Category

Accounting

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.

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.