Monthly Archives

June 2017

Mentoring for Accounting Executives

By | Accounting, Audit, Budget, Grant Management, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

Mentoring conjures up images of students clutching diplomas so new the ink isn’t dry yet, but mentoring has a long and venerable history. Centuries before formal higher education became the norm, craftspeople learned their trade by the side of a mentor. Today, mentoring programs help new managers, junior executives, and others improve their leadership, communications, and management skills.

But mentoring isn’t just for junior executives. It’s also for senior-level executives and corporate leaders. Let’s face it: smart people never stop learning. Mentoring programs formalize that concept by pairing strong leaders together so that they can learn, grow, share, and profit from each other’s expertise.

Hallmarks of a Successful Mentoring Program

Successful mentoring programs follow specific guidelines that have proven to be successful. These guidelines include:

  • Meet with your mentor in person: Although it’s tempting for busy executives to revert to telephone meetings, face-to-face meetings seem to be more effective for developing a relationship of trust and mutual support that’s essential for a good mentoring relationship. If you are time pressed (and who isn’t?), schedule coffee, breakfast, or lunch meetings with your mentor once a month. Block out the time on your calendar so that it’s as important as meetings with clients, auditors, and consultants.
  • Determine areas of improvement: During your first meeting, determine several areas you’d like to work on together with your mentor. Limit your objectives to three; anything more than that can be difficult to accomplish, and anything less may be so easy you won’t take it as seriously as you should.
  • Write an action plan: There’s something about writing out your goals, objectives, plans and commitments that make them seem more important than merely discussing them with your mentor. Write out a formal action plan and share it with your mentor for feedback. Establish both benchmarks and methods of measurement; how will you determine if you’ve successfully achieved your goals?
  • Ask for homework: “Homework” in the terms of a mentoring agreement is a list of specific tasks to accomplish before your next meeting. As you meet, share, and reflect on your mentor’s feedback, he or she will provide you with things to do and consider in order to change your approach to problems. This is your homework. Write it down and commit to following through with it.
  • Remain open to feedback: It can be tough for a strong leader or executive to receive feedback. Many leaders are successful people precisely because they are quite good at what they do. But, everyone has room for improvement. It can be difficult not to get defensive when you hear critical comments or suggestions to change how you approach a problem. This is precisely why you’ve agreed to a mentoring relationship with another executive, and it would serve you well to remain open to constructive feedback. A good mentor will sprinkle both praise and criticism in their feedback, but don’t tune out the criticism to bask in the praise!
  • Be honest: Along with remaining open to criticism and feedback, it’s vital to cultivate an open, honest relationship with your mentor. If you are holding back on problems or stumbling blocks, your mentor can’t help you become more successful. Give and receive with an honest, open mind.
  • Follow up: After the initial mentoring period is complete and you have achieved the milestones established in your action plan, set dates for follow-up sessions. You may wish to continue the mentoring relationship or conclude it, but either way, be sure to follow up with your mentor to share progress and achievements.

Finding a Mentor

Mentors are those with equal or greater experience than their mentees. For executives, it can be difficult to find a mentor within their own companies since they are usually at the top of the org chart and the problems they need to discuss may be those they share with other leaders in their organization. An outside perspective cannot be gained by constantly rehashing problems inside your organization. It becomes essential to find a mentor outside of your organization.

Many professional organizations provide mentoring programs. Ask within your own professional groups about mentorship. If they do not have such a group, consider starting one. You may also find mentors within your professional networks online or within civic organizations.

Mentoring isn’t limited to junior staff members. Executives can also benefit from  a mentoring relationship. Learning never stops, and leaders never stop learning.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Productivity Tips for the Busy Nonprofit Organization

By | Accounting, HR, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

It may seem as if your task list keeps growing while time is shrinking. Nonprofit organizations are always busy, often with more tasks than time. Anything you can do to improve productivity is welcome. These tips can help you manage your time more effectively to boost productivity throughout your organization.

Tips to Boost Productivity

  1. Set notifications for email and social media accounts: Rather than keeping tabs and apps open for your email and social media accounts, set them up so that notifications ring into your system. You can then glance at the notification messages and choose whether or not to respond immediately rather than constantly checking all of your communications.
  2. Establish times to check and respond to email: It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by your inbox. One way to tame the email monster is to set aside three or four 15-minute increments during your day to read and respond to emails. You’ll stay up to date on important messages without feeling chained to your inbox.
  3. Sync your calendar: Sync your calendar across all of your electronic devices or use a cloud-based calendar app that automatically syncs it for you. Accessing meeting invitations, dates, times and links to calls or screen shares from wherever you are help you manage your time more effectively.
  4. Copy people sparingly on emails: Don’t hit “reply all” automatically. Establish policies in your organization about who to copy on emails. This prevents email overload from simple responses that can happen when the “reply all” button is hit too frequently.
  5. Use instant messenger apps: Instant messenger apps such as Skype, Slack and others are great for quick questions, group brainstorms, even phone calls. Instead of sending emails, quick chats appear and can be taken care of instantly.
  6. Use Evernote or Microsoft Note to write task lists: Microsoft notes, Apple Evernote and other programs are great to jot down ideas and meeting notes. You can save great ideas quickly to use later without stopping what you are working on.
  7. Name files with things you’ll remember: Set up a file naming protocol for shared files that includes the date and other pertinent information so that you can find them later. Tagging files with keywords can also help you search your systems for critical documents quickly.
  8. Never start a meeting without a written agenda: A written agenda can guide meetings and keep them on task and on time. Circulate an agenda before the meeting and stick to it. Keep meetings to a reasonable number of items for the time allotted and don’t be afraid to gently but firmly halt off-topic conversations and guide them back to the agenda.
  9. Use commuting time for learning: Use your daily commute for learning opportunities and professional development. If you drive to work, books on tape or recorded podcasts from your industry are great ways to polish your skills and keep abreast of developments. If you take mass transit, consider taking online courses. You don’t need to take formal classes at a university. Many professional organizations offer recorded seminars, sessions from conferences, and other materials you can review while on the train or bus. Similarly, some low-cost or free workshops are also available from independent consultants, companies, and others.

You may feel that there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done from your task list. If you use your time wisely, you’ll find you can accomplish your list and much more.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

You Can Never Be Too Careful: Improving Computer Security

By | Accounting, CPA, Data, HR, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

Cyber threats are on the rise worldwide. The costs of a data breach are staggering with the average cost to repair such breaches at $4 million. And if you think your nonprofit organization is too small to be affected by cybercrimes, data breaches, viruses, and ransomware think again: many of the worst threats are to individuals and small businesses and that includes small nonprofit organizations.

One of the areas most vulnerable to external cyber threats is communications. Contact forms on websites, emails, chats, images – all provide a window into your systems through which cyber criminals can enter to wreak havoc. Here’s how you can improve the security of your overall system with an eye towards shoring up the defenses of your communications network.

Questions to Ask – and Answer

The first step to solving any problem is to understand the full scope of the problem itself. To do this, you will need to evaluate all of the possible threats against your organization. Review security and access points including who has access to your systems, website, email server, social media accounts and any external software you may use such as cloud-based storage, file sharing, and other systems.

  • Do you have a written process for granting access and revoking privileges? A written process with a designated administrator controls access to key services and systems. You can detail who can access which systems and what to do when someone’s employment is terminated or they leave voluntarily.
  • Do you have a master list of all of your software and systems? Create a list of all of the software and systems, as well as administrators and contact people in your organization, for all of the software you use.
  • Do you have a process in place for updating your software? Those annoying popups prompting you to update your systems aren’t just for show. Software updates close gaps in the system that programmers find after the initial software releases. These “patches” are often important coding changes that defend against known threats. Regular updates of all of your software and operating systems are
  • Do you have virus protection in place? A virus protection program can screen websites to ensure they are safe and check inbound emails and attachments. Other types of virus programs scan your hard drive for malware, harmless but annoying programs, and other code that gets injected into your computer without your knowledge. It’s smart to have two packages rather than just one; two can often catch more than one.
  • Do you back up your systems regularly? In the event of a cyber attack, having backups ready to restore your systems is vital. Automatic backups can be installed or you can store some of your non-confidential files on a cloud server to keep copies safe.

Communications Security Tips

In addition to these questions and answers, consider a few other security measures to put into place.

  • Assume anyone, at any time, can read your emails. Do not share passwords or other confidential information by email.
  • Consider email encryption services, which encrypt email on your computer so that it can only be read by the sender and recipient.
  • Only open attachments from people you know.
  • Require two-step authentication to sensitive systems and accounts such as bank accounts.

If you’ve checked “yes” to many of these items, then congratulations – you’re ahead of many other nonprofits in the cyber security department.

One last step is to have an emergency plan on hand to restore critical systems in the event an attack cripples your nonprofit’s systems. The FBI virus, a form of ransomware, can infect computers merely through visiting an infected website and it is difficult to remove. It locks a computer so that you cannot use it until the ransom is paid to the criminal. A skilled computer technician or service can remove it but will cost both time and money.

This is just one example of possible threats. As the threats grow, having a backup plan and a plan to keep working while your systems are fixed is critical to keeping your doors open and your work continuing without pause.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.