All auditors have their particular worries, those things that keep them up at night. Do your auditors – and your nonprofit – a favor this year. Preemptively tackle these five things that tend to keep auditors up at night and make sure your audit runs smoothly.
Five Things Your Auditor Wished You Knew
If auditors could tell you in advance of things that worry them, they might bring up these five points. Each of these has a simple fix. You can tackle it in advance to help make your auditor’s job easier and the audit smooth-sailing.
- Cybersecurity: Among all the things that keep auditors up at night, weak or non-existent cybersecurity is a biggy. And for a good reason: the number of data breaches continues to soar with nonprofits affected just as much as for-profits. Nonprofits may be targeted more frequently than for-profits because criminals know that nonprofits have weaker defenses against cyber intrusions, data breaches, trojans, viruses and other methods to compromise cybersecurity. What do criminals target? Personal data offers a treasure trove of tempting ‘jewels’ for a cybercriminal to steal; donor information, member information, credit card numbers, and other data entice thieves.
Why auditors worry: Cybercrimes can be expensive and result in lawsuits. They can also tarnish the name of a nonprofit, making it difficult for them to continue their work or solicit donations in the future.
The fix: Remind staff not to open suspicious emails. “Phishing” schemes often begin with a simple click through in an email. Don’t download ‘free’ software as some of it may be infected with trojans, malware or viruses. Do add the best virus scanning protection you can to your system and back up data offline. Update software frequently as recommended by the maker since software patches often fix known gaps in code that allow cybercriminals access.
- New software: Along with cybercrimes, new software often makes auditors want to pull their hair out. Nonprofits that rush ahead and spent on new software without performing their due diligence may end up with packages that offer too much, too little, or incomplete services.
Why auditors worry: Software can be expensive, and inadequate research into software capacities may lead to unnecessary expenditures.
The fix: Work with a good reseller or consultant to identify needs and find software that fits your nonprofit’s budget. Compare prices, examine existing software to see if you can use it for additional purposes, and find ways to make do with what you have until you finish exploring all options. Discuss software purchases with your auditors in advance to obtain their input, too.
- Compliance with funder requests: Grants and donations may come with strings attached. Funders may have multiple requests, each very different, that if unmet, may result in money being canceled. It can be challenging to track, manage, and respond to all funder requests.
Why auditors worry: If a nonprofit does not comply with a funder’s requests, the nonprofit may lose the source of funding.
The fix: Conduct regular compliance audits to ensure that requests are met. Determine areas of overlap and continuity. Create a staffing plan for training so that staff is aware of requests and how to meet them. Keep accurate records and update them frequently to track, measure, and record progress towards meeting funder’s requests.
- Financial controls: Nonprofits must balance the need to do good against the need to make margin so they can continue to operate. Nonprofits operating in a global market must worry about accepting cash and controlling cash transactions, while new technology that enables transactions online must also be tracked and measured.
Why auditors worry: Auditors worry about compliance with international standards and laws, monitoring cash flow, and ensuring that cash transactions are accounted for at every step of the way.
- Fraud and corruption: No one wants to think about cheating or corruption within their organization. Nevertheless, it can happen, even to the best organizations and people.
Why auditors worry: They worry for obvious reasons – fraud and corruption can lead to nonprofit failures.
The fix: Start with smart hiring procedures that include background checks for all new hires. Include internal controls among all accounting procedures. Provide methods for staff to anonymously report wrongdoing so that “whistleblowers” feel comfortable reporting anything they have observed. Training, procedures, and transparency are all ways to prevent potential fraud.
Smart Nonprofits Partner with Their Auditors
Auditors are more than just individuals or companies who “audit the books” of a nonprofit organization. They can be valuable allies in the quest to build a sustainable, strong nonprofit organization that meets its objectives and achieves its mission.
The first step is, of course, finding an auditing firm who can become a true partner and asset. Welter Consulting bridges nonprofits and solutions to help them find technology that works for them. We invite you to contact us for any assistance you need with nonprofit technology and business solutions. Call 206-605-3113 or contact us.