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Technology

7 Tips to Become a Better Virtual Communicator

By | Corporate Culture, Nonprofit, Professional Development, Technology | No Comments

According to The Washington CPA, 70% of managers say they are more open to a flexible working model now than they were before the start of the pandemic. If any good came from the last two years of turmoil, it is that companies are now recognizing that employees can be as productive and responsive when working from home as they can when reporting to an office.

Given that the world isn’t likely to return to pre-pandemic work norms, it makes sense to focus on improving communication skills in a remote working environment.

Barriers to Effective Virtual Communication

There are several barriers that must be overcome when communicating virtually with team members. Virtual communications differ from in-person communication in several ways.

When people converse in person, they rely on body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice to convey deeper meaning than words alone can convey. Virtual communication removes these added layers of information-sharing and puts the emphasis on written words alone. Even with videoconferencing, some nuances are lost, and not all work can be shared effectively during video conferences.

Best Practices

The skills you’ve come to rely on for effective in-person communication differ from those needed for effective virtual communication. Here, we share several tips to help you become a better virtual communicator.

  1. Use technology to enhance communication: Most companies choose one project management system, one instant messenger system, and add email and videoconferencing to the mix. These four basic technologies cover most day-to-day needs. It doesn’t really matter which ones you choose, as long as you use them consistently.
  2. Set expectations and boundaries around technology use: Establish response timelines and share them via written documentation. For example, you may request that during the business week, all instant messenger communications and emails are answered within 24 hours or that the project management system is updated by a certain day of the week. Share these expectations and hold team members accountable for following through.
  3. Select specific channels for different types of communication: Instant messenger tools such as Slack and Skype are great for quick responses, but unsuitable for longer discussions. Learn when to use specific types of communications. Some good rules of thumb are:
    • Quick questions or updates: instant messenger channels
    • Project updates or information sharing: project management channels
    • Formal communication, reports, or updates: email
    • Brainstorming, team meetings, large briefings: video conferencing or conference calls
  4. Provide frequent feedback: Another important element to virtual communication is frequent, regular contact with team members. Providing regular feedback on project updates, messages, and initiatives is vital for effective virtual communication.
  5. Close communication loops: Don’t leave anyone wondering what’s going on. Along with frequent feedback, “close the loop” by ensuring you alert others when a task is complete, a project is finished, or a customer situation has been addressed.
  6. Write in a short, succinct, and direct manner: Since so much of virtual communication is conducted via typed or written words, it must be impactful. Avoid extraneous thoughts, off-topic asides, and trying to convey emotions via writing. Humor and sarcasm may be suitable for your personal communication but added to a business communication can seriously twist a message, often to the point where it can be misconstrued. Use shorter sentences, plenty of bullet points, and other written communication techniques to ensure shared understanding.
  7. Keep everyone informed: A good rule of thumb is to over-communicate rather than under-communicate. Include anyone who may need the information in an email as a Cc line, or forward information to team members who may need it.

As the world continues to embrace flexible work arrangements, more workers will demand the ability to work remotely. This is especially true as the so-called “great resignation” shows no sign of abatement. Offering virtual work options, flexible work arrangements, and telecommuting options allows you to hire outside of your immediate geography and find excellent candidates. But, in order to make it work, you and everyone else at your organization must improve your virtual communications. Become a whiz at that, and you’ll be set up for a strong future.

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.

Technology Time Saving Tips for Busy Nonprofits

By | Nonprofit, Technology | No Comments

With very new technology launched into the marketplace comes new challenges. Most promise us some type of benefit, usually the benefit of time—saving time in our busy days.

Yet, how many actually keep the promise of saving valuable time? Most new technologies can, in fact, save time if given half the chance and the right insight into their valuable features.

In this tech Q & A, we’ve put together some of our favorite time-saving features. From email to Excel, we’ve got it covered.

Save Time with Your Email

Is email ruling your life? Are you faced with a full inbox every morning? Getting spammed by the same companies over and over again despite frantically clicking “unsubscribe?”

You’re not alone. Adobe estimates the average worker spends a combination of 5 hours or more per day reading and responding to both personal and professional emails. And while that seems like a lot, the amount of time workers spend with their emails has actually decreased since the company began collecting data on email use in 2015.

So how can you spend less time on email and more time working on other tasks?

  • Set up rules in your email program to move specific types of emails into their own folder of workspace. Each email program varies, so the specific “how to” is something you may need to look up for your email program. Emails that do not require immediate action, such as meeting invitations, can be organized into their own separate folder and responded to later.
  • Establish a rule so that automated replies—out of office notifications, for example—are also sent to a separate task folder. This way, they won’t clutter up your inbox.
  • Is a company not adhering to your unsubscribe request? Send their messages into the “folder of doom” in your inbox, a folder where you can delete all messages once a week. Now that will give you a feeling of satisfaction!
  • Working a specific project that requires your full attention? Use those rules in your email program again to divert specific messages into a “priority” folder.

Outlook and Gmail both offer the ability to color-code message alerts, such as the “star” icon in Gmail. This feature lets you color-code the stars so all messages pertaining to one topic can be sorted quickly and easily.

Excel Tips and Time Savers

Many Excel users have certain preferences such as the format of numbers and dates or the width of specific columns. One time-saving tip that’s sure to please picky Excel users is to create Excel templates with your unique preferences in mind.

To create a personal template, open a fresh, new Excel file. Set the parameters for the entire file by clicking the box at the upper left corner and highlighting all cells in the open worksheet. Now, choose the format you prefer such as currency, accounting, data, etc. Save the file as a template by File>Options>Save. A line should appear called “Default personal template location.” Make sure this is chosen, and you’ve created a place to save your templates. Moving forward, new templates can be saved using the “Save As” command selected from the ribbon or dropdown menu and saved to the personal template location.

The Journal of Accountancy offers a step-by-step tutorial demonstrating this process.

Save More Time with the Right Software

You can save even more time by using the right software for your nonprofit. Not sure what to choose? Call 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.

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.

Technology Trends to Make Outcomes Measurement Easier

By | Technology | No Comments

“For-profit organizations report income; nonprofits report outcomes.”

This quote, attributed to Peter Fortenbaugh, ED Boys and Girls Club of Peninsula, sums up a perfect response to the claim that nonprofits should act more like for-profits. By their very nature, nonprofits cannot act the same way. They must report on the outcomes of their work. Reporting profits doesn’t matter as much as what they’ve achieved. To do so, nonprofits need to measure and track results.

But how do you go about measuring outcomes and tracking dollars to outcomes?

New technology trends in the world of nonprofits are shaping both how nonprofits track their work and how they measure outcomes. Grantors, funders, and donors demand greater transparency and accountability from the nonprofits with which they work. Tracking and sharing data is one step towards transparency; measuring outcomes is a step towards accountability.

What Is Outcome Measurement?

Outcome measurement in the nonprofit environment measures the effect a specific program has on the participants in that program. It is an approach that measures the social impact of a nonprofit’s work. Unlike for profits which judge progress by profits, nonprofits judge their progress by the impact of their work. Nonprofits may seek to have a positive margin at the end of their fiscal year but margin isn’t the goal of their work. Rather, doing good with the money they have, no matter how they define good, is the goal. Outcomes measurement takes into account this unique difference and focuses on the effect of the nonprofit’s work.

Technology Trends that Support Nonprofit Work and Outcomes Measurement

Several technology trends are likely to help nonprofits track dollars to outcomes. These include:

  1. Unified systems: When systems are unified or integrated, the data each contains may be shared among them. By having a unified system in place, nonprofits can more easily apportion funding towards specific programs and outcomes. They can ensure that budgets apportioned for special projects are spent on that project. More importantly, unified systems make it easy to run reports for donors, grant organizations, and other stakeholders. It takes just seconds to click on a report in a unified system and requires no manual data entry to run the appropriate reports to showcase program outcomes.
  2. Measuring infrastructure costs: By measuring the true cost of infrastructure, the costs can be deducted from program costs, thus aligning the true program costs with outcome measurement. Systems and programs to manage infrastructure costs, tied to accounting and finance programs, help nonprofits measure costs and outcomes accurately.
  3. Donating technology: Technology companies, seeking to make a difference, are donating to nonprofits at unprecedented rates. Pro bono services and equipment donated to nonprofits, but especially to traditionally under-served communities, is a growing trend.

Building a Smart System to Measure Outcomes

As you consider outcome measurement, review your current technology uses and needs. Consider working with a nonprofit consultant to evaluate what your nonprofit might need to better measure outcomes.

There’s a noticeable link between transparency within nonprofits and their ability to generation donations and secure grants. A nonprofit that is able to provide clear, consistent data demonstrating success in achieving most or all of their goals and delineating how their funding was used, is much more likely to get grant funding renewed. Reports to the public that showcase results and money spent to achieve such results also encourage donation. By integrating and aligning software and systems, you’ll be able to gather a complete picture of your organization’s finances, achievements, and outcomes more easily, and provide them to a public hungry for honesty and transparency.

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.