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CPA

You Can Never Be Too Careful: Improving Computer Security

By | Accounting, CPA, Data, HR, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

Cyber threats are on the rise worldwide. The costs of a data breach are staggering with the average cost to repair such breaches at $4 million. And if you think your nonprofit organization is too small to be affected by cybercrimes, data breaches, viruses, and ransomware think again: many of the worst threats are to individuals and small businesses and that includes small nonprofit organizations.

One of the areas most vulnerable to external cyber threats is communications. Contact forms on websites, emails, chats, images – all provide a window into your systems through which cyber criminals can enter to wreak havoc. Here’s how you can improve the security of your overall system with an eye towards shoring up the defenses of your communications network.

Questions to Ask – and Answer

The first step to solving any problem is to understand the full scope of the problem itself. To do this, you will need to evaluate all of the possible threats against your organization. Review security and access points including who has access to your systems, website, email server, social media accounts and any external software you may use such as cloud-based storage, file sharing, and other systems.

  • Do you have a written process for granting access and revoking privileges? A written process with a designated administrator controls access to key services and systems. You can detail who can access which systems and what to do when someone’s employment is terminated or they leave voluntarily.
  • Do you have a master list of all of your software and systems? Create a list of all of the software and systems, as well as administrators and contact people in your organization, for all of the software you use.
  • Do you have a process in place for updating your software? Those annoying popups prompting you to update your systems aren’t just for show. Software updates close gaps in the system that programmers find after the initial software releases. These “patches” are often important coding changes that defend against known threats. Regular updates of all of your software and operating systems are
  • Do you have virus protection in place? A virus protection program can screen websites to ensure they are safe and check inbound emails and attachments. Other types of virus programs scan your hard drive for malware, harmless but annoying programs, and other code that gets injected into your computer without your knowledge. It’s smart to have two packages rather than just one; two can often catch more than one.
  • Do you back up your systems regularly? In the event of a cyber attack, having backups ready to restore your systems is vital. Automatic backups can be installed or you can store some of your non-confidential files on a cloud server to keep copies safe.

Communications Security Tips

In addition to these questions and answers, consider a few other security measures to put into place.

  • Assume anyone, at any time, can read your emails. Do not share passwords or other confidential information by email.
  • Consider email encryption services, which encrypt email on your computer so that it can only be read by the sender and recipient.
  • Only open attachments from people you know.
  • Require two-step authentication to sensitive systems and accounts such as bank accounts.

If you’ve checked “yes” to many of these items, then congratulations – you’re ahead of many other nonprofits in the cyber security department.

One last step is to have an emergency plan on hand to restore critical systems in the event an attack cripples your nonprofit’s systems. The FBI virus, a form of ransomware, can infect computers merely through visiting an infected website and it is difficult to remove. It locks a computer so that you cannot use it until the ransom is paid to the criminal. A skilled computer technician or service can remove it but will cost both time and money.

This is just one example of possible threats. As the threats grow, having a backup plan and a plan to keep working while your systems are fixed is critical to keeping your doors open and your work continuing without pause.

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.

Encrypt an Email and Secure Your Gmail – Tips and Tricks for Email Communication

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

The greatest threat facing the CPA community isn’t legislation or competition. It’s security as it pertains to our technology. CPAs must be cognizant of the latest security measures to protect sensitive, confidential client data. Technology has made it easy to send information to clients with the touch of a button, but where does that information end up – and how long does it remain accessible?

Such considerations are no longer academic questions. Instead, they are essential to running a secure and confident CPA practice.

Email Encryption: Protecting Sensitive Communications

Emails are by far the biggest offender when it comes to potential data breaches. Most email systems aren’t sent using encryption. Because emails are automatically shared across multiple devices these days, your email lives on long after you attempt to retract or erase it. It’s almost impossible to completely erase all traces of an email from hard drives, backup servers, and the recipient’s servers and devices.

The best way to protect emailed information is through encryption. Encryption “locks” messages so that only the recipient can read them. The recipient’s software automatically unlocks the message so that it can be read. If some third-party swoops in and somehow accesses the email, it cannot read it.

To encrypt your email transmissions, you can use a service that includes encryption. Gmail and Outlook are both good, solid email programs that incorporate encryption into their programming. Both services also include cloud storage, spam filtering, and IMPAP/POP support.

The drawback to using these services is that they use their own extensions rather than your company’s extension address. To rectify this situation, you can important Gmail or Outlook messages into Outlook Desktop.

The steps include:

1. Turn on two-step verification: Go to google.com/landing/2step, click the Get Started button, and follow the steps to set up two-step verification. A code is texted to your smartphone, which you enter to verify the account.

2. From your Outlook 2010, 2013, or 2016 ribbon, select File, Add Account to launch the Auto Account Setup screen.

3. Enter your name, email address (Gmail or Hotmail/Outlook.com), and password, and then click Next.

4. Set up a Gmail alias with your company name:

a. Open your Gmail account.

b. Sign in.

c. Click the Settings gear in the top right corner.

d. Choose Settings.

e. Select from the horizontal menu the Accounts and Import tab, Import mail and contacts,

f. Enter the email address you want to use as a Gmail alias.

g. Enter the password, and if necessary, enter the Pop username and Pop server.

h. Click Continue.

i. Sign in to the account you added

j. Open the confirmation message you received from Gmail

k. Click the link in the email to confirm and establish the connection.

l. To complete the setup, change the From line to reflect your newly added alias email address. For more details on how to set up a Google email address alias, visit Google support.

The process to set up Outlook aliases is similar.

1. Open Outlook.com.

2. Click the Settings gear.

3. Select Options.

4. In the Options menu in the left menu pane, select Connected Accounts, Other email accounts.

5. Enter the alias email address and your email password then click OK.

Keep in mind that encryption through Gmail or Outlook only works if both sender and receiver are using the same service. In other words, your message is encrypted only if you are using Outlook and your client is also using Outlook. If only you are using Outlook or Gmail, messages are encrypted on your end, but not the client’s end.

If you’d prefer, a computer consultant can help you set up a secure, encrypted email system for your business. Or make it a rule that confidential information must be delivered in person or via snail mail, rather than through email. If you’d prefer that no one else see your message, a phone call or letter through traditional mail may be appropriate.

We live in an age where technology can make our businesses more productive and efficient. It can also compromise sensitive client data. Fortunately, a few steps are all that’s needed to secure your email information.

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.