Category

Audit

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.

Tips and Tricks: Finding and Using Advanced Smartphone Calculator Apps

By | Accounting, Audit, Budget, CPA, Nonprofit | No Comments

How did any of us manage our businesses without smartphones? Today’s smartphones act like portable computers with more computing power in these tiny handheld gadgets then people a decade or two ago could imagine. For the busy CPA on the go, a smartphone offers a great portable computer that can

perform many tasks while you’re traveling, working from a client’s office, or trying to sneak in a bit of work between innings at your child’s Little League game.

One important app that no CPA’s smartphone should be without is a calculator app. We’re not talking about the simple apps that come with your smartphone, great though they may be. We’re talking about apps that pack the power punch a CPA needs for advanced number crunching.

Let’s take a look at some tips and tricks for finding and using advanced smartphone calculator apps. Before downloading any app, check to make sure it is compatible with your particular make and model of phone.

Android Compatible Calculator Apps

* One++ offers 245 calculating options that cover more than the basic needs of the average CPA. Unit conversations, basic and advanced math, capitalization ratios, depreciation, and much more are all available. Best of all, it can be voice activated, so it can find formula prompts for you with verbal commands. It can recognize 12 languages, so if you’re traveling and need to share it with another CPA, you’re covered too. It’s a great tool available from many of the Android Shops online, and it’s FREE.

* Mobi: Mobi offers two choices of calculators, a free version, and a very minimally priced paid version. The free version is just a step up from basic, but Mobi Calculator Pro, the paid version, offers great features for a CPA. The paid version features include expressions, formulas and highly advanced calculators. The app includes a memory function that enables you to recall the past 50 calculations, so if you make a mistake you can backtrack and find it. It also allows you to save your work.

* Wolfram Alpha: For less than what a latte costs, Wolfram Alpha offers a wealth of tools for financial advisors, CPAs, and others involved in the world of accounting, investments, and financial management. Data and research on stocks, indexes, mortgage value, present value, depreciation and other issues are included, and the tool can also perform advanced research for many financial queries. Wolfram Alpha also has an iOS version compatible with iPhones.

iOS Apps

* Soulver: For a small cost, you’ve got an amazing smartphone app for your iOS compatible products. Soulver includes columnar formatted calculations that are editable. You can also create currency conversions and perform unit conversions.

* Tydlig: Talk about a spreadsheet on the go – or on your phone, that is Tydlig. It combines a calculator with spreadsheet-style functions to build your own accounting canvas. Add labels to graphs and charts, calculate formulas, and export your work to a PDF to print back at the office. It’s a great portable accounting app if you travel a lot and need to conduct some work on the fly. For the amount of a candy bar, it may be a great investment for your productivity.

To find a great calculator app for your needs, review these and other compatible apps using any free trials offered. At these prices, however, you don’t need to pinch pennies. You can try one or several for a while and see which one feels right for your business needs.

With so many CPAs traveling for business, working remotely, or working during their mass transit commutes, calculator apps such as these offer great productivity tools.

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. We offer hands-on training as well as webinars to take you to the next level with your fund accounting system. Check out the full schedule of our training events here.

Could Your Data Be at Risk?

By | Abila, Accounting, Audit, CPA, Data, Grant Management, HR, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

Could your nonprofit associations’ data be at risk? Even with good security, you may still find yourself in the unpleasant position of ransoming your data from an unscrupulous hacker.

New viruses such as the notorious “FBI” virus do not hijack your computer for their own nefarious purposes. Some viruses lock your computer down so that you cannot access any of its information. Instead, once you pay a fee – like a random in a kidnapping – the hijackers ‘release’ your computer.

If you think this can’t happen to you, think again. What used to be a threat to major targets such as large corporations or government organization is now a threat to anyone at any time. In fact, smaller nonprofits may be targeted more frequently than larger ones because small organizations do not have the means to fight back when they’re the victim of crime. Criminals such as data hijackers look for easy targets or organizations that do not have the financial resources to fight back. Any organization is at risk.

What Is Data Hijacking?

The best prevention against data hijacking is awareness. It’s important to understand what data hijacking looks like and how to prevent it from occurring.

Data hijacking occurs when a computer program called ‘malware’ enters your system. Malware means malicious software. A specific type of malware called “ransomware” enters your system through an infected email or computer virus. Most often, users inadvertently click an email link or download software containing the malicious program.

Ransomware installs on the end users’ computer and encrypts the data on the target computer so that it can no longer be read. The encryption is so sophisticated that only the operator of the program has the key that unlocks it. Hijackers demand payment for the data ‘key’ that un-encrypts or unlocks the data.

How Ransomware Gets Past Security

There are many ways in which data hijackers bypass your organization’s secure to target your computers. One common way is to clone an executive or CEO’s email address or LinkedIn profile. They then use the fake profile to send an email with a link to people in your company. They often target top executives but anyone can be targeted.

Once the link is clicked, it downloads the ransomware and locks the target computer. A message appears on the computer screen demanding payment to release the computer. Hijackers often request payment in bitcoin, an untraceable digital currency that’s easy to convert into cash.

Even after paying the ransom fee, there’s no guarantee your computer will be released. In some cases, the hijackers themselves are unable to decrypt the computers after payment is made to them. In other cases, the hijackers simply disappear with your money – and your data is lost forever.

Preventing Data Hijacking

The best way to combat data hijacking is through prevention. The following steps should be undertaken to protect against lost data from data hijacking:

1. Be vigilant when screening your emails. Do not click on links within emails unless your are absolutely certain it’s from a known sender. The same goes for attachments which can also harbor viruses and malware.

2. Keep your computer programs updated at all times. Patches and updates protect against various forms of malware, including ransomware.

3. Backup your data frequently. Store it on the cloud as well as in storage devices NOT connected to computers or the internet.

4. Use firewalls to segment company data. This way if part of your network is affected by ransomware, you may not lose all of it if some is protected behind a firewall.

5. Block pop ups and disable macros in key programs, which are often used to distribute malware.

If you suspect that your company’s cybersecurity has been breached and ransomware or malware has been launched, disconnect your computer from the internet as soon as possible. That may prevent the malware from downloading entirely or from infecting others.

Next, contact Welter Consulting. We can help you with both the immediate problem and creating a long-term strategy to protect against viruses, malware, and ransomware.

Welter Consulting

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

Blog #4

New Standards Mean Changes to Disclosures and Financial Statements

By | Abila, Accounting, Audit, CPA, FASB, Grant Management, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

In August 2016, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2016-14. This document, entitled, “Presentation of Financial Statements for Not-for-Profit Entities” changed how information is presented in financial statements. The goal was to make information clear and easily understandable for the average person reading a nonprofit’s financial statements.

Areas that the new standards address include:

* Net asset restrictions: The previous categorization of net asset classifications confused many people, especially the term “unrestricted.” The new net asset restrictions bring the categories down from three to two to provide clarity.

* Liquidity: It was difficult under the old standard for people to see liquidity and compare liquidity amounts among various nonprofits.

* Cash flow: Previously, indirect reporting was required, but reviewers found that indirect reporting methods confused many people.

* Expenses: Not all nonprofits reported expenses the same way.

The Changes: Nothing New to Track, Simpler Reporting

The changes required by FASB for nonprofit accounting do not ask for any new information to be recorded or tracked. Instead, it simplifies the method of reporting and recording, streamlining it so that it is more consistent among nonprofits. This enables donors, members, and the public an easier way to compare nonprofit organizations and understand their finances.

The biggest changes are the net asset classifications, disclosure, and expense designation

1. Net asset classification: As previously stated, net asset classifications are changing from three previous potential classifications to two. The two new categories are net assets with donor restrictions and net assets without donor restrictions. Details about the categories are disclosed in the footnotes. The footnotes are expected to provide detail on the funds themselves and how they are apportioned.

2. Liquidity disclosure: On the liquidity disclosure, the new rules require that qualitative details communicate how the nonprofit manages the liquid resources available to meet its cash flow needs within a one year period. Quantitative information must also be provided about the resources available within one year. Additional information is required on the nature and type of liquid assets and any external limitations placed on them by grantors, donors, local laws, etc. Board limits must also be specified.

3. Expenses: Expenses must now be disclosed by natural and functional categories. The methods used to allocate costs must also be described.

The changes recommended by FASB aren’t a surprise, but are long in coming. The continual push to improve communications around financials for nonprofit entities is a welcome one that adds a layer of transparency to the nonprofit world that donors have been seeking.

If you’d like assistance meeting the new FASB requirements, speak with Welter Consulting today. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.