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Data

Financial Audits Improve Nonprofit Operations

By | Abila, Accounting, Audit, Data, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

Are you getting the most from your nonprofit’s annual audit? Financial audits aren’t just a necessary exercise to meet the requirements for keeping your nonprofit organization’s status or to please donors and board members. They provide valuable, useful information that can help you improve many areas of your organization.

A study conducted by Deloitte and reprinted in the Journal of Accountancy surveyed 300 executives and 100 members of audit committees nationwide. Their findings point to the usefulness of audits as a business evaluation tool.

  • 79% of executives and 91% of audit committee members agree that financial audits help them identify opportunities to improve business performance;
  • 46% of executives and 62% of the audit committee members believe that audits helped them identify business issues that they might have missed without the audit information;
  • Companies that review and utilize audit information achieved strong growth over a three to five year period (as noted by self-observation.)

Clearly, there is value not just in the audit process itself but in the use of the audit findings for analysis of current operations,

Quality Counts When It Comes to Choosing an Auditor

Throughout the survey, respondents cited the quality of the audit as a key element of a useful business improvement tool later on. A good-quality audit starts with selecting an auditing firm with experience helping nonprofits both through the auditing process and to improve later on.

Audits can provide more than information into the company’s financial state. They can provide market and industry comparisons and analysis. Process analysis, identification of gaps and potential for improvement can also be part of the audit findings. Each of these elements provides an item that can be used as a springboard for action later.

When selecting an auditing firm, look for one with experience working in the nonprofit world. It may also be helpful to find a company that provides more than auditing services. Business consulting, nonprofit consulting, and other related services offered by the auditors mean that they can infuse additional insights into the audit process and continue working with your nonprofit after the audit to implement the changes that you wish to make.

Data and Analytics

Another new area in which nonprofits are finding useful information is the data and analytics that are derived from the audit. Many aspects of a nonprofit’s business can be analyzed. Examining items such as expenses like leases, long-term contracts and expenditures can reveal places in which money can be saved. Long-term donor patterns, grant analysis, and areas where the nonprofit’s work has shifted over the years may also be revealed from an analysis of data patterns found within the audit and the nonprofit’s financial statements.

It takes a special auditor to be able to analyze and detect such patterns. If you aren’t looking for them or for places from which you can derive such information, it can easily be overlooked. Again, choosing an auditor with the insight and experience in the nonprofit world to assist you with your business improvements it the key to success.

Are You Using Your Audit Information?

Are you using all of the information that can be obtained from your most recent audit? According to the previously mentioned Deloitte study, about 35% of the nonprofits responding to the study rarely or never use the information obtained through the audit for improvement. Talk about a missed opportunity!

Why aren’t they using the information? Approximately 48% percent of executives surveyed state that they do not have a process in place to use the information post-audit.

Therein lies the key – process. Develop a process now to use the information obtained from this year’s audit to improve your nonprofit. Begin now to find an auditor who can partner with you to develop a series of action items for follow up. Put in place the teams, groups, committees or leaders within your company who will be accountable for following up on the audit information.

By using these techniques, you can use the annual audit as both a financial document and the start of process improvement.

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.

 

3 Steps to Moving Nonprofit Financial Systems to the Cloud

By | Accounting, Cloud, Data, E-Learning, Nonprofit | No Comments

According to a recent story from Forbes, since 2009 spending for cloud computing was reported to grow 4.5 times the rate of IT spending, and with good reason. What does “moving to the cloud” really mean? In short, the cloud shifts hosted data from on-premise servers to remote servers hosted on the internet. Many nonprofit organizations have made the switch to the cloud, and by doing so they transformed the way they budget, prioritize, and store data.

Oftentimes, nonprofit executives lack the time to consider the cost and benefits of migrating their financial systems to the cloud. A lot of nonprofits are just stretched too thin to give migration a good, solid look. A recent study by NTEN supported a 25 percent growth year after year for nonprofits’ cloud implementation.

To get a handle on the benefits – and decide if it’s a right move for you – we’ve broken down the process of moving to the cloud into three steps:

  1. Identify and weigh the benefits
  2. Recognize potential risks
  3. Establish a strategy

 Benefits of the cloud

 There are many benefits to moving to the cloud including:

  • Accessing data anywhere and at any time
  • Specialized IT experts with cloud service providers, so your team can focus more time on your mission
  • Best-in-class security tools to protect you and your donors

And that’s just the start! Many organizations have reported spending up to 80 percent of an IT budget on maintaining legacy software. With a cloud migration you can increase performance and extend the life of the system by receiving the most up-to-date software. Maintenance will also take less effort because updates are automatic, and organizations always have the most up-to-date version.

Depending on the needs of a nonprofit, the benefits can vary in priority and weight. As a starting point, nonprofit accounting professionals and executives alike need to rate and prioritize the benefits relative to the needs of the nonprofit.

Recognize risks

It’s crucial to be well-informed about the risks of operating in the cloud. Some items to consider:

  • Complexity and duration of the migration
  • Training staff – It is necessary to have a good training plan in place to avoid the frustration that can take place with a new system.
  • Does the cloud provider or your fund accounting consulting offer long-term support? Will you be able to partner with them to help your staff in times of need?

Strategy for moving to the cloud

There is not a one-size-fits-all philosophy with cloud computing migrations. Be sure you can build a road-map that meets the needs and priorities of your nonprofit, including:

  • Cost analysis between the on-premises and cloud-hosted software
  • A plan regarding how the migration will support the bottom line and mission of your organization
  • Research and comparing services from at least three cloud providers

Migrations to the cloud can be overwhelming for many of today’s nonprofit professionals. By breaking down the process into three steps, a plan can be effectively crafted and shared with stakeholders across the organization.

Ready to take the next step? Download our whitepaper that allows you to dig deeper into adopting cloud computing, benefits of migrating, and tips on the best way to research and plan for a move to the cloud. Or contact us online today to set up your free cloud migration consultation.

 

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.

Addressing the Dangers of Cyber Attacks

By | Data, Nonprofit | No Comments

No one is immune to cyber attacks, hackers, viruses and phishing scams, including non-profit associations. Both your organization’s money and its reputation may be at stake.

At Welter Consulting, we want your organization to be safe from such cyber attacks. We offer consulting services to make technology planning easy. Contact us online or call us at (206) 605-3113 to learn more.

Boards Must Lead the Charge Against Attacks

Boards cannot afford to be complacent about cybersecurity. Many nonprofits are too small to have a dedicated IT staff or resources. In those cases, it falls upon the Board as the leadership team of the organization to develop policies and processes to guard against cyber attacks.

How Breaches Occur

Nonprofits may find themselves in the thick of a cyber attack through completely innocent circumstances. An employee may accidentally download an infected file. Someone may be searching for information and stumble across an infected site, leaving a virus in their browser.

These are common ways in which nonprofits become infected with malware. Recently there has been an increase in the number of extortion-related viruses. Such viruses lock users out of their computers until money is paid to someone who supposedly holds the virtual key to unlock the computer. Criminals do not care whether you run a charity for orphans or a financial firm; they take the money and continue their extortion schemes.

Other types of cybercrime include data theft. A data breach in which your donors’ or members’ personal data including names, addresses, social security numbers or credit card numbers are stolen can result in negative publicity for nonprofits and the threat of potential lawsuits. These crimes often aren’t noticed until long after they occur, giving nonprofit leaders a false sense of security. In truth, anyone can be the subject of such an attack.

Taking Steps to Prevent Attacks

Nonprofit board members can take several positive steps to ward off the threat of cyber attacks. While you may not be able to prevent them all, you can ward off many.

Steps you can take include:

  • Encourage management to adopt policies that prevent cyber intrusion. This may include frequent software updates, limits on web browsing, and training to raise awareness.
  • Add cyber insurance to your organization’s coverage to minimize the financial ramifications of cleaning up after a breach.
  • Build a proactive response plan, imagining worst-case scenarios and including steps to take should they occur.
  • Take an inventory of your current cyber security measures to disclose gaps.
  • Close any identified gaps or hire a consultant to do so for you.
  • Evaluate security risks among vendors and suppliers.
  • Find out where the most valuable information is stored – and treat it as you would money in a safe. Take extra precautions to make sure it is secure.
  • Discourage risky cyber practices, such as downloading documents from unknown sites or clicking links requesting that users reset their passwords.

Above all, make cybersecurity a top priority for your company. When boards do so, they send a powerful signal that it is an important topic worthy of employees’ time and effort to address it.

Cybersecurity is like the doors and locks on your home. You invest in strong doors, locks, and alarm systems to prevent burglars from stealing your television and computer. By making sure your cybersecurity efforts are up to par, you’ll prevent virtual burglars from walking off with important assets. You’ll add a layer of safety to your nonprofit that provides better peace of mind.

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.

Going Faster Isn’t the Answer. How Nonprofit Leaders Improve Decision Making.

By | Abila, Accounting, Budget, Data, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

The phone is ringing off the hook and you have 3,000 emails waiting for an answer. Meetings are booked back-to-back and your desk looks like someone dumped a file cabinet on it. If that sounds familiar, it’s time to take a deep breath and rethink how you’re handling your day.

We each get 24 hours in a day, and some of that time must be spent on things like sleeping, eating, and personal needs…but many of us feel that if we can cram more into our workdays, we’re improving our productivity. We take classes on productivity, buy fancy journals or add apps for time management, and wonder what we’re doing wrong when we get buried under an avalanche of work.

Where we go wrong is easy to spot. We think that by going faster and working harder, we’ll eventually catch up. We try to multi-task, cram more tasks into each hour, and find new ways of working while commuting, showering, or sleeping (okay, that’s an exaggeration, but how many of us would find ways to work if we could while we sleep?).

Instead of working harder and doing more, noted professor Harry Kraemer of the Kellogg School suggests a radical new approach to managing the deluge of tasks facing most professionals. Rest, reflect, and reset is the mantra of the truly successful person.

Why Doing More Isn’t Better

The problem with always trying to do more is that you never have time to do what will truly make an impact.

Authentic and effective leadership requires thoughtful planning. Leaders may have natural talent and abilities, but they must put those talents into action after considering the facts around them. Without the time to reflect, the action may be ineffective.

Self Reflection Leads to Better Decisions

Leaders know that they have two main tasks: to prioritize what is important and to find the resources needed to get the important tasks completed. But you can’t prioritize if you don’t take the time for self reflection.

Self reflection is more than thinking about what you’ve done during the day and what you’d like to accomplish tomorrow. It includes thinking about what you need to do differently.

If you’re so busy you don’t have time to breathe, let alone think, you won’t be able to think outside of your current situation. You’ll continue to try solutions that haven’t worked but are comfortable and familiar. And when it comes to problem-solving, comfortable and familiar are not a leader’s friends.

Systematized Self Reflection for Leaders

To make self reflection a reality instead of a wish, it’s important to systematize it. By setting up a system for reflection, observation, and action, you incorporate self reflection into your day.

The following steps may make it easier to incorporate self-reflection in your leadership skills.

  1. Set aside 15 minutes for writing out your reflection.
  2. Write down your thoughts about the day. Include questions, problems, and tasks you need to tackle next.
  3. Keep a running list of items to follow up on as well as the second list of items to explore.
  4. Consider both big-picture thoughts as well as the minutia of the day.
  5. Make self reflection a daily habit.

Self reflection builds strong leaders, teams, and companies. It’s a simple task that only takes 15 minutes a day to complete. Instead of constantly speeding up and trying to do more in a day, taking a brief break to reflect, refashion, and recommit to our goals can help build a better company and create stronger leaders.

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.