Category

MIP Fund Accounting

Feeling – and Dealing – with Being Overwhelmed

By | Abila, Accounting, Accounting Software, Budget, Cloud, Corporate Culture, Fiscal, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit, Professional Development, Technology | No Comments

It’s not confined to tax season. A look at why you’re feeling overwhelmed, and how to deal with it.

In the book “Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time”, authors Jeff and J.J. Sutherland have an interesting chart on page 91. In this chart, they cite statistics that indicate that as one’s attention is divided, productivity decreases. Working on two projects at once means a 20% loss in productivity due to switching gears; three projects at once, and you lose about 40% due to context switching.

Accountants and financial managers at nonprofits aren’t immune to this loss, due to context switching. In fact, we’re probably more vulnerable to it due to the focused nature of our work. Dealing with financial issues, accounting questions, and understanding complex financial information requires quiet, focused time. The barrage of instant messenger apps, phone calls, emails, texts and myriad information streams in today’s connected world increases the loss due to context switching. Multi-tasking for greater productivity is a myth.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Nearly all professionals are feeling overwhelmed these days. It’s as if the crunch before tax season never ends. Researchers point to the common culprits – instant messengers, instant news, instant everything – as a big part of the problem. The human brain isn’t wired to deal with this level of intensity, and we haven’t had time to adapt to the rapid pace of change that technology has wrought in our personal and business lives.

Although we cannot fully shut the world out and switch off the phones, there are ways to improve productivity. These include avoiding context or task switching, single-tasking instead of multi-tasking, and establishing boundaries around office times.

Single-Tasking for Greater Productivity

Multi-tasking does not improve productivity. Instead, it diminishes productivity because the mind needs time to acclimate to the second task. As we focus on one task, our attention is fixed on that task; switching to a second task takes brain power to establish focus, change direction, and process new information.

Don’t buy into the myth of multi-tasking. Instead, turn off the music or the television while you work. Shut the door to your office. Switch off the instant messages and turn your cell phone to mute while you work on a project. Allow yourself the space to focus, rather than trying to cram as many tasks as you can into the same amount of time.

Set Office Rules

Another tip to improve productivity and avoid feeling overwhelmed is to set some basic ground rules around your time in the office. While many managers prefer an ‘open door’ policy and make themselves available to their staff at any time, you may need to establish some basic policies around availability.

Some managers have ‘office hours’ when they leave their door open as a clear signal to their teams that they can drop in and ask any questions they wish. Others block out time on their calendar for quiet, focused work. Either method works fine. The point is to ensure that you have adequate quiet time for focused work and additional time blocked out for your teams.

Switch Off the Mobile Phone

 Cellphones are a great convenience, but their buzzing, shrilling, vibrating presence has ruined many a meeting, family dinner, or quiet time. Shut off the mobile phone when you aren’t at work or when you need some space. Texts are rarely as urgent as we make them out to be, and your brain needs a break from the constant stream of messages and information it’s trying to process.

Give Yourself Permission to Rest

 Lastly, give yourself permission to rest on the weekends, vacations and holidays. When you’re behind schedule on projects, it is tempting to trying to bring work home or devote a few extra hours in the evening to finishing up a project. Occasionally burning the midnight oil doesn’t hurt  but making it a habit can cut into your overall productivity. Ensuring balance in all things takes time, practice and effort, but it helps your overall productivity.

Everyone feels overwhelmed at times by work. If it becomes chronic, however, it’s time to take steps to safeguard your time. Burnout happens in all professions, including accounting and finance, nonprofit and for-profit companies.

 

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.


 

Fiscal Year-End for Nonprofits

By | Accounting, Accounting Software, Budget, CPA, Fiscal, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit, Year-End | No Comments

For many nonprofit organizations June represents the last month of their nonprofits fiscal year, and the start of closing of the grants. As soon as fiscal and executive staff return to the office in July 2018, there will be plenty of work to do to close the books.

Oftentimes nonprofit organizations that operate around a program schedule find that closing their fiscal year at the end of June simply works better. For example, after colleges and other higher education organizations have celebrated graduations they enter a slower time making it an optimal season to close out their books.

Healthcare and human services receiving substantial funding from grants are preparing for end of July reporting requirements, making it an ideal time to get in line with parallel grant cycles. Others prefer to avoid the double whammy of having fiscal closing and tax season that start in January. Whatever their reason, July marks a new financial year of opportunity ahead.

What will your fiscal 2017 results look like, and how will you distribute them? If you close your books at the end of June your IRS tax Form 990 will be due on November 15. Audits will also start to get scheduled which include financial statement scrutiny, especially for organizations covered under OMB’s A-133 single audit act.

Some questions you and your team can be asking include:

  • Where will your organization be presenting your results?
  • Will you go beyond a normal board meeting update and provide results to your top funding stakeholders?
  • Do you also publish results to your website and/or an annual report?

Keep in mind the future funders of your organization likely expect more transparency than the ones to whom you’re delivering results today.  Getting audit ready for year-end is probably at the top of your to-do list and making sure you have all your tools in place is important.

Another way to effectively navigate this end of year season with success is to put a budget plan in place. This plan should be adaptable. If you have just started a new FY 2018 budget, think about your checkpoints and where you can adjust the plan. If you’re on the cusp of starting budget planning, though, please consider how you can build a better budget. We are offering a guide to building a nonprofit budget roadmap that can help you wherever you happen to be in your own organization’s journey.

 

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting is a technology firm empowering nonprofit and government organizations with effective software, consulting & training that can help you with your accounting needs. We are committed to finding the most affordable technology, the most powerful solution, and providing expert support. By leveraging technology and superior reporting, our team helps to free more of your time to devote to the important work of your mission. We bridge people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We are passionate professionals who choose to work in the nonprofit sector for the same reason you do – helping others. Please contact Welter Consulting online at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Mid-Year Budget Review

By | Abila, Accounting, Accounting Software, Budget, CPA, Grant Management, Internal Controls, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

Let’s face it. Stuff happens. And, though you may wish your hard-fought and well-planned budget was settled, the National Council of Nonprofits says it best, “Budgets should not be ‘written in stone’ because the financial position of the nonprofit may change during the year.”

How is your nonprofit’s budget performing? Have you reviewed it since it was created and implemented? Is your revenue on target? Have any of the following occurred at your nonprofit? …

  • A shift or pivot in strategy or direction
  • Unforeseen events (natural disaster, legal, economic)
  • Organizational structure change (such as consolidations)
  • A change in funding received versus projected funding (such as receiving more or less from planned grant funding or fundraising activities)

A successful budget is one that is carefully crafted and implemented by a thorough budget team, then cautiously monitored and continuously updated throughout the year to reflect the inevitable changes affecting your nonprofit.

Download our Budget Checkup tool to put your Nonprofit budget to the test.

To learn about best practices when it comes to effectively monitoring and reviewing your budget throughout the year, download Budget Checkup: Critical Components of the Nonprofit Budget Review Process.

Feel like you have a pretty good understanding about the importance of the budget review process, but still relying on spreadsheets or an outdated solution? Join a live webinar, “Budget Lifecycle: Key Components to Budget Creation and Support” on Wednesday, June 7, for an in-depth review of how a true fund accounting™ solution can help you improve budgeting, so you can focus on your cause.

Looking for new nonprofit software to track your budget?  Answer these 5 Questions to Measure Fund Accounting System Effectiveness.

 

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting is a technology firm empowering nonprofit and government organizations with effective software, consulting & training that can help you with your accounting needs. We are committed to finding the most affordable technology, the most powerful solution, and providing expert support. By leveraging technology and superior reporting, our team helps to free more of your time to devote to the important work of your mission. We bridge people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We are passionate professionals who choose to work in the nonprofit sector for the same reason you do – helping others. Please contact us online or call 206-605-3113 for more information.

 

Responsible Data Collection for Nonprofit Organizations

By | Abila, Accounting, Accounting Software, Cloud, Data, Internal Controls, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit, Technology | No Comments

Many people were shocked to discover the amount of data that Facebook and its partner organizations collect and share about their users. What’s surprising isn’t the amount of data collected and shared, but the public’s ignorance of how rampant data abuse is throughout the online world.

Have you ever had advertisements that seem to follow you online? That’s due to data collection from your browser history. Companies such as Google note which websites you’ve shopped or browsed recently and make educated guesses on behalf of their advertisers on which ads to display on your pages. So-called “remarketing” or “re-targeting” is just one example of how you are inadvertently leaving a detailed data footprint wherever you go online.

Social media websites such as Facebook may be in the news because of their disregard of how sensitive people are to data collection and sharing, but your company could be next on the list if you aren’t careful. Take time now to review your nonprofit’s data collection habits, security, and sharing guidelines, and make changes if needed to safeguard your donor and member privacy.

Create and Display Data Privacy Policies

Data privacy policies should be written and displayed prominently on your website. Some websites request that users accept them as part of their terms and conditions of using the website.

Privacy policies include:

  1. Details on how data is collected, shared, and stored
  2. Users’ abilities to stop data collection or access records
  3. Where to send complaints, questions, comments
  4. How IP addresses, cookies, and external links are used
  5. Any other information related to data use and collection

The Council of Nonprofits has a good privacy policy which you can review as a guideline to help you create your own. It includes the major points most nonprofits should cover in their privacy policies.

How Data Is Used

Most people recognize that some data is collected anytime they visit a website. Few object to simply recording IP addresses of people who visit a site but do disagree with who sites share their data with – they want control over who sees their personal information.

As part of your data privacy policy, be specific about how data is shared. Consider limiting shared data only to necessary third-party vendors, such as mailing companies who help you package donor mailings, or some other third party you manage and control. Selling user data may be a tempting way to make extra money, but it can quickly sour any trust built with your member base.

Improve Data Security

Even if you only collect a few data elements when people register for your site or make a donation, you must make all efforts to safeguard that data from hackers. Small nonprofits are actually at greater risk than larger ones because criminals know that small organizations lack the resources to counter against a cyberattack. They are more likely to pay the ransom when data is hijacked and may lack a dedicated IT resource to protect against attacks.

Take the time now to improve data security. Simple steps such as updating software, creating strong passwords, and adding virus protection software to your organization can act like locks on the front door of a house – not much if someone is truly determined to break in but enough of a deterrent that the average thief walks away for easier pickings elsewhere. Consider working with a cyber security expert to enact greater safeguards against intrusion if you handle highly sensitive data.

Although nonprofit organizations aren’t in the business of collecting and selling data like Facebook and other big companies are, they must maintain a basic level of trust with the public in order to continue their activities. Protecting data and providing transparency into your organization’s data privacy and security is one way to enhance that trust.

 

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting is a technology firm empowering nonprofit and government organizations with effective software, consulting & training that can help you with your accounting needs. We are committed to finding the most affordable technology, the most powerful solution, and providing expert support. By leveraging technology and superior reporting, our team helps to free more of your time to devote to the important work of your mission. We bridge people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We are passionate professionals who choose to work in the nonprofit sector for the same reason you do – helping others. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.