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Budget

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.

No Margin, No Mission: Building a Surplus to Serve More Constituents

By | Accounting, Budget, CPA, Grant Management, Nonprofit | No Comments

An administrative assistant for the finance director at a nonprofit organization had a sign hanging over his desk: “No margin, no mission.”

For nonprofit organizations, having a surplus or margin is an important part of budgeting. Without budgeting for a surplus, you’ll end up scrambling to cover the inevitable times when donations do not meet goals or the roof starts leaking, necessitating an emergency repair.

Budgeting for a surplus builds up that cushion against a rainy day so that you can continue with your activities undaunted by unexpected expenses.

Budgeting for Surplus

Many nonprofits respond to shortfalls by cutting spending. There’s nothing wrong with such an approach and it can be a healthy way to keep expenses from going up. However, you can’t always cut expenses. There comes a time when expenses are cut to the quick and there’s nothing else to cut.

That’s when budgeting for a surplus comes in handy.

Budgeting for a surplus means establishing an annual surplus goal and setting aside an amount to put into the surplus fund just as you would set aside money for your operating budget, marketing budget, salaries and wages and so forth.

Mandating a surplus is the first step towards achieving a comfortable reserve. Nonprofits mandating towards surplus typically begin during the budgeting cycle by starting a budget from scratch, keeping a set figure in the baseline budget for a surplus amount. By counting the surplus from the start as a line item on the budget, it’s already built into the budget and part of the goals to achieve. It becomes an integral part of the budget rather than an item to add later.

Exceeding Goals

A happy circumstance for any nonprofit is exceeding its financial goals for the year. If your organization finds itself ahead financially, the Finance Committee can negotiate with the managers to lower the surplus over a period of one to several years. This spreads the benefit of a boom year across multiple years and maintains a surplus without keeping too much in reserve.

Potential Obstacles

To budget for a surplus, you must marry a reasonable approach to budgeting with an encouraging nod towards cutting expenses. You can’t control income, only influence it through activities. Expenses, however, can, for the most part, be controlled. Yet there are some fixed expenses that must be maintained for the good of the organization, such as rent, health insurance, and so on.

Balancing the need to cut expenses with the need for a surplus can be challenging. Including representatives from all departments in the budgeting process helps accounting and finance see the big picture view and understand potential conflicts in the budgeting cycle.

Final Thoughts on Surplus Budgeting

Obtaining surplus margin ensures that your nonprofit organization can weather the storms of recession, unexpected expenses, or boom years when donations and other revenue sources flow into the organization.

Additional tips for surplus budget include:

* Analyze the organization’s current budget and balance sheet to understand all potential sources of revenues and expenses.

* Communicate and educate all departments on how to read the budgets and financial statements. Help team leaders understand how their contributions to each budget line impact the whole.

* Develop consensus on the surplus budget amount.

* Align organization-wide goals to achieving the surplus.

* Develop strategic plans, marketing, and operational plans that support goals.

With the right planning, you too can have enough margin to achieve your mission – and a surplus, too. Budgeting towards surplus is an achievable goal.

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your budgeting processes along with many other accounting needs. We offer hands-on training as well as online webinars to take you to the next level with your fund accounting system. Check out the full schedule of our training events here.