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Get Along Better with Your Boss – and Get More Done at Work

By | Nonprofit, Uncategorized | No Comments

Tips for Managing up

You’ve read many articles on how to manage subordinates. Tips for delegation, communication, and other work-related issues. But how many articles have you read about managing up – about how to improve your relationship with your supervisor?

The people to whom we report have a big influence on our careers and work experience. Yet few consider the benefits of improving their working relationship with their boss or supervisor. Whether you report to one person or several, managing up can help you move ahead and get more done at work.

Tips for Managing the Managers

Everyone has a manager. Even your organization’s CEO reports to a Board of Directors or others who have a say in his or her work. You may have chosen to work with your current supervisor or the reporting lines may have changed since your initial start date. No matter the reason why you currently work for the supervisor that you have, all relationships can benefit from applying these tips.

Improve communications

Improving communications with your supervisor(s) means trusting them with both the good and the bad news. Subordinates often try to shield their bosses from unpleasant news. This can boomerang on you, however, because your supervisor may find out and be blindsided by key information you could have, and should have, shared.

Learn how to trust your supervisor. Share information that will help supervisors do a better job. Rely on facts, not assumptions or feelings, to inform your conversations.

In addition to spoken communications, discuss with your supervisor how often he or she prefers to receive communication via emails. Some supervisors like to be copied on everything; even if they don’t comment on an email, it helps them stay on top of all of the work that’s going on. Others want just the topline summary. Confirm first, and adjust your communication style to be helpful to your supervisor.

Share judiciously

Share details about your personal life, ambitions, and goals judiciously. Yes, your supervisor needs to know that you have your eye on the CFO chair someday, but they don’t need to know every detail of your personal life story. Your supervisor is probably very busy and doesn’t have time for a lot of personal chatter. As you get to know them better, you may find a working relationship that turns into a true friendship. At that point, the rules surrounding sharing change, but for the most part, keep your conversations focused on work with an eye towards shared business goals.

Work as a team

Lastly, work as a team. Support your supervisor. Don’t fight against their requirements, requests or direction. Be supportive, and always maintain a positive outlook. Keep good working relationships with everyone in your department as well as with your supervisor for the best outcome for all.

A Good Worker and a Good Manager Share Similar Traits

Good managers, like good workers, listen, prioritize, share judiciously, and feel as one of the team rather than in competition with their subordinates. This approach adds a positive spin to every interaction in your department and leads to productive, harmonious relationships at work. Give it a try and see how well it works!

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.

Accounting and Project Management: Two Unlikely Allies

By | Accounting, Grant Management, HR, Nonprofit, Uncategorized | No Comments

As an accounting professional, you know that you play an important role in your organization. Your team can help your organization achieve its goals more effectively by  working alongside project managers.

Project managers may be part of the marketing, creative services, information technology or any other department. Their job is to organize, guide, and as the name implies, manage a project from start to finish, ensuring that timelines, milestones, and budgets are met.

As you can imagine, accounting can best partner on the budget side of projects, however, accounting teams can help project managers with so much more. Here’s how the two can become unlikely but powerful allies to build organizational efficiency.

The Accounting Team Knows How It’s Done

Accounting teams have a special knack for understanding the workflow within an organization. Chalk it up to knowing where the money flows in and out, but the accounting team can be the organizational experts on who does what, when and how.

That information is essential for project managers struggling to align processes and people with project goals and milestones. The accounting staff understand the risks, controls, and other details that can help projects move smoothly through the organization. They know how work gets done internally and can guide project managers around any potential obstacles.

Project Management Methodology

Accountants who wish to add value to the project management team must, however, learn the language and methodology of successful project management.

Projects are mapped with a specific workflow in mind. There is a beginning,a middle (or milestones to reach), and a stated goal which marks the end.

The overall project map can be called a charter or project plan. Accountanting professionals, used to managing risk, can add value to the creation of a project plan or charter by objectively identifying potential risks from their unique perspective.  This can help the project managercorrect any faulty assumptions and keep projects on track.

Accounting Participates from the Start

Another helpful hint: Participate in project plans from the start. Don’t wait until the project is near completion and the project manager needs help finding additional funds in the budget to complete it. You can add the greatest value to a project by working alongside the project team from the start to advise on process and budgets.  Instead of coming in at the last minute, your guidance is essential near the project kickoff, in the middle when the project may need changes or additions, as well as with final budgeting.

Tips to Manage Project Risks

Accountants are risk managers. To add your greatest strength to the project management process, use these tips to help manage risks.

  • Help the project manager at the beginning of a project.
  • Stay involved with the project. Attend meetings of the project team and review any documents, emails or other materials promptly.
  • Ask questions like an auditor. Key stakeholders in project meetings can help identify the most important project milestones that deserve focus.
  • Be aware of workload dips and spikes, and accommodate the crunch periods with additional help.
  • Identify project scope creep, or when the work moves outside of the intended project. Gently guide it back into scope with the help of the project manager.

By asking the right questions and using your talents and strengths  in managing financial accounts, you can become a valuable ally and asset to the project management team in your organization.

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.

How Important Are Internal Controls for Nonprofits?

By | Accounting, Audit, Nonprofit | No Comments

An office clerk “borrowing” money from the office petty cash is a classic example of why internal controls are necessary. How easy would it be for an office clerk to “borrow” a few dollars for her morning coffee?  What internal controls are in place so that this cannot happen?  One answer to this illustration is is to have someone who does not handle petty cash  conduct random and monthly audits of the petty cash box and keep records of the cash and receipt amounts.  If a large amount of petty cash is kept, it would be an added safeguard to audit petty cash with another person just in case the cash comes up short.

A wise person once said that locks just keep honest people honest. The same is true for internal controls.

publication by the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants explains that good internal controls are essential to:

  • Prevent loss through errors, misappropriation of funds, or theft
  • Prevent an “honest” employee from making a mistake that can ruin his or her life
  • Document the responsibility of the board as it safeguards the assets of the NPO
  • Assure that all transactions are properly authorized and recorded

While seemingly time consuming, the simple act of having two people present during the petty cash audit protects both employees and assets – a distinct advantage of using adequate internal controls.

Internal Controls Defined

The National Council of Nonprofits defines internal controls as financial management practices systematically used to prevent misuse and misappropriation of assets, such as occurs through theft or embezzlement.  Internal controls protect not just assets but reputations as well.   It is critical for nonprofit organizations to maintain the highest integrity and ethical standards  in orderto attract and retain funders.

The objective of internal controls is to put “checks and balances” in place to protect the assets of the organization.

What Can Go Wrong

Any discussion of the most important internal controls for nonprofits Should be prefaced by answering the question,  , “Just consider what can go wrong.”

I scoured the internet to find examples of what can go wrong with weak or non-existent internal controls.  The following stories are true and could happen to you.

Scenario:  Cash – MIA (Missing In Action)

Suppose checks are merely kept in the bottom drawer of a file cabinet.  An enterprising employee might take a few checks from the bottom of the stack, forge a signature, and cash them, stealing thousands of dollars before being caught.

Internal Control Solution:  Secure the checks with keys held by two different financial managers. Ensure that bank reconciliations are performed by staff with no access to deposits or withdrawals.  Bank reconciliation should be prepared on a monthly basis, at minimum.

Scenario:  Employee Alert

A clever payroll employee adds overtime hours to pay himself or herself at time and-a-half.

Internal Control Solution:  Timecards should be signed by managers. A second person compares the payroll totals to signed timecards.

Scenario:  Sad but True Fundraiser Fiasco

During a fundraiser, a volunteer handled all aspects of the cash ticket sales, including depositing funds and reconciling the bank statement.  Occasionally short on cash, she would borrow funds and then pay them back….until she didn’t pay them back.  This well-meaning volunteer “borrowed” around $10,000.  The event intended to be financed by the fundraiser  had to be cancelled.

Internal Control Solution: Anytime cash is involved, the responsibilities should be divided among several people.  At least two people should be present when cash is counted.  Separate people should make the deposits and reconcile bank statements.

Closing Thoughts

Internal controls should be clearly documented in a procedural manual and authorized by the board or governing authority of the organization.  Discovery of theft or embezzlement and the resulting investigation is hard on the organization internally, and the external damage to the organization’s reputation can cause loss of funding.  Additionally, bonding insurance premiums could skyrocket, especially if it could have been prevented by using good internal controls.

Establishing internal controls protects the organization and the board members, officers, and staff.  For more comprehensive reading, Abila has created “Internal Controls for Nonprofits: Best Practice Principles, Policies, and Procedures.”

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.

Improve Your Nonprofit Legal Knowledge and Practice

By | Nonprofit | No Comments

Have you heard anyone in your organization say something like this?

“Google Images is a great place to find pictures.”

“We’re a nonprofit so it’s okay to send out letters asking for donations, and promising that they are tax deductible.”

Since, as in the statements cited above, there is misinformation in the workplace, it is important to gain some basic legal knowledge applicable to the nonprofit sector. Even though you run a nonprofit organization, it is still vital to conform to the law for all matters pertaining to incorporation, taxes, donations, intellectual property and more.

A new free paper called “Let’s Go Legal” offers nonprofit organizations guidance in these and other matters to help them follow the law  in all their operations. Reading and understanding this paper is a good first step to help improve your organization’s compliance with federal, state, and local laws.

Non-Profit Law Is Complicated

Since non-profit law is complicated, it is to ensure you receive professional guidance on legal issues.

Even non-profit organizations, should still be run like corporations, requiring the completion. of paperwork to maintain your corporate status annually. Once a non-profit becomes an official entity in the eyes of the state, it also becomes a corporation and must be run like one to maintain its legal status.

Five Important Legal Areas

Like for profit companies, non-profit organizations have five areas of law to pay attention to:

  1. Federal: Federal law includes charitable purposes and assets, private benefits, lobbying, political campaigns and donations to campaigns, and public documentation.
  2. State: State law includes articles of incorporation, bylaws, fiduciary duties, recordkeeping, and state taxes.
  3. Employment: Employment laws govern the hiring, employment, pay rates, and firing of employees. Included in this category is the employment status of your workers, independent contractors, payroll, anti-discrimination laws and policies, and areas pertaining to human resources.
  4. Intellectual property: Intellectual property includes assets that can be copyrighted, such as text, photographs, videos, artwork and other works; respect of ownership of such property; patents and trademarks; website and online usage; and privacy policies.
  5. Fundraising: Covered under fundraising are the laws pertaining to how fundraising activities are conducted, reporting donations, registration and reports, written acknowledgments, and restricted gifts.

As you can see, non-profit law can be complex. But there are several steps you can take to make sure you are doing the right things.

Basics of Non-Profit Legal Compliance

It takes years to earn a law degree, however,  you can take steps to ensure that your non-profit is compliant with typical rules and regulations.

  • Maintain accurate records of Board meetings, Annual Reports, and other paperwork.
  • Pay any dues, such as annual incorporation fees, promptly.
  • Understand your duties and obligations for payroll processing, maintaining proper employment records, and any tax obligations as they pertain to employees. Just because you run a non-profit organization doesn’t mean that your employees do not have to pay income taxes.
  • Keep paperwork such as W9 forms and independent contractor agreements on file and updated for every employee.
  • Respect intellectual property rights. Properly license photographs from the copyright owners or from legitimate stock photography sources, following licensing agreements. Maintain records, contracts, and other paperwork on the source and use of intellectual property. Teach your employees the basics of respecting IP rights of others.
  • Track all financial reports, records, donations, and receipts carefully. Use a good non-profit financial accounting method or software.
  • Conduct an annual audit. Hire a CPA firm well-versed in nonprofit financial accounting to complete the audit.
  • When in doubt, seek the answer from your attorney, CPA, or another professional service provider.

Non-profit law is an area where many individuals have questions. Finding the answers, and following the basics, can go a long way to keeping your organization compliant.

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.