Monthly Archives

June 2019

The Changing Role of Finance Professionals in a Digital World: Part I

By | Technology | No Comments

In this Part I of a two-part series, we examine the changing role of nonprofit finance professionals in the digital world.

Financial professionals worldwide are witnessing one of the most significant changes to their profession since the introduction of the automatic calculator. Technology, and especially automation, is tackling more important tasks than ever before.

But just because many of the tasks that used to be performed in the finance and accounting departments are being automated, doesn’t mean the role of financial director, auditor, or CPA will be obsolete. The opposite is true! The roles are evolving and growing, not dissolving, and with them comes a new challenge for today’s nonprofit financial managers.

What’s Driving the Change?

Change doesn’t occur in isolation. It’s driven by a variety of factors, including individual choices, business decisions, marketplace factors, and the pace of innovation.

Technology follows these changes and adapts, evolves, and incorporates new factors based on what people demand and need. For example, nonprofit accounting and finance software automates many of the processes that once dominated the accounting department. With such software, you can reconcile monthly bills, set reminders for invoices, and update accounts quickly and easily.

It hasn’t replaced accountants. Instead, it’s made the accountant’s job easier. Accounts can now spend time reviewing figures and interpreting them, consulting with staff to make important decisions about budgets and how funds are spent, and weigh in on decisions that impact the overall organization.

Time that was once spent keying numbers into spreadsheets can now be devoted to understanding and interpreting the numbers for other people in the organization. With a better understanding of the numbers, new action plans can be formed that benefit the organization and its constituents.

Customer Empowerment

Who are your customers? They are the people you serve (constituents) as well as donors, members, and the public. Anyone who interacts with the services or goods you provide is the customer.

Technology is transforming interactions with customers into what’s been dubbed “customer empowerment.” Customers demand faster, personalized service. Other industries provide them with unique experiences and special services. They’re starting to expect that from nonprofit organizations, too.

Although as a financial director you may interact directly with customers, your work indirectly affects how they experience the organization. Donors, for example, may expect personal thank you letters.Tracking their donations using accounting and finance software, then acknowledging their impact on the organization and sending receipts for tax purposes customized to their needs may be something you and your department can do.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Nonprofits

Although AI sounds like it’s a bunch of robots running the show, it’s a term for computers that learn, build, and grow. AI can be used to set reminders for bill payments, analyze research to develop new and better products, and much more.

The Brookings Institute states that nonprofits are showing a greater interest in machine learning, AI and data, and analytics. And why not? With this level of data and analysis, nonprofits can provide better services and do more to fulfill their mission. Peter Drucker once said, “What gets measured gets managed,” and the same holds for nonprofits.

Nonprofit financial professionals may find themselves part of teams analyzing new software or technology that incorporates AI, data and analytics, or creating parameters for data-led programs and projects. They may become part of the selection team for new software to run the marketing lists or power donation campaigns. No longer are they relegated to spreadsheets and ‘bean counting.’ Instead, they’re counting pixels and probabilities and helping to solve complex problems for their organizations.

The role of the nonprofit financial professional has evolved considerably over the years. Technology continues to drive much of the changes that we see and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. In next month’s installment, we’ll take a look at how technology drives the hiring process in the nonprofit environment. Check back our next article.

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.

Using eBay for Fundraising Auctions

By | Fundraising, Uncategorized | No Comments

eBay, the ubiquitous auction website, offers more than a platform to sell off old clothes or knickknacks you no longer want. It has become a powerful forum for nonprofits to raise funds.

The Nonprofit Times reports that eBay for Charity helped nonprofits generate a record $102 million in 2018. Many charities use eBay as a fundraising auction platform. Warren Buffet, the famous financial expert, helped raise $3.3 million for a human services charity auction via eBay. The charity auctioned the opportunity to enjoy a meal with the financial whiz (and the chance to ask him for tips!). Other charities have raised more modest funds, but many are using eBay as a reliable fundraising outlet.

eBay for Charity:  Four Opportunities

eBay for Charity offers nonprofits four ways to raise funds via the site:

  1. List your nonprofit on the website: Individuals can find and ‘favorite’ the nonprofit of their choice. When they shop on eBay, a portion of the proceeds is sent to their selected nonprofit.
  2. Donate directly: eBay sellers can check a box off during the listing setup process to indicate that a portion of their fees and/or sale goes towards a charity.
  3. Charity auctions: Nonprofits can set up a charity auction on their own, or a series of charity auctions, using the platform.
  4. Direct sales: You can also set up shops and stores on the popular site to sell goods with the proceeds going to the organization.

Does It Work?

Many people express skepticism about the site’s ability to help charities fundraise. After all, isn’t eBay a place for good bargains, discounts, and used goods?

Yes, and no. Over the past several years, the site has evolved as a viable shopping platform, a place where entrepreneurs can set up their online stores at a fraction of the cost of self-hosted sites and stores. Many run their entire businesses via eBay, either selling new goods, reselling goods, or using a combination of sales and auctions.

Warren Buffet’s charity raised over $3.3 million, as we mentioned above. Are other nonprofits raising money using the site’s features for charities? A press release issued by the company makes it clear that yes, they are:

  • The Prince’s Trust, a U.K.-based nonprofit headed by Prince Charles, raised about $138,000 in just 24-hours. The campaign promises to help budding entrepreneurs ages 18-24.
  • Homes for Our Troops, a USA-based nonprofit that helps veterans, raised $160,000 to build specially designed handicapped accessible homes for severely injured veterans. The nonprofit used a 10-day auction format to raise funds.
  • Seattle Goodwill: Goodwill stores offer clothing, furniture, and other items at retail shops around the nation. However, the Seattle store recognized the power of reaching a wider audience and listed their items in an online store powered by eBay. The store quickly realized that they were making much more money online than in their stores, with goods selling far above the asking price.

These are just a handful of stories shared by the company to demonstrate how different nonprofits use the site to raise funds. But doesn’t it give you some great ideas? For example, you can:

  • Run a celebrity auction: Like Warren Buffet’s donated dinner date, how about seeking a local celebrity for a charity meal auction?
  • List donated items: List donated items in an online store or auction site and promote the event to your email list. Make sure you have a suitable donor contact list and donor management software to run your campaign.
  • Ask your followers and fans to select your charity as their desired nonprofit on the site. This way, whenever they purchase on eBay, a portion goes automatically to your nonprofit.
  • Encourage people to list items for charitable sale and donate the profits to your organization. It’s fast, easy, and straightforward.

Are you ready to try eBay for Charities? Sign up on the site, and let the fundraising begin!

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.

Write Better Grant Applications with This Tip

By | Grant Management | No Comments

How’s your ratio of grants submitted to grants awarded? Are you tracking it using grant software?

If you are tracking your “grant batting average,” so to speak, you know how you stand. If you’re not achieving the success ratio you desire, and your grant applications seem to be sinking into the black hole of the “denied” bin, it’s time to take a different approach. After all, doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results never works!

Let’s take a look at one of the big mistakes that new grant writers often make: failing to identify the actual problem the promised grant will solve.

The Problem Statement: Are You Stating a Problem or a Need?

Review several of your grant applications from the past six months. Look at the ‘problem statement.’ Did you list a problem you intend to solve or what your organization needs?

A problem statement identifies the audience served and the problem they encounter. The solution, which your organization creates with the grant money, tells the granting organization how you intend to spend their money to fix the problem.

A few examples may help clarify this explanation.

Example 1 – Homeless Shelter

The Homeless Shelter on Tulip Street often faces shortages of beds on cold nights. There are more people lined up for room to sleep safely than they have beds. Their grant application asks for funds to expand the shelter.

The problem they seek to alleviate with the grant money is the effects of poverty and homelessness, and the actual application is to add X number of beds to the shelter to accommodate peak needs.

However, a new grant writer may write the grant application to request money for “program expansion” or “adding two rooms to the existing building.” Both may describe what the nonprofit plans to do, but they do not address the problem. The problem is that people need a warm, safe shelter to sleep in and that the local economy has been depressed for a while, making more people homeless. That is the actual problem that should be written up in the grant request.

Example 2 – Farmer’s Market for Food Deserts

So-called “food deserts” are urban areas which lack access to fresh produce. Studies have shown that the less access people have to fresh produce, the higher their risk of diseases related to diet and nutrition. To combat this, a local town council plans to open a farmer’s market in an empty lot in an urban area. They need permits, fencing, signs, tables, advertising for vendors, and a few other things to make the idea work.

Their new grant writer applies for an agriculture grant for the funds to open the market but lists the problem statement incorrectly as “We request money to open a farmer’s market.” This is not the problem statement. The people in the town do not face the problem of a lack of a farmer’s market; instead, their problem is lack of easy access to fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables in the community. Aligning the problems of poor health, poverty, and lack of access with the requested grant funds gives the farmer’s market committee a better chance at obtaining the grant money. The grant alleviates the problem of food deserts and may boost the health and wellness of local people by making fresh food accessible.

These are just two examples of how a problem statement, tweaked to align more with the outcomes and the audience served, gives a grant application a better chance for approval.

Of course, to see how you’re doing when it comes to grant applications, using grant tracking and management software is essential. A grant management system can help you monitor the grant application process and make it easier to find, use, and share the resources needed to apply for grants.

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.