Monthly Archives

July 2019

Cyber Defense – Five Steps to Improve Your Peace of Mind

By | Fraud | No Comments

Think you’re immune to cybercriminals because you run a nonprofit organization? Think again.

Cybercrimes against nonprofits are more common than you think. According to the Nonprofit Quarterly, there has been a 270 percent increase in the number of attacks against business, with small businesses and nonprofits at higher risk than ever before.

Why? It’s simple: easier targets. Criminals know that nonprofits and small businesses are less likely to have the time, patience, and resources to fight back when they’re the target of an attack. They pay up and slink away to allow the criminals to move on to their next target rather than risk the resources, capital, and reputation that might be spent defending against the attack.

It’s been said that the best defense is a good offense. That certainly goes for cyber defenses. There are five things a nonprofit can do to defend against the most common cyber attacks. Taking these steps may mean the difference between sending an “I’m sorry” email to your constituents or business as usual.

Five Steps to Defend Against Nonprofit Cyber Attacks

There are many things you can do to prepare for and defend against cyber attacks, but the following stand out as being simple, easy to implement, and within the abilities of most nonprofits.

  1. Educate employees about threats: Keep up to date about the latest types of cyber threats and educate your employees about the signs of such attacks. Employees may not know about ACH attacks, for examples, which target them through emails pretending to be from the CEP to gain access to company bank accounts. These and other attacks pose serious threats to nonprofits but can easily be thwarted through education and vigilance.
  2. Encourage reporting of potential attacks: Encourage your employees to ask for help if they think they’ve accidentally clicked on a bad link or given out information to potential cyber thieves. Make it safe to do so and avoid repercussions that could discourage them from reporting. Early reporting of possible breaches enables you to take swift action to batten down the hatches against further problems.
  3. Establish offline ways to confirm financial transactions: Ensure that employees can confirm transactions or the release of vital information offline through a phone call to the CEO or another senior executive. Offline ensures that a link in a phishing email won’t take the employee straight to the scammer’s lap for confirmation. It also puts in place a series of checks to stop possible mistakes.
  4. Create backup systems and files: Using cloud-based software such as cloud-hosted fundraising and donor management software protects files against viruses on your network by hosting them off network and onto a more secure cloud system. Other software such as Abila Cloud Accounting secures valuable financial detail through controlled access to accounts and financial systems.
  5. Prioritize updates: It’s tempting to click “ignore” when a pesky update notice pops up on your computer. Patches and updates close gaps in software codes that can be exploited by thieves, so don’t neglect updates. Conduct regular software updates on all of your systems. Cloud-based software updates automatically and in the background so you don’t have to remember to update it. That’s another reason for choosing cloud systems for accounting, financial management, donor and fundraising management, and more.

Do you remember a television commercial featuring Smoky the Bear? Smokey’s slogan was, “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

Well, only you can prevent cyber attacks by taking the appropriate steps to protect and defend your organization. If you believe in your mission, then you know it is worth the time and effort to secure valuable resources against external threats like a cyber attack.

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.

The Changing Role of the Financial Professional Part III: Critical Skills for Accounting Leaders

By | Technology, Uncategorized | No Comments

Welcome back to our three-part series on the Changing Role of the Financial Professional. In Part I, we looked at what’s driving changes. In Part II, we looked at just one of those changes, automation, and how it can be used to your advantage. In Part III, we’ll look at how the evolving role of technology is changing the critical skills needed for accountants and what skills organizations look for among its finance and accounting leadership.

Automation Changes Everything

As we’ve seen in Parts I and II, automation changes everything in both the for-profit and not for profit world. Automation enables organizations to save time, streamline processes, and access real-time data. Cloud-based finance and accounting systems, fundraising and donor management systems, and new grant management software enable organizations to simplify and automate many processes.

Organizations that once tracked grant applications using cumbersome spreadsheets, for example, can now use grant management systems to monitor applications, resources shared across grant applications, deadlines, and status of grants. What was once a complicated process that involved plenty of cross-referencing links in multiple documents can now be accomplished easily through one central database.

The same goes for accounting and financial management software for nonprofits, such as Abila MIP Fund Accounting, which can track revenue, expenses, and margin to ensure that funding meets demand for program services. With such automation at your fingertips, you can spend the time you used to take to manually update systems to work with program directors and others on their budget needs as well as other projects.

The Skills You Need to Succeed in Today’s Nonprofit Accounting World

Given that automation takes over many of the tasks accounting and financial professionals once performed in the nonprofit workplace, what skills are now in high demand?

  • Data analysis: The ability to analyze data and offer insights offers many opportunities for accounting professionals to lead in the context of nonprofit decision making. Not everyone can review financial data and understand the ramifications of specific decisions, for example. An accounting and financial professional can offer invaluable advice and insight into data found in the financial systems and guide others based on that information.
  • Communications: It’s not just the ability to review and interpret crucial financial information. Accounting leaders must articulate their findings to non-financial professionals, especially in the context of nonprofit leadership. Board meetings, constituent meetings, internal staff meetings and other places where financial information comes under scrutiny require an accounting and finance professional who can explain to the average person exactly what the data means and its impact upon the organization.
  • People skills: “People skills” are often thought of as secondary ‘soft skills’ in the accounting and finance world. But emotional intelligence, cultural intelligence, and other people skills set leaders apart from the rest. They help professionals lead with compassion and empathy, and motivate and inspire others to achieve their best. Today’s nonprofit accounting and financial leaders must have strong people skills to achieve success with their teams.
  • Technical abilities: You may work for a large organization with a dedicated IT department or a small nonprofit where you are the IT department. In both cases, you’ll still need technical abilities to navigate new software, assist with software selection, and utilize your current systems to their fullest capacity. Nonprofit accounting and finance leaders must have at least passing familiarity with the current slate of software available to help manage all aspects of finance and accounting, including membership, donations, grants, and more.

The nonprofit world’s technology evolves alongside that of its for-profit business counterparts. With the ever-expanding array of technology available to nonprofit accounting and finance leaders, all skills – quantitative, qualitative, and management skills – will be needed to help organizations remain cutting-edge and relevant for years to come.

In case you missed it:

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.

The Changing Role of the Financial Professional Part II: Automation Experts

By | Technology, Uncategorized | No Comments

Welcome back to the second of our three-part series on the changing role of the financial professional. As new technology, such as accounting and financial management software, fundraising and donor contact management systems, and much more, financial professionals may wonder what the future holds.

In Part I of this series, we talked about what’s driving these changes: constituent demand, artificial intelligence, and improved automation. Today, we’ll take a look at one area of the change drivers: automation. How is automation changing the way accounting professionals work? How can automation be used for added constituent and organizational value?

Automation, a Driver and Enabler of Change

It’s difficult to recall a time when automation wasn’t present in the workplace, but not too long ago, many automated processes we take for granted were once manual tasks. Great-grandparents may recall a time when bank tellers tallied up a customer’s account by hand, manually adding sums as they made deposits and entering the amount with pen and ink into a portable ledger eventually known as a bank book. Now, we wait for the computer to update in seconds what took the teller minutes to do and a receipt spit out from the teller’s terminal provides us with the proof we’ve made a deposit and our current balance. We can look up our bank balances online, write checks and pay bills, and all with the touch of a button.

Automation now provides accountants with simple, push-button technology to update many critical systems at their nonprofit. For those still using spreadsheets to provide financial data, it’s time to rethink spreadsheets and manual data entry and consider automated accounting and financial management software for a nonprofit.

Such software not only saves time, as in our bank teller example, but prevents mistakes. Consider how easy it was years ago for those old-fashioned bank tellers to make additional mistakes and end up accidentally shortchanging customers or perhaps crediting them with too much. Well, the same thing happens now in a spreadsheet, only it perpetuates the mistake as the spreadsheet potentially carries the error over into multiple formulas, columns, charts, and graphs!

Automated systems take away much of the potential for error. They gather data from different sources seamlessly, updating in the background. Cloud-based systems offer the ability to connect websites with financial systems so that sales of membership materials, books or periodicals, or donations can be accepted online. The system automatically updates the ledger, providing you with immediate and timely updates on the financial status of the organization. That’s a compelling reason to embrace automation.

More Time to Add Value

Another area in which automation can help accounting leaders is by freeing up valuable time so that you may add more value to your organization.

An accountant who no longer has to add up every penny in the general ledger has the time to think critically about budgets, expenses, and program needs. They have the time to advise department managers on cost-saving measures, work with the marketing team on donor campaign data, and assist others with their needs, too. The result is an accounting leader, not just a manager, but someone who advises, consults, and adds significant value to the daily workings on the nonprofit organization.

AI and Machine Learning

As the world turns more and more towards automation, look for new software to use machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to remember and act upon common data needs as well as retain and recall frequently required items. New systems offer voice-activated commands, simple remembered queries, and customized interfaces based on what the system ‘learns’ from its interaction with you and your team.

We’re at the beginning of a new era in the world of automation. As software evolves, the role of the accounting professional evolves alongside it. In Part III of this three-part series, we’re going to take a look at the skills that accountants need in this ever-changing world of technology. Check back soon for our new article.

In case you missed it:

The Changing Role of Finance Professionals in a Digital World: Part I

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.