Burning Man’s accounting department works year-round to facilitate all of the financial activities of the Burning Man Project, including payroll, purchasing, insurance, taxes, investments, accounts payable, accounts receivable, number crunching and reporting.

As the Burning Man organization and event continue to grow, the Accounting department is seeing less and less “off season” lulls in financial activity. And for the Accounting department, that means down time has become a thing of the past. In order to support the some 56 budget departments that envision, create and strike Burning Man each year, the Accounting department is now running full tilt 52 weeks a year.

That’s not just 52 weeks of processing payroll, paying the bills, collecting revenue, balancing the books and paying taxes — the volume and complexity of which ratchets up each year. The team is also constantly reassessing policy and procedures, implementing changes and enforcing the rules as needed. This includes making sure that there are the necessary insurance policies in place to protect Burning Man’s volunteers, staff, participants and the longevity of the Burning Man Project itself. It also includes coordinating with every department from Survey to Site Restoration and the handful of year round operational departments to accommodate requests for financial analysis, labor reports and defining the proper path of paperwork whether it be for adding new employee or dropping a phone line.

The team also supplies the aforementioned 56 budget departments with detailed budget versus actual spending reports, making changes as requested based on their feedback and driving the budget process from beginning to (no) end. The budget process was significantly improved in 2007, and the team has plans to further tighten and improve the process in future years.

In 2007, the team restructured much of the internal reporting relationships, which resulted in not only a new Accounting Manager, promoted from within the department, but also redefined roles for everyone.

The team maintained and strengthened the relationships with “default world” partners. Banking, merchant services and insurance may not be the industries that one would commonly associate with radical anything. But while the relationships Burning Man has with these folks are professional by any measure, as an added bonus these partners get it. They not only get why Burning Man is doing what it is doing, they are truly there for the project not just as clients but also feel good about supporting the Burning Man community.

The Accounting Team is made up of a Finance Manager, an Accounting Manager, an Account Payables Specialist and an Independent Contractor. Huge thanks to everyone involved.

Submitted by,
Timothy Foster