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Multifactor Authentication in the Modern Digital Landscape

By | Nonprofit, Technology | No Comments
person at laptop

Everyone who is a cybersecurity professional agrees that multifactor authentication (MFA) is better than single-factor authentication when it comes to protecting systems from phishing. MFA depends on varieties of methods to verify a user’s identity such as emails and text messages, however, experts are finding that cyber predators are finding workarounds to MFA. So, what can your organization do to best protect itself from phishing and/or cyber-attacks?

Identify Your Vulnerabilities

What makes system access security most vulnerable is human involvement, which is unavoidable in most cases. For example, if a text-based MFA is sent to a phone without MFA, then it becomes pointless to use it. It’s important, then, to ensure that when it comes to your company’s systems, there’s a clear and concise guide for employees to follow to help prevent breaches. If your organization doesn’t have a guide for best MFA practices, we’ve got you. Below are some things to consider:

  1. Trust Your Vendor

Like any software, look for red flags beforehand. For example, is the vendor claiming to be “unhackable” in the same way the Titanic was deemed “unsinkable?” There’s no 100% guarantee that hackers won’t figure something out with time, so make sure that your vendor is being honest. Also, make sure that their encryption and products are described and presented clearly, and that the product can grow and change as the landscape around it does.

  1. Improve the Human Involvement

As we mentioned, human involvement is the biggest vulnerability when it comes to MFA, so make sure that you’ve taken the time to educate your staff and ensure they have the support and tools they need to comply with security guidelines. Hold training sessions, bring in experts, and be sure to show your employees what using MFA properly looks like.

Also, be sure to roll out your MFA to the entire organization and not in disparate silos. This is especially important if your workforce is partially or fully remote.

  1. Ease of Use, But Not at the Expense of Security

Along with proper training, ensure that you have an expert or security leader rolling out your MFA so that it’s configured properly from the get-go. If it’s challenging for your team(s) to use, your MFA might start causing more problems than solutions. If it’s possible, let your employees choose their MFA solutions—i.e., text messaging or fingerprint scanning. When they can choose what they’re most comfortable with, they’ll likely feel more in control and comply with the MFA.

Ensure, however, that if your employees are choosing their MFA, they understand the risks associated with each choice. Listen to the concerns of your employees and get a sense for who might need extra guidance or help in this process.

Implementing MFA in your organization can be easier than it sounds. Speak with a software consultant well-versed in nonprofits and your organization’s unique accounting needs before choosing an MFA provider to ensure the transition goes smoothly.

Cybercrime may be a constant threat, but there’s much you can do to prevent it. These tips, along with the right technology, can go a long way to protecting your organization.

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.

Closing the Books

By | Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments
person with calculator and ledger at desk

Month-end close for everyone in accounting can be a stressful time. From the people involved, documents needed, processes to follow, and books to reconcile, closing the books is a task that you might not be looking forward to. The good news is, there are some best practices that we can offer to help streamline your end-of-the-month routine, making it more efficient and less stressful.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Start by taking a look at your team. Every person in your accounting department plays a crucial role in the success of your end-of-month closing. Ask yourself, is everyone on the team properly trained? Do they understand their tasks and goals? Most importantly, do they feel motivated and empowered?

You can help motivate your team in many ways. Setting daily deadlines to keep everyone on track is a good place to start because it removes any ambiguity when it comes to employees understanding their roles. But more importantly, find time to celebrate and acknowledge when employees hit milestones, conquer large projects, or just for sticking with the team during the good times and the bad. Days off and bonuses certainly help, too. But also, you can offer opportunities to cross train when it’s not so busy, so that as a group, you’ll gain different perspectives and understanding on the overall closing process.

Go with the [Right] Flow

What does your close process look like? First and foremost, you should absolutely have a structured procedure, preferably with a checklist document available to everyone on the team. This keeps things clear and organized not only for month’s end, but quarterly and year’s end, too. If your team doesn’t have a checklist, now would be a good time to come together and create one. Find out where the gaps are, if there’s any overlap, and then assign accordingly.

Be willing to adjust the checklist as needed, too. Times change. Departments change. Technology changes. Being willing and able to adapt as a team will help prevent your close from becoming inefficient and cumbersome.

Finally, might we suggest giving your team a “rest day” after that whole checklist is complete? Coming back to the idea of the team feeling motivated and empowered—knowing there is a light at the end of the close-out tunnel and something nice is waiting for them is sure to boost some spirits when stress is running high.

Document Management

For the most part, gone are the days of file boxes and manila folders as companies embrace digital folders instead. The problem is, if there’s no organization to this electronic filing system, your team can very quickly have a spaghetti bowl of information needing to be meticulously sorted through every month.

Creating an organized document hierarchy can provide your team with an easy to navigate, top-down approach to digital filing. For example, a structure may look like this:

“Entity > Year > Month > Process > Policies/Procedures/Supporting Docs/Reconciliations”

Having a periodic folder structure allows the team to easily view the monthly close, make the review process faster, and provide a central location for all related documents. Plus, it allows for repeat usage year after year.

Reconciliation: Excel and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning)

Excel is widely known and widely used in the accounting industry. It’s safe to say that almost every accountant knows their way around Excel. But when it comes to the end of the month’s reconciliation, does Excel provide the most efficient options? Whereas it’s a familiar program that most accountants are comfortable with, it lacks the ability to automatically integrate input from disparate data silos, typically leaving one person in charge of manually managing it. ERP is an integrated suite of software applications that businesses can use to run almost every aspect of their organizations. Disparate systems often hinder data sharing, too. It’s hard to get what you need when you have to ask colleagues to run reports or wait for someone to come back from vacation to access a system. With a good ERP, access can be shared among all employees. Levels of data visibility can be controlled; of course—the CFO needs different data than the receptionist. But all employees have the opportunity to view many aspects of organization wide data. This enables shared, improved decision making and collaboration, reduces data silos, and makes it much easier for all to work towards finishing that close-out with ease and while reducing risk of errors.

Challenges and Opportunities

There are many challenges and opportunities available in the Closing of the Books process. Being aware of various challenges in each step of the analysis process can help you avoid or overcome them.

Data has always provided accountants with powerful information. Now, more than ever, with access to so many software tools to gather and utilize data, accountants can provide useful and valuable insights to benefit others. And with the right combination of employee satisfaction, clear and concise processes, document management, and reconciliation tools, your close outs can become a little less daunting and a little more efficient.

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.

Overcoming and Managing Challenges Faced by Nonprofit Organizations

By | Nonprofit | No Comments
people at table with puzzle pieces

Nonprofit Organizations face many unique challenges which are constantly changing with the shifting economic and working landscape. In addition to common challenges most businesses face such as keeping up with new technology, remaining compliant with regulatory requirements, and cyber security, nonprofits are faced with additional issues that may not be so obvious.

So, what are some of these challenges that might be flying under the radar and what can you do to overcome, prepare for, and/or manage them? Let’s take a deep dive.

Challenges Nonprofits are Facing Today

  1. Limited Government Funding

In times of economic uncertainty, unfortunately, nonprofits can take hard hits. If your nonprofit depends on government assistance (which many do) in the form of grants, matching programs, or safety nets, a shrinking government budget means that your organization might come up short on funding. One tool that can help solve this challenge is grant management software. Software such as AmpliFund, available through Welter Consulting, manages many aspects of the grant process including recording, management, and reporting, and having a clear picture of what funding is currently available to you as well as understanding what’s down the pipeline will help your organization navigate uncertainty.

  1. Income Stability and Accurate Budgeting

Sometimes, nonprofits may feel like they’re already running on a shoestring budget, but when that’s paired with the anxiety over an impending financial crisis, nonprofit organizations might feel that shoestring pulling a little thin. By practicing financial discipline and establishing a robust financial framework, your chances of understanding the real state of your budget are going to be much higher. Your organization must be willing to have difficult conversations about funding and long-term viability which are not only necessary but will also help you navigate income instability in the long run.

  1. Pressure to Perform

Hopefully your nonprofit organization already has a strong mission statement and depending on the longevity of your organization’s founding, you’ve enacted programs that reflect and carry out that mission. However, when funds are running tight not only governmentally but in the general public, your organization’s ability to perform and carry out your mission may very well be what determines your funding. Donors and contributors are much more likely to continue to support your organization if the results of your mission are clear and consistent.

  1. Ignoring the Bottom Line

As your organization considers software, social impacts, and funding, the “bottom line” may fall off to the back burner and it’s crucial that as a nonprofit, you don’t let this happen. Sometimes, nonprofit workers wear many hats and so there might not be one dedicated employee keeping an eye on this bottom line. As your organization focuses on the mission and what needs to be done to carry that out, make sure you’re still using the right tools and/or software to recognize and understand where your bottom line lies and then, continue to track it as you move forward. Task someone specific or engage the whole staff to have a clear picture and way to track your organization’s bottom line.

  1. Scouting and Retaining the Right Talent

Competing with the for-profit sector when it comes to recruiting can be a daunting task. Those companies often have more lucrative assets which can make it difficult to compete for potential new hires, but it’s important to focus on the positive here. Jobseekers who are attracted to nonprofit work are often passionate about whatever cause and/or mission that your organization supports. So, when you’re seeking talent, look for individuals who share the same passion as your organization. Your company may not be able to compete with the salaries offered in the for-profit world, but nonprofits can offer jobseekers the opportunity to participate in real change.

Also, it’s important to consider the retention of your dedicated staff. If your organization is not in a place to take on new employees, study who you do have and be sure that you’re investing in them. Ensure that your team remembers why they came to your organization in the first place—keep up the passion for your mission and make sure they have what they need to do that, too.

  1. The Need for Nonprofits …

As our country sees a rise in homelessness, poverty, and other social hardships, the need for nonprofit services is rising too. Because of this, as the demand for resources rises, so does the demand for funding, staffing, and availability. As a nonprofit organization, it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of whatever it is your organization is supporting. For example, if your nonprofit’s mission is to help people experiencing homelessness, you’ll want to keep your eye on those statistics in the area(s) you serve so that you can plan as best you can.

  1. … But also, the Decrease in Need for Nonprofits

Hopefully, as a nonprofit organization, you find yourself engaging in programs that help you continue to achieve your mission. But if you find yourself too successful, it’s possible you might run out of work to do and end up having to scale back. If you find that your organization is having a huge impact in the area in which it’s focused (which we hope that it is!) but to the point that you might run out of work, it’s a good idea to plan on diversified versions of your mission statement; or ways in which you can branch out so that you can continue to make an impact even when parts or all of your original mission are complete.

Navigating These Challenges: You’re Not Alone

There’s no one answer that’s right for all nonprofits, but now is the time to recognize and face these challenges head on. Working together with your teams, colleagues, and community can help your nonprofit organization adapt and adjust to obstacles you may be facing. Also, we’re here to help.

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 MD&A Preparation Tips for Nonprofits

By | Nonprofit | No Comments
tips and tricks on notebook on desk

Management’s discussion and analysis (MD&A) explains how an organization performed financially as well as how it has furthered its mission from a management perspective. In addition to providing a strategic context for the financial statements, it promotes transparency and enhances readers’ understanding of the organization’s finances, stewardship, and prospects. Although MD&As are not required of not-for-profit entities (NFPs), they can provide valuable information about their financial and non-financial performance. 

MD&As do not have a specific format, so you don’t have to write a long, detailed essay. Ideally, an MD&A should be written clearly and concisely, focusing on the most critical aspects of the NFP’s mission and purpose. Consider these three preparation tips before you begin, particularly if this is your first time assembling an MD&A.

#1 Development Planning

The first step to successful MD&A preparation is planning how it will be developed. Planning ensures efficiency in the process and allows for more effective delivery. To begin planning, you should first decide who will be part of the core group putting this analysis together. Your team should include people from all important areas of the organization, such as HR, legal, and program services.

Once you have your team, decide together on the project’s purpose and goals. Finally, part of your planning should be deciding if this project will be part of your annual report or if it will be a stand-alone report.

#2 Structure Your Content

Once you have a game plan in place, it’s time to structure your content to showcase your vision and strategic focus in an engaging manner. To do this, you must consider the perspective of your readers. Consider who your readers will be, what they need to understand, and which questions they may have after they review your report.

Your introduction should cover the organization’s mission, structure, and strategic objectives. You might also want to include Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and how they reflect progress toward the organization’s goals. Then delve into qualitative insights that explain the results of your NFP’s operations and financial position, and any additional details and analysis for selected areas.

Your overall structure should focus on three things: 

  • Results that are relevant to the NFP’s ability to fulfill its goals.
  • Qualitative discussions that may add to what is found in the financial statement.
  • Strategic insight into why the organization did or did not achieve its goals and how those factors may affect the NFP’s ability to achieve its objectives. 

Other items to include are charts and graphs, excerpts from the financial statement, historical trends, benchmark data, and other helpful data. Follow this by highlighting key risks and opportunities that your NFP may encounter, and then wrap up with a concluding statement summarizing the overall outlook of the organization.

#3 Review the MD&A

To ensure that all your bases are covered, reviewing the MD&A once it’s finished is critical. Enlist the help of your external auditor, board and audit committee, senior leadership representative, legal counsel, and chief communication officer. These key people can assess the clarity of your MD&A from the perspective of people who are not financial professionals and can advise you on areas that need improvement.

A well-written and informative MD&A provides clarity and insight into the organization’s financial performance and mission-related impacts. Ensure that your MD&A has a strategic purpose, is easy to understand, and is practical and relevant for your organization’s audience.

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 us for more information.