disclosure requirements for charities. Having this knowledge gave me the confidence when trying to find a job and, I believe, helped convince the trustees of my charity to appoint me. The knowledge gained on the course has also helped me settle into my new role fairly quickly."

Elizabeth Dymond, Director of Finance and Corporate Services, The Charity for Civil Servants

Course fees and expenses

Course fees

The course fees for all five courses are payable at the start of the academic year. The fee for the Postgraduate Diploma is £6,000. A deposit of £400 is payable on acceptance of a place. For self-paying students, the balance is payable in two instalments, the first during the registration process September and the second at the end of January. For those converting the Diploma to MSc a further £3,500 is payable in one instalment at the beginning of the second year.

Students who are sponsored by their employer will need to complete a sponsorship form as part of the application process. An invoice for the full fees will be sent to the employer in October. If the employer is a charity, they can request payment in two instalments by contacting the person named on the invoice. This arrangement allows the charity to spread the fees across two financial years.

Funding opportunities for Masters students

We recommend that you have a back-up source of funding in the event that you are not successful for any Cass scholarships. The below links might be useful as alternative sources of funding, and your home government might also provide scholarships for study abroad.

Course expenses

The weekend modules will incur additional accommodation and subsistence expenses for those participants living outside London.

Application deadline

There is no application deadline for this course. However, we advise you to apply well in advance, as competition for places is high and applications are considered on a continuous basis.