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Nonprofit

How to Choose a Good Technology Partner

By | Nonprofit, Technology | No Comments

One of the most time-consuming decisions nonprofits make is finding the right technology partner for their needs. Such partners include resellers (like Welter Consulting) who provide both consulting and software sales. Resellers help nonprofits choose the best software solution, such as a fund accounting or grant management solution, and help them address problems using specific software applications.

To make finding the right technology partner easier, we’ve put together a 7-point checklist to use when interviewing potential vendors. You can use this checklist in addition to the RFP process to help you narrow down your choice of vendors.

7 Point Vendor Review Checklist

  1. Does the provider listen to you? It should be a given that any potential consultant or vendor listens carefully to your needs and concerns, but not all do. Consider how well the potential vendor listens to you and responds to your concerns.
  2. How does the vendor respond to questions? Some vendors respond promptly and thoroughly. Others evade or act as if questions are an annoyance to them. Be sure that the vendor under consideration answers your questions courteously and professionally.
  3. Does the vendor understand nonprofit finance and accounting? Many vendors who serve the for-profit mark think they understand the nonprofit world, but you may find them a poor fit unless they work with nonprofits. They rarely understand the nuances and challenges of fund accounting, audit preparation, and other situations that nonprofits routinely encounter. Find a vendor who works with nonprofit organizations regularly.
  4. Have a salesperson you can work with? You’ll likely work with a team on the vendor side, but make sure that the primary point of contact is someone with whom you click. Yes, they can leave the company, or you may work with someone else, but at least at the beginning of the engagement, you’ll spend a lot of time working together to set up the system, complete training, and work out any snags in the migration to the new software. It’s important to feel you have a rapport with the vendor’s team, especially your primary point of contact.
  5. Is the contract easy to understand? Contracts can be frustrating and difficult or plain enough for the average person to read and understand. It’s helpful to work with a vendor who has a short, simple contract. It shouldn’t take a law degree to understand what you are getting and how much you pay for it.
  6. When will training take place? Training is an important component of any software rollout but especially important with nonprofit finance and accounting software. During the training period, the vendor will teach you and your team how to work with the basic software. Additional training may be scheduled for “power users” or those who will use the system daily and in-depth. Make sure that you feel the training time allowed in the contract is enough. If not, what will it take to increase it? Is there a fee?
  7. Is the vendor available post-implementation for questions? Again, ask plenty of questions and read through the contract to understand what, if any, post-implementation time is allowed by the vendor for questions, fixes, and other needs. Most vendors answer quick calls or questions but may charge a fee for custom programming or additional data migration. Ask about fees for services you may need post-implementation and compare among various vendors.

Choose an Experienced Partner

Lastly, consider the vendor’s references. Before calling references, have a list of questions prepared. You may want two or more employees to call the same reference to see if they get the same answer in each call or if anything unusual comes up in the conversation.

Testimonials and endorsements from nonprofit agencies and organizations are also a sign of a good vendor. Although you can’t predict how a software rollout will go, conducting due diligence and asking plenty of questions before hiring a vendor goes a long way towards a successful nonprofit accounting software implementation.

Welter Consulting

Of course, we hope you’ll choose Welter Consulting for your needs. We believe we fulfill all the right boxes in this checklist to make us a great choice for the technology needs of nonprofits.

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.

Reimagine, Reinvigorate: Nonprofit COVID-19 Challenges and Response

By | COVID-19, Nonprofit | No Comments

We are now several months into the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with no end in sight, despite the optimistic statements of politicians and health authorities promising a vaccine on the horizon. No one knows whether vaccines and treatments in the development pipeline will work or mitigate the virus’ reach. In the meantime, local communities need philanthropic support like never before.

Unfortunately, the old model that treats nonprofits as “gap fillers” between the public sector and the private marketplace is outdated. In some underserved communities, nonprofits aren’t gap fillers but lifelines. Nothing has made this as crystal clear as the response to the pandemic where the distance between the haves and the have-nots is growing.

Nonprofits stand on the brink of a new era. As we look forward to a post-pandemic world, we must still deal with the realities of existing within the pandemic. To continue supporting the work we love and the communities we cherish, we must think beyond the “nonprofit box.”

The Current Situation: Post-Crisis, Pre-Resolution

One of the biggest challenges nonprofits face is sustaining the response. At the start of the crisis, the immediate reaction saw nonprofits scrambling to provide food, shelter, and care for communities nationwide. Nonprofits such as food banks experienced lines stretching for blocks as people queued for food to feed their families. Others helped their communities complete government forms for the Paycheck Protection Program and other relief acts.

But once the initial crisis is over, there are two areas of concern:

  1. Continuation: how will nonprofits continue if they have depleted their resources already? Many nonprofits have emptied their budgets to support their communities. Others have seen volunteers fade away as they heeded stay-at-home orders and haven’t yet returned to help. How will nonprofits continue their efforts if they do not have the resources they need?
  2. Support for the volunteers and front-line response workers: what mental health and social support resources are available to workers and volunteers suffering from caregiver fatigue? The emotional and psychological toll cannot be underestimated. Our front line volunteers and workers have seen and heard heart-rending stories over the past several months. Do we have resources to help them stay mentally and emotionally healthy?

Continuation: Thinking Outside the Nonprofit Box

The key to sustained response and continued work in the community is to think outside the “nonprofit box.” The “nonprofit box” is like a mental box people in nonprofits build to contain all the resources they believe are available to them. For instance, a nonprofit animal shelter may think of other animal shelters when their kennels overflow and adoptions are prohibited due to stay at home orders. There are still animals to feed and care for until the public can return to adopt a pet, or volunteers can return to help care for them.

But what about setting up an animal fostering program? Many people are stuck at home and lonely. They may be eager to foster a dog or cat. And, fostering often leads to adoptions since people grow to love the pets they’re fostering. Fostering takes some of the shelter’s burdens and helps people in the local community feel less lonely when social distancing means staying home more.

Instead of partnering with local shelters to get the word out, perhaps the animal shelter can partner with local senior citizen resource centers, community centers, and faith-based organizations to spread the word about the fostering program. This is “out of the nonprofit box” thinking—considering alternative solutions to a problem.

Another area where an alternative solution may indeed be outside the nonprofit world is among food banks. Food banks usually don’t deliver. However, companies like Grub Hub are already set up to deliver food to homes. Why not contact local for-profit delivery companies and see if they are willing to deliver food or meals to families in need? If they’re already in Neighborhood A delivering a paid order, it’s not a big stretch to ask them to drop off a bag of groceries down the same neighborhood block.

To sustain the response to the increased need in our communities, we must consider partnering with others. Some organizations have deep, trusted roots in underserved communities we need to reach. Perhaps nonprofits can partner with such organizations to deliver much-needed services to the people instead of requiring the people to come to them.

Caring for the Caregivers

Unfortunately, the mental health system in the United States was already inadequate before the pandemic. Resources were already fragile for the people who could afford mental health services. Now, with the stresses added by the pandemic, it is stretched almost to the breaking point. Again, nonprofits must come up with their solutions to care for their employees and volunteers.

One solution is simple: listening. Sometimes, people just need to vent—schedule time to speak with your team by phone. Let them share their stories. Often by sharing, the stress of the situation is reduced.

A New Nonprofit Paradigm

As the coronavirus response continues, nonprofits have the opportunity to reimagine their future. If we no longer fill the gap between the public and private sectors, what role do we wish to serve? What role can we fill? How will our services apply in the future?

There’s no one answer that’s right for all nonprofits but now is the time to consider these questions. We have an opportunity like never before to help people and to reinvent the entire nonprofit industry. It’s time to reimagine, reinvent, and reinvigorate the nonprofit world.

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.

Four COVID-19 Employment Laws to Help Your Nonprofit

By | COVID-19, Nonprofit | No Comments

As many small and mid-sized businesses and nonprofits struggle to keep their doors open during the coronavirus pandemic, legislators scrambled to pass bills designed to offer some relief for cash-strapped organizations and workers. Nonprofits should review each of these acts in full with their human resources director to comply with employment laws and ensure that their organization remains in full compliance with the law.

The COVID-19 CARES Act

The four employment laws listed below were amended or launched as part of the 2020 COVID-19 response. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2020. It provides various tax credits, loans, and other economic assistance to small businesses, including nonprofit organizations.

Employers must read the complete documentation provided by the government very carefully to see if they qualify for a particular relief act.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Extended FMLA

The U.S. Department of Labor issued the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and extended the Family Medical Leave Act. The act requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid sick leave and paid family medical leave. This allows workers to stay home, with pay, if they are ill, and to care for a family member who may also be sick. Since workers are asked to stay at home if they are sick or caring for someone with COVID-19, this act takes the financial burden off of workers that force many to keep working despite ill health.

Paycheck Protection Program

The Paycheck Protection Program, managed by the Small Business Administration, provides small businesses with a loan to continue to fund their payroll. The program, part of the CARES Act, helps small businesses keep employees on their books to avoid increasing the number of people filing for unemployment benefits.

The SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the books for eight weeks, and the money is used solely for payroll, utilities, rent, and mortgage interest.

To apply for a loan, owners may go to any SBA 7 location, an approved federally insured depository institution or credit union, or a Farm Credit System institution participating in it.

The loan also applies to faith-based organizations and nonprofits. For more information related to applying for a loan as a faith-based organization, visit the SBA Q & A.

SOCER Tax Deferral

If your organization is having difficulty paying Social Security taxes, the CARES act allows for the SOCER Tax Deferral. Employers may defer payment of their portion of the Social Security Tax until 2021 and 2022. According to the IRS, 50% of the deferred amount is due by December 31, 2021, and the remaining deferred balance is due on December 31, 2022.

For complete details, please see the IRS information on the SOCER Tax Deferral.

Employee Retention Credit

Another part of the CARES Act is the Employee Retention Credit. It is a tax credit given to eligible employers. The refundable tax credit is equal to 50 percent of qualified wages. This program has precise rules about eligibility and qualified wages, so read the IRS documentation carefully to understand the full ramifications of the credit. When the employer’s credit exceeds the available tax liability, the IRS recommends that form 7200 be used to request the additional credit.

Will the CARES Act Continue?

The CARES Act will likely continue to be in place for most of 2020 as the government seeks relief for small and medium-sized businesses. The situation continues to evolve, so watch this blog as well as local business news for any possible changes.

Welter Consulting

If you’d like some help with nonprofit planning, contact 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.

Preparing to Reopen: What You Can Do Now to Re-Establish Your Nonprofit

By | COVID-19, Nonprofit | No Comments

Up until March of 2020, most nonprofits probably felt they had everything in control. Sure, some were struggling, which is natural in any field of endeavor. Most established nonprofits had their budgets in place, their marketing and fundraising campaigns thought out for the year and their grant application deadlines on the calendar. After a robust economic upsurge, donation projects seemed optimistic.

And then, the COVID-19 pandemic. Plans were scrapped. Calendars, revised. Staff learned how to telecommute, and nonprofits learned how to do more with even less than they had before. And somewhere in this mix is the lurking thought: can we survive this?

Organizations everywhere are discovering ways to weather the COVID-19 storm. As your organization continues to operate and looks forward to reopening, it’s time to focus on ways to re-establish your organization once the green light is given by the authorities to resume business as usual (albeit with a mask and plenty of hand sanitizer.)

3 Steps to Organize Your Nonprofit for Re-Opening

  1. Prepare your action plan: What steps will you need to take before, during, and after reopening? If you’ve been keeping in close contact with your leadership team during the pandemic, you’ll already have plenty of ideas for prioritizing the organization’s needs during the reopening. Consider convening a conference call or video call now with your organization’s leadership team to talk through a vision of what the organization will look like during and after reopening. Consider adding the following questions to the meeting agenda:
    • How will you prioritize programs and services?
    • When will you resume in-person events and activities?
    • Will specific precautions be needed if you resume in-person activities?
    • Do you need to review insurance plans to make sure they cover problems due to COVID-19?
    • Will you continue to allow telecommuting after the pandemic ends?
    • What is the organization’s current financial status?
    • Do you need to change fundraising activities, programs, or plans?
    • These are just a few questions to spark the discussion. Give thought to all areas of the organization, including programs and services, grants and fundraising, marketing, human resources, accounting, and finance. What will each need? What changes are necessary for a smooth reopening and the continuation of operations after opening day?
  2. Work with your grant professional: Grant professionals may need additional support right now as they scramble to address shifting deadlines and application processes. Ensure that they have the information they need to accurately and thoroughly complete grant applications. If you have cloud-based systems, you will find it easier to access materials remotely. They may also be the point person to access emergency federal, state, and foundation funds and should be given full support to do so if necessary, for your organization.
  3. Constituent outreach: Planning for reopening is not just about how your organization will handle its business matters. Staff should reach out to constituents and check in with them to assess what they need now and in the future. Their needs may have changed from the services you offered pre-pandemic. A phone call provides a more personal touch than an email or mass mailing. Invite constituents to ask questions and share concerns. Be sure to provide staff with a list of alternative service providers if your organization cannot serve everyone right now. A list of local resources, similar resources, or whatever you feel may be helpful to your constituents should be shared among the staff making outreach phone calls so that they have useful information on hand when they begin making calls.

Remain Responsive and Flexible

Everyone hopes for a swift reopening. The likelihood is that some areas of the country may face stops and starts as sections reopen, causing them to deal with a resurgence of the disease, and to issue new stay-at-home orders until the next wave of the pandemic passes.

Remain flexible and responsive to the changing conditions in your city and community. Keep your team’s focus on how they can achieve the organization’s mission, and you’ll find others respond creatively to any new challenges that arise.

Welter Consulting

If you’d like some help with nonprofit planning, contact 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.