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Abila

Financial Audits Improve Nonprofit Operations

By | Abila, Accounting, Audit, Data, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

Are you getting the most from your nonprofit’s annual audit? Financial audits aren’t just a necessary exercise to meet the requirements for keeping your nonprofit organization’s status or to please donors and board members. They provide valuable, useful information that can help you improve many areas of your organization.

A study conducted by Deloitte and reprinted in the Journal of Accountancy surveyed 300 executives and 100 members of audit committees nationwide. Their findings point to the usefulness of audits as a business evaluation tool.

  • 79% of executives and 91% of audit committee members agree that financial audits help them identify opportunities to improve business performance;
  • 46% of executives and 62% of the audit committee members believe that audits helped them identify business issues that they might have missed without the audit information;
  • Companies that review and utilize audit information achieved strong growth over a three to five year period (as noted by self-observation.)

Clearly, there is value not just in the audit process itself but in the use of the audit findings for analysis of current operations,

Quality Counts When It Comes to Choosing an Auditor

Throughout the survey, respondents cited the quality of the audit as a key element of a useful business improvement tool later on. A good-quality audit starts with selecting an auditing firm with experience helping nonprofits both through the auditing process and to improve later on.

Audits can provide more than information into the company’s financial state. They can provide market and industry comparisons and analysis. Process analysis, identification of gaps and potential for improvement can also be part of the audit findings. Each of these elements provides an item that can be used as a springboard for action later.

When selecting an auditing firm, look for one with experience working in the nonprofit world. It may also be helpful to find a company that provides more than auditing services. Business consulting, nonprofit consulting, and other related services offered by the auditors mean that they can infuse additional insights into the audit process and continue working with your nonprofit after the audit to implement the changes that you wish to make.

Data and Analytics

Another new area in which nonprofits are finding useful information is the data and analytics that are derived from the audit. Many aspects of a nonprofit’s business can be analyzed. Examining items such as expenses like leases, long-term contracts and expenditures can reveal places in which money can be saved. Long-term donor patterns, grant analysis, and areas where the nonprofit’s work has shifted over the years may also be revealed from an analysis of data patterns found within the audit and the nonprofit’s financial statements.

It takes a special auditor to be able to analyze and detect such patterns. If you aren’t looking for them or for places from which you can derive such information, it can easily be overlooked. Again, choosing an auditor with the insight and experience in the nonprofit world to assist you with your business improvements it the key to success.

Are You Using Your Audit Information?

Are you using all of the information that can be obtained from your most recent audit? According to the previously mentioned Deloitte study, about 35% of the nonprofits responding to the study rarely or never use the information obtained through the audit for improvement. Talk about a missed opportunity!

Why aren’t they using the information? Approximately 48% percent of executives surveyed state that they do not have a process in place to use the information post-audit.

Therein lies the key – process. Develop a process now to use the information obtained from this year’s audit to improve your nonprofit. Begin now to find an auditor who can partner with you to develop a series of action items for follow up. Put in place the teams, groups, committees or leaders within your company who will be accountable for following up on the audit information.

By using these techniques, you can use the annual audit as both a financial document and the start of process improvement.

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.

 

10 Essential Keys to Effectively Engage Clients in E-Learning

By | Abila, Accounting, E-Learning, Grant Management, Nonprofit, Training, Webinar | No Comments

As nonprofit professionals, it’s imperative to endlessly observe your member experience and reflect on ways to improve your processes. Here are 10 keys to enhancing your E-Learning to better engage your users.

KEY 1: Get to know your members: What do your members value in educational programs? If you don’t know the answer, it’s time to find out. Get to know their generational and career stage preferences, technology comfort levels, content interests, and more.

KEY 2: Enhance member benefits: Nearly half of all association members who responded to Abila MIP’s™ Member Professional Development Study want a combined, all-in-one option for membership and education. Yet, less than one-third of organizations report having this type of offering. Consider ways to bundle and personalize your membership and education to meet your learners’ needs.

KEY 3: Attract young professionals: With Millennials representing the largest generation in the workforce, having a strategy to attract, engage, and retain them as members is crucial. Millennials want to learn new skills and advance in their careers, so creating programs that cater to these needs will help associations deepen their relationships with this group.

KEY 4: Personalize your learning: Apply what you learn about your members, and deliver the content and communication that keeps them coming back. Content is the single most important driver for why members choose an educational offering over another. Use your data to deliver a personalized learning experience to your members.

KEY 5: Wrap it in a bow: Make the buying process easy for your members with creative and strategic opportunities for them to access your content. Create packages of on-demand programs or a webinar series, or allow users to curate their learning experience with a create-your-own program bundle.

KEY 6: Blend the distribution: We learned that members still use a variety of learning formats for their education. To cater to the different preferences, vary your methods of content delivery and offer multiple mediums for your programs. This will ensure you meet the needs of all your members.

KEY 7: Get the bang for your buck: Offering multiple mediums does not have to be hard. Leverage the content you’ve already created. Take your in-person event and webcast it. Following the event, sell the recording as a whole or  in segments with on-demand and podcast offerings. Don’t forget you can rebroadcast the program as well!

KEY 8: Make it easy: Finding the right technology remains a challenge for organizations, with only one-third or fewer saying they are “very satisfied” with their systems. Finding a system that integrates, has a simple user flow, and offers options for live and on-demand learning content can make for a seamless experience for your users and staff.

KEY 9: Engage your audience: Holding a learner’s attention can be difficult, with most saying they start to lose interest after one hour,. Incorporating interactive elements into your programming, such as polling and chat, can help to keep your members engaged.

KEY 10: Offer certification (Professional Development): Earning certification and maintaining a license is one of the top reasons members seek professional development. Make sure your course and credit offerings meet the needs of your market. If you aren’t in a career that requires a license, consider creating your own certification program.

To learn more about each key and how Abila clients are putting them into action, check out the 10 Keys to Enhancing the eLearning Experience whitepaper.

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.

Personalized Training Plans Offer More Meaningful Professional Development

By | Abila, Accounting, Government, Grant Management, HR, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit, Professional Development, Training | No Comments

CPAs, like other professionals, need an additional 40 hours of continuing education units annually to maintain their certification. Even if your industry does not require taking continuing education courses, everyone benefits from refresher courses and keeping abreast of changes and developments in their industry.

There is great value to designing a personalized plan for continuing professional development. These plans build a customized training roadmap for individuals, so that instead of taking a prescribed set of courses to meet your continuing education requirements, you create your own curriculum. Here’s why they work.

The Benefits of Personalized Professional Development Plans

  1. Relevant: Personalized course plans are highly relevant. They take into consideration your currently level of skills, interests, and needs, as well as those of your employer or company. You can choose the courses that are right for you and fit your personal learning goals.
  2. Flexible: You choose when you wish to take the courses, creating a plan that lets you take courses on the weekends, at night, or even during your lunch hour. You aren’t locked into a set schedule.
  3. Higher completion rate: Because the courses in your personalized plan are relevant and on a schedule that meets your needs, they tend to have a higher completion rate than other courses.
  4. More feedback and interaction: Some personal development plans include interaction with a mentor or trainer, providing more personalized feedback and interaction from the one to one mentoring.
  5. Noticeable difference: Personal plans offer you the added bonus of being able to identify specific goals to work towards. You can document progress toward your goals through milestones and checkpoints. Not only does this help you achieve them, it also helps you see both the ‘before’ and ‘after’ picture. You can see just how far you’ve come.

Does Personalized Professional Development Stand Alone?

Most companies blend both personalized development with general professional development activities,  offering both the benefits of personalization and group interaction that’s valuable for team building and shared knowledge.

Why Professional Development Matters

Lifelong learning is important for all professions. While we tend to think of professional development for teachers, accountants, financial managers, others benefit from continually sharpening their skills.

Professions change over time. New governmental and IRS regulations, for example, may change how accountants and financial planners manage specific tasks and functions. Yes, you can read about these changes in professional journals or online bulletins from the managing organizations, but in some cases, in-depth professional development through workshops, conferences, or classes may be the best way to completely understand something new.

Technology is changing how CPAs manage data, how sales and marketing professionals do their jobs, and how human resources managers organize their files. By taking additional professional development courses in technology-enhanced areas, you’ll be able to maximize the use of such  developments to create a stronger, better 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.

Going Faster Isn’t the Answer. How Nonprofit Leaders Improve Decision Making.

By | Abila, Accounting, Budget, Data, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

The phone is ringing off the hook and you have 3,000 emails waiting for an answer. Meetings are booked back-to-back and your desk looks like someone dumped a file cabinet on it. If that sounds familiar, it’s time to take a deep breath and rethink how you’re handling your day.

We each get 24 hours in a day, and some of that time must be spent on things like sleeping, eating, and personal needs…but many of us feel that if we can cram more into our workdays, we’re improving our productivity. We take classes on productivity, buy fancy journals or add apps for time management, and wonder what we’re doing wrong when we get buried under an avalanche of work.

Where we go wrong is easy to spot. We think that by going faster and working harder, we’ll eventually catch up. We try to multi-task, cram more tasks into each hour, and find new ways of working while commuting, showering, or sleeping (okay, that’s an exaggeration, but how many of us would find ways to work if we could while we sleep?).

Instead of working harder and doing more, noted professor Harry Kraemer of the Kellogg School suggests a radical new approach to managing the deluge of tasks facing most professionals. Rest, reflect, and reset is the mantra of the truly successful person.

Why Doing More Isn’t Better

The problem with always trying to do more is that you never have time to do what will truly make an impact.

Authentic and effective leadership requires thoughtful planning. Leaders may have natural talent and abilities, but they must put those talents into action after considering the facts around them. Without the time to reflect, the action may be ineffective.

Self Reflection Leads to Better Decisions

Leaders know that they have two main tasks: to prioritize what is important and to find the resources needed to get the important tasks completed. But you can’t prioritize if you don’t take the time for self reflection.

Self reflection is more than thinking about what you’ve done during the day and what you’d like to accomplish tomorrow. It includes thinking about what you need to do differently.

If you’re so busy you don’t have time to breathe, let alone think, you won’t be able to think outside of your current situation. You’ll continue to try solutions that haven’t worked but are comfortable and familiar. And when it comes to problem-solving, comfortable and familiar are not a leader’s friends.

Systematized Self Reflection for Leaders

To make self reflection a reality instead of a wish, it’s important to systematize it. By setting up a system for reflection, observation, and action, you incorporate self reflection into your day.

The following steps may make it easier to incorporate self-reflection in your leadership skills.

  1. Set aside 15 minutes for writing out your reflection.
  2. Write down your thoughts about the day. Include questions, problems, and tasks you need to tackle next.
  3. Keep a running list of items to follow up on as well as the second list of items to explore.
  4. Consider both big-picture thoughts as well as the minutia of the day.
  5. Make self reflection a daily habit.

Self reflection builds strong leaders, teams, and companies. It’s a simple task that only takes 15 minutes a day to complete. Instead of constantly speeding up and trying to do more in a day, taking a brief break to reflect, refashion, and recommit to our goals can help build a better company and create stronger leaders.

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.