As a recent college grad, the term “Fiscal Year” used to just be something thrown about casually on the news. I vaguely knew it had something to do with money for companies and the government, but it didn’t really touch my life and I sure didn’t get involved.
Amazing how all of that changes when you start interning for a rather large international non-profit. The Fiscal Year and I are pals now. We know each other quite well. Too well perhaps as September 30th came closer and closer…it became a deadline. Or a fresh start. And in some cases: the cause for panic.
What I first learned about my new friend was that he opened and closed doors. Before learning I would be able to extend my internship, there was a glimmer of hope in the possibility of staying on as a temp through the end of September- through the end of the Fiscal Year that is. The reason? The money would dry up after the Fiscal Year. This was not big CNN or ABC news about Wall Street and the government, this became personal: my job, and if I could even stay - all because of my new friend’s timing. Suddenly it was important. Thankfully, my wonderful department was able to get creative (it’s in our name. seriously.) and found a solution in partnering with two other departments to keep me on.
Fiscal Year and I have gotten so comfortable in the last few weeks that we go by nicknames now. I call him FY. In the past few weeks, I’ve found myself in the swirling world of design production right before the end of the FY, which let me tell you, is quite the happening place. To give you the quick story, it goes like this:
Global Creative Services, my department, deals with the graphic design and production needs of World Vision International. From publications in print to electronic PDFs, reports, online website work, flyers, brochures, videos, and banners. You name it, we generally have a hand in it. What I love about this work is that I get to interact and learn about all other groups and departments within World Vision, from Peace Building to HR and Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs (HEA for short).
That is our general scope, and as a non-profit all departments generally have very limited budgets. What this means is that everyone is trying to get everything completed before the end of the FY. Completed, and most importantly: billed! For us, that means wrapping up last minute design, translation and printing work. Suddenly I know all about invoicing and production schedules and partial billing to get the Spanish translation and layout costs on this FY’s budget, but the French on next FY’s budget. It all comes down to making sure much needed design and layout work will somehow be paid for! Everybody is happier when they actually get paid you see.
But perhaps you, like me, have often wondered: why on earth does the Fiscal Year end on September 30th, and start on October 1st? Seems pretty arbitrary to me. No starting with the actual New Year, not even the academic year, but October 1st. No offense to October, but it’s a pretty random month generally signaling the full throttle ascent into fall for the east coast. To satisfy my curiosity, I had to do some digging…
For those who like random tidbits of information to collect, a fun fact is that the Fiscal Year for the US government used to start on July 1st. This was before 1974, after which it was decided we should give Congress more time to arrive at a budget each year. Which has clearly worked out quite splendidly, with no stress to anyone. All that extra time you see.
The nearest explanations I could find for why the lovely month of October was chosen by the US government and majority of businesses ranged from “tax reporting” to “no good reason” to possibly the most helpful answer regarding company expenses. Essentially, if a business or organization gains the majority of its income in the fall and has most of its expenses in the spring, October 1st starts looking like a pretty nice time to start their FY on. Then they can know what their income will look like for the year, and can attempt to match their expenses accordingly. Companies can also choose their own FY dates, and they differ by country as well.
There you have it. Nobody is quite sure, but we have a few ideas. I’ve come to accept that my new friend FY has a mysterious past. I’ll be happy to see him turn a new leaf though. Here’s to October 1st after an exceedingly busy two weeks!
Quest for truth sources: