41 posts categorized "Not for Profit" Feed

Financial Statement Changes: 5 Steps for Nonprofit Boards

NFP boardAs accounting and finance professionals, we’ve been talking about the coming changes to not-for-profit financial statements for some time now. But many others haven’t heard about the changes, including some not-for-profit board members. Board members are responsible for oversight of the financial reporting process, and as such, they’ll want to take an active role during implementation of the new guidance.

The Financial Accounting Standards Board's (FASB) Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2016-14, Not-for-Profit Entities: Presentation of Financial Statements of Not-for-Profit Entities, was issued in August 2016. The standard applies to all not-for-profits and is effective for years beginning after December 15, 2017. Early adoption is permitted.

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Rethink Your Nonprofit’s Chart of Accounts, Part II

NFP Chart of accountsLast month we published the first installment of a two-part series discussing implementation of the new not-for-profit financial reporting model, as viewed through the lens of the entity’s chart of accounts. 

By now, you likely have taken some steps to prepare for implementation of the new not-for-profit financial statement presentation standard:

  • Read through the standard. 
  • Attended training to understand the forthcoming changes. 
  • Had auditor/client discussions regarding the impact on audit timing and planning. 
  • Selected team members to lead implementation of the new standard. 
  • Decided whether to early-adopt. 

When you’re ready to dig in further, the chart of accounts is a smart place to go. The standard will affect several financial statement line items, so it’s important for not-for-profits to create a plan to adjust their chart of accounts during 2017 or 2018.

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FASB Addresses Accounting for Grants and Contracts

ContractsThe Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) recently issued an exposure draft, Clarifying the Scope and the Accounting Guidance for Contributions Received and Contributions Made, which is intended to address questions stemming from their revenue recognition standard (ASU No. 2014-09) regarding its implications on the grants and contracts of not-for-profit organizations. Specifically, do not-for-profit grants and contracts fit the definition of a contract with a customer, such that the new revenue standard would apply? Or are they more appropriately classified as contributions, which would exclude them from the scope of ASU 2014-09 and instead require the application of contribution guidance? More on that below.

The FASB exposure draft clarifies that the first decision to consider is whether the transaction is reciprocal (an exchange) or non-reciprocal (a contribution). That is, does the donor or grantor “receive commensurate value in return for the resources provided?” If so, then the asset transfer is an exchange transaction. It is important to note that societal benefit—even if it furthers the resource provider’s charitable mission—is not commensurate reciprocal value.

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Nonprofit Challenges: Accounting for Gifts-in-Kind

VolunteersMany not-for-profits receive gifts-in-kind—noncash donations—to supplement their programming needs. When used properly, gifts-in-kind can greatly extend the cash resources of not-for-profits, as they often consist of goods and services the organization would otherwise have to purchase.

Not-for-profits that receive contributions of in-kind goods and services should report them in compliance with the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s (FASB) fair value measurement standard (ASC Topic 820).

Easy enough, right?

Not necessarily.

This blog post covers significant challenges that not-for-profits face when applying the accounting standards and related guidance for gifts-in-kind.

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Rethink Your Not-for-Profit’s Chart of Accounts

Client meetingPart I

By now, most professionals who serve not-for-profit organizations in governance or financial accounting roles have gained a basic understanding of the impending changes to the not-for-profit financial reporting model. This two-part series focuses on implementation and offers actionable recommendations to help not-for-profits prepare for the impacts of the new guidance. 

Look at the New Standard through the Lens of Your Chart of Accounts

The Financial Accounting Standards Board's (FASB) Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2016-14, Not-for-Profit Entities (Topic 958): Presentation of Financial Statements of Not-for-Profit Entities, will impact several line items in the financial statements of not-for-profit organizations. To accurately and efficiently reflect those changes, it’s important that not-for-profits create a plan to adjust their chart of accounts during 2017 or 2018.

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Not-for-Profit Gifts: Thanks or No Thanks?

Shutterstock_304427672Not-for-profit organizations are always thankful for the generosity of their donors. Sometimes, however, they must consider whether a proposed gift should be accepted. A gift of $100,000 in cash is easy to immediately direct toward the not-for-profit’s mission. On the other hand, a donation of real estate worth $100,000 may come with additional expenses and effort to sell the property before the proceeds are available to support the organization’s mission. Having a formal gift acceptance policy can help define when an organization should, or should not, accept a proposed gift.

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8 Tips to Determine Your Not-for-Profit’s Year-End

Year-end planningNot-for-profits have a luxury that most other individuals and businesses do not. They’re allowed to select their fiscal year-ends for IRS purposes. Partnerships, sole proprietorships, S corporations and other legal structures, with limited exceptions, may not. These groups generally are required to use calendar year-ends for tax filings. Read on to find out what a not-for-profit should consider when choosing a year-end date.

How does a not-for-profit choose its year-end?

By default, many not-for-profits are organized with a calendar year-end, but not-for-profits should assess if this is the best choice. A thoughtfully chosen year-end may produce more meaningful financial statements, ease reporting requirements and even save the organization money. Before deciding on a year-end, organizations should consider the following factors:

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New Liquidity Disclosures for Not-for Profits: Are You Ready?

NFP Liquidity DisclosuresUnder current financial reporting standards, not-for-profits are not required to illuminate clearly restrictions that affect the availability of liquid resources in their financial statements. But this is all about to change with the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s (FASB) new financial reporting standard (Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2016-14), effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2017.

In this update, FASB clarifies that the nature of an asset isn’t the only quality that affects its availability. Specifically, liquid resources are quickly converted to cash and available to fund general expenditures within one year following the balance sheet date. Internal (board-designated) and external (donor-imposed) restrictions could mean certain sums of cash and cash equivalents may not be used for general expenditures. If a board designates an amount of cash to be set aside for a building renovation, for example, it cannot be used to buy office supplies.

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Not-for-Profit Contributions: Counting v. Accounting

Counting moneyWhen is a contribution to a not-for-profit really a contribution? Many would say it depends on whether you ask someone in the accounting or development department. While the accounting office recognizes contributions in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), there are no required standards for counting and reporting fundraising receipts by the development office. The resulting differences create perhaps the greatest source of tension between the two teams. So what can be done to bridge the gap and foster a cooperative relationship that will best benefit the not-for-profit?

First, accept that what gets reported by each group will be different. And that’s okay, as long as the differences can be explained. There’s no need to hash out who’s right or wrong; just take time to understand each other’s math. What gets included, by whom, and when? Accountants need to explain GAAP in “non-accountant” language. Similarly, the development team needs to establish and share its consistent guidelines for reporting fundraising activity. Developing this understanding will take time and patience on both sides but is essential to forming a good working relationship.

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What Motivates Donors to Give?

Shutterstock_583541458In the summer of 2014, dumping a bucket of ice water on your head while being filmed was all the rage. My Facebook newsfeed was filled with videos of friends voluntarily drenching themselves for all to see. This activity was sparked by the ALS Association’s Ice Bucket Challenge, a brilliant fundraising effort designed to increase awareness and support research on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). In one month, the ALS Association raised more than $100 million. How could other not-for-profits recreate this success to benefit their organizations? While I don’t have the answers, I would recommend that you consider why donors give as a starting point.

Donor motivations have been researched, but results are not as straightforward as they may sound. What donors say is not always consistent with what donors do. So, what looks good on paper, is not always going to translate into success.

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Top Issues for Not-for-Profits This Year

Shutterstock_81589264As auditors and management begin to prepare for June 30 year-end audits, it’s a good time to share some of the top concerns for not-for-profits this year. How can not-for-profits reassure donors that their contributions are in safe hands? What key implementation issues on new accounting standards updates are not-for-profits grappling with? Outlined below are four topics that should not be overlooked.

  1. Cybersecurity

In addition to common hacking risks, not-for-profits that accept electronic contributions are targets for credit card fraud. While retailers collect certain personal information to set up customer accounts and ship goods, not-for-profits often forgo requiring that level of detail to make donating simple. Unfortunately, this makes not-for-profits an easier testing ground for stolen credit card data. Not-for-profit entities with real-time credit card authorization and settlement are even more likely to fall victim because real-time verification makes the stolen data more valuable. These organizations then bear the burden of repaying fraudulent donations in addition to paying fees related to the refunds. Organizations that use electronic methods to accept contributions should consider adopting appropriate controls to ensure revenues are properly recognized and that cash receipts are safeguarded.

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5 Upcoming GAAP Changes Not-for-Profits Should Know

Shutterstock_574620880Wrapping your head around the accounting standards changes on the horizon is no easy task—let alone figuring out which ones deserve the most attention. To help with this, I have highlighted five Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) Accounting Standards Updates (ASUs) that not-for-profit accounting professionals should consider prioritizing this year. The following updates have fast-approaching effective dates, so it is important to familiarize yourself with these standards now.

Going Concern Requirements

For the first time in history, U.S. GAAP addresses management's responsibility to evaluate and disclose whether there is substantial doubt about an entity's ability to continue as a going concern. This change is significant because it shifts primary responsibility for the entity’s going concern assessments from auditor to management. Auditors should also be aware that FASB’s issuance of ASU No. 2014-15 prompted a change in the related auditing standards. The AICPA Auditing Standards Board (ASB) issued its going concern standard (SAS No. 132) in February 2017. SAS No. 132 has key changes that auditors will want to pay close attention to, including the required timeframe for considering going concern issues.

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FASB New Not-for-Profit Standard: Maintaining Auditor Independence

Shutterstock_314848547 (1)Although the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s new not-for-profit financial reporting standard (ASU 2016-14) does not go into effect until 2018, it includes significant changes that both not-for-profits and auditors should begin preparing for now.  

ASU 2016-14 will require several modifications to the existing framework of the financial statements as well as new required disclosures related to liquidity, availability of assets and board-designated net assets. Further, it may require organizations to revise certain policies and procedures, update financial reporting practices and make net asset accounting adjustments. All of this could seem overwhelming. 

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7 Benefits of Cybersecurity Penetration Testing

Shutterstock_388491619Security breaches are prevalent in today’s business environment and reports indicate that these threats are not going away any time soon. As a result, organizations need to take steps to safeguard their confidential data and other sensitive information. Smaller-sized organizations like small businesses and not-for-profit entities are particularly vulnerable. A recent study by Symantec found that 43 percent of phishing campaigns affected small businesses in 2016, a significant uptick compared to 2011 when just 18 percent of attacks targeted small businesses.

Even organizations with limited resources have affordable and effective options for protecting valuable data. I recommend penetration testing, a type of cybersecurity vulnerability assessment, to my clients working in the not-for-profit sector. Many of my not-for-profit clients feel compelled to conduct cybersecurity penetration testing when they consider how accepting online donations may create vulnerabilities for not only for themselves but also for their donors. Potential donors may feel more comfortable donating online once they hear that the organization has safeguards in place to protect their information. Penetration testing is performed by an outside, third party and can be tailored to the needs, or concerns of the organizations.

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7 Book Recommendations for Not-for-Profit Leaders

Shutterstock_525675187Curling up in a blanket by the fireplace with some hot cocoa and a great book is one of the most relaxing ways to spend a winter afternoon. To help prepare for potential downtime over the holidays, the AICPA Not-for-Profit Section polled staff and volunteers to pull together a list of recommended page turners that will help invigorate you for the year ahead. Here are our top picks: 

Jennifer Brenner, Controller, World Vision recommends

This is a must-read for financial professionals to better understand different leadership styles and become an effective leader. The leadership teams at most not-for-profits are comprised of individuals from diverse backgrounds. For example, board chairs and executive teams may come from academia, scientific research, public policy or the medical field, and may not necessarily have a corporate or business background. This book affirms the importance of emotionally intelligent leadership and illustrates leadership that is self-aware, motivating and collaborative. 

 

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5 Things You May Not Know About IRS Form 990

Shutterstock_522894184

With over 300 pages of instructions and 300 possible questions to answer, the IRS Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax is a complex and extensive form. It is filed annually by most exempt organizations, including charities. Here are five things you may not know or may have forgotten about Form 990:   

  1. It is a misnomer to call Form 990 an “income tax return.” There is no income tax calculation in the core Form 990 or within any of the accompanying schedules. The fact that it is not an income tax return becomes very important when attempting to apply the Internal Revenue Code to the filing of Form 990. Generally, where the Internal Revenue Code and the related regulations only reference an “income tax return,” the code or regulation in question will not normally apply to Form 990. It is very important, however, to remember that organizations subject to unrelated business income taxes (UBIT) file a separate Form 990-T, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return, which can be subject to the Internal Revenue Code and the regulations related to the filing of an income tax return.

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Top 3 Takeaways on FASB’s New Not-for-Profit Standard


Shutterstock_276224309Are you nervous about implementing the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s new not-for-profit standard? At 270 pages in length, it is understandable that one would find it daunting and would be unsure of where to begin. Even though the standard does not go into effect until 2018 for most not-for-profits, you and your clients need to be thinking about the standard and your implementation plan now.

To start my education, I reviewed this AICPA Insights blog post from FASB member Larry Smith that provides an overview of the new standard. I also recently attended the webcast, “Applying FASB’s New Not-for-Profit Financial Statement Standard,” which was hosted by the AICPA’s Not-for-Profit Section team. I learned some practical tips and received information I can share with my clients.

Here were my top three takeaways from an implementation perspective:

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5 Essential Controls for Charities during the Holiday Giving Season

Shutterstock_395826034For not-for-profit leaders, strong controls for fraud are especially important during this time of year. The unofficial kickoff of the charitable giving season occurs on Giving Tuesday, which takes place the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday here in the United States. In my state, Minnesota, we have a “Give to the Max Day” to encourage giving to nonprofits and schools before Thanksgiving.  A 2015 Charitable Giving Report produced by Blackbaud noted that of the not-for-profits surveyed, 17% of their contributions were received in December.  

Here are five things small organizations can do to protect themselves and ensure that the influx of contributions received this holiday season support programs, not fraudsters:

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3 Potential Financial Reporting Errors Found at Not-for-Profit Organizations

Shutterstock_388167307As a CPA who has been in public practice for many years, I know the challenges that not-for-profit organizations face in financial reporting, and, more specifically, in applying generally accepted accounting principles.

Financial statements provide a compelling picture of the not-for-profit entity’s activities. However, in my experience, there are potential financial reporting concerns not-for-profit organizations need to be aware of to make sure that picture is conveyed properly. Here are three errors that come to mind.

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4 Key Facts about the New FASB Not-for-Profit Standard

Shutterstock_413674186Are you ready for significant changes to the financial statements of not-for-profit organizations? 

The Financial Accounting Standards Board recently released Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2016-14 Not-for-Profit Entities (Topic 958): Presentation of Financial Statements of Not-for-Profit Entities.  ASU 2016-14 is the result of a multi-year FASB project conducted to review the financial reporting model for not-for-profits that has been in place for approximately 20 years.  As a result of the review, the FASB identified several areas of the financial reporting model that needed improvements or updates to provide better information to those that rely on the financial statements issued by not-for-profits. 

The full standard spans 270 pages (view it here) but it is not as daunting as it may seem. Here are four key facts about the new standard to keep in mind:

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FASB Releases New Accounting Standard for Not-For-Profits


Shutterstock_238756393On August 18, 2016, the Financial Accounting Standards Board issued a standard that affects all not-for-profit entities issuing GAAP-basis financial statements. The new standard simplifies and improves how a not-for-profit entity classifies its net assets as well as the information it presents in financial statements and notes about its liquidity, financial performance and cash flows.

One goal of the standard is to improve how not-for-profits (like charities, foundations, colleges and universities, health care providers, religious organizations, trade associations and cultural institutions) communicate their financial performance and condition to their stakeholders.

 

Why a New Standard?

The current not-for-profit financial reporting model has held up well for more than 20 years, however, the FASB’s Not-for-Profit Advisory Committee and other stakeholders have reported that, while existing standards were sound, they could be improved to provide better information to users of not-for-profit financial statements.

Specifically, stakeholders voiced concerns about the following issues:

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How to Supercharge Your Not-for-Profit’s Board to Achieve Scalable Impact

Shutterstock_174469097When considering the future success of a startup organization, thoughts naturally turn first to a clearly defined vision, mission and strategy for putting plans into action. After that, many ask, “How do I galvanize my staff and volunteers to lead?” Social impact organizations affect the most critical challenges facing our society-- for example, lifting individuals out of poverty, providing access to vital services and fighting inequality. Having the right staff is critical and having the right board of directors is equally important. Scaling an organization’s impact means not just maintaining core processes, but also constantly sharing knowledge to build the organization’s capacity to affect change. Without leadership to keep the organization focused, staff can fall victim to fighting the daily fires that are a distraction from the larger goal of expanding the organization’s reach.

So how can you supercharge your board of directors? Here are four things to consider:

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Advising on U.S. DOL’s Overtime Rule and Worker Classification Issues

Shutterstock_282297254I don’t know about you, but I’ve been having more conversations with my clients on employment issues lately. The new U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) overtime rule was announced May 18 and goes into effect December 1, 2016. Among other things, the new rule extends eligibility for overtime to certain white-collar workers by increasing the wage threshold from $455/week to $913/week ($47,476/year).

When my clients call with a “quick question” about the new rule, I chuckle to myself. These calls usually take an hour or more, as one question leads to another. These worker classification decisions can have major budget implications, particularly for small businesses and not-for-profits, and there is little time to come into compliance before December 1. In many small businesses without an HR department, employment issues fall under the finance or accounting function. 

Here is the basic guidance I’ve given to clients:

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5 Steps to Increase Effectiveness for Not-for-Profit Leaders

Photo-panel-nfp
At AICPA’s Not-for-Profit Industry Conference, keynote speaker Barry Melancon, President and CEO of AICPA joined a panel that included Michael Forster, CFO of Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Carolyn Mollen, CFO of Independent Sector; and Joe Stradinger, founder of EdgeTheory. The panel was moderated by Lou Mezzina of KMPG LLP.

Financial professionals face ever-changing business and regulatory challenges that necessitate a wider range of skills and competencies. This was a topic of discussion at this year’s AICPA Not-for-Profit Industry Conference. Outlined below are five ways to run your not-for-profit more effectively, inspired by our panel of nonprofit executives.

  • Connect the mission with strategy. A not-for-profit’s success is measured not just by the strength of its balance sheet, but by its ability to execute its mission. . Keep in mind that mission-related decisions have financial implications. Before deciding on a fundraising campaign or a revamp to your program design, consider if the effort is fiscally sound and if it will bring you closer to achieving your mission. Because finance and mission goals are inseparable, leaders must have a deep understanding of operational complexities.
  • Think holistically. Leading change requires more than just technical skills. Today’s financial leaders need to be adept communicators and adaptable in order to bring about transformation. Delivering results in a fast-paced environment means focusing on both preserving financial viability and thinking holistically about strategies needed to drive results. Many Chief Financial Officers report spending the majority of their time tackling big picture issues rather than detail oriented technical ones.

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Alternative Investments and UBIT: Weighing the Options


Keep calmPart two of a
two-part series on tax consequences of alternative investments. Part one can be found here.

Not-for-profits need to weigh their options carefully if they are thinking of adding alternative investments such as partnerships, private equity funds, real estate investment trusts and hedge funds to their portfolios.  As part of a well-designed investment strategy, alternative investment vehicles have the potential to provide greater returns than traditional stocks, bonds or money market funds, with the added benefit that they can counter risk exposure in volatile markets.

However, these investments can trigger tax liability under the unrelated business income tax (UBIT, pronounced “you-bit”) rules, and the resultant taxes (and accrued interest and penalties, if discovered subsequently) can take a bite out of an organization’s budget.

So what can be done to take the bite out of UBIT? 

There are basically three options:

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Four Critical Budgeting Steps Your Not-for-Profit May be Forgetting


BudgetFor any organization, budgeting can be more than just an annual exercise of putting numbers in columns. The budget is the financial interpretation of your work plan. It’s the tool you use to ensure that your finances are on track to meet your goals and that you are making the most of your financial resources— two achievements that are mission critical for not-for-profits. Based on work with not-for-profits over the years, I’ve identified 10 steps that should be a part of every budget process. Unfortunately, though, many organizations omit the last four steps, despite their importance to your process and, ultimately, reaching your strategic goals. Is your organization skipping some key aspects of the budgeting process?

Getting Started

Most organizations follow the first six steps of the budgeting process, so chances are you’ve got these covered:

  1. Put the budget in writing.
  2. Establish a team to oversee and champion the budget.
  3. Create a calendar and timeline for the process.
  4. Set guidelines to help ensure the budget mirrors organizational goals and priorities.
  5. Start drafting the budget.
  6. Have the budget reviewed and approved.

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Alternative Investments and UBIT: Knowing is Half the Battle

Part one of a two-part series on tax consequences of alternative investments



Income diversificationIn the aftermath of the Great Recession, charitable organizations emerged as increasingly sophisticated savvy investors. At a time when donations dwindled and endowments were shrinking, the not-for-profit sector sets its sights on income diversification, including alternative investment vehicles such as partnerships, private equity funds, real estate investment trusts and hedge funds. No longer just the bailiwick of elite institutions, alternative investments are continuing to grow in popularity. However, the tax compliance issues associated with these investments can sneak up on unsuspecting not-for-profits, many of whom are unaccustomed to paying federal income taxes due to their preferential, tax-exempt status.

When it comes to understanding unrelated business income taxes (UBIT), knowing is half the battle. I find that it is helpful to explain to clients the history behind the legislation that brought us to where we are today. The tax rules regarding UBIT are a result of legislation passed by Congress in 1950 to ostensibly level the playing field between commercial entities and tax-exempt not-for-profit organizations that would otherwise have a built-in market advantage when conducting similar businesses due to their preferential tax status. Organizations that engage in unrelated activities pay a tax on the income from those activities at corporate rates (or at trust rates for exempt organizations that are created as trusts) unless a specific exemption or exception applies.

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How to Talk to Not-for-Profit Boards About Their Responsibilities


Board of directorsAs a CPA and community volunteer, I’m often asked to talk to not-for-profit boards about financial and governance topics. My presentations often generate lively discussions. Some people are surprised to learn that although it is not necessary to be a financial or business expert to serve on a board, there are some broad fiduciary responsibilities that apply to all board members. Most nonprofits are formed as corporations under their particular state’s law (I’ll leave the nuances to the lawyers), but a cornerstone of these laws is that board members owe a fiduciary duty to the corporation they serve on. A fiduciary responsibility is defined as the obligation to act in the best interest of another party, and this pertains to all matters regarding the not-for-profit, including its financial oversight. There are three basic responsibilities that apply to board members: the duty of obedience, duty of care and duty of loyalty.

Duty of Obedience

When I explain that all board members can be equally responsible and liable to safeguard the not-for-profit’s assets and interests, the response I often receive is, “The entire board? Even commissioners?” or “But I’m just a commissioner. I shouldn’t be held responsible!” The duty of obedience means board members are accountable for internal laws (that is, bylaws and policies) and all applicable external laws and regulations. For instance, the IRS can hold each board member personally liable for failure to pay certain taxes incurred by the organization. It does not matter if they are the Chair or President or “just” a member at-large; generally, all board members have responsibility.

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Not-for-Profit Section Celebrates One Year Anniversary


NFP team photoOn May 2, the AICPA’s Not-for-Profit Section marked its one-year anniversary. Today, as I write this article, our community is more than 3,600 members strong and counting.  As I reflect on my team’s work and that of all the tireless staff and teams of volunteers throughout the Institute who helped us nurture and grow this initiative, I am deeply grateful. I am also inspired by their commitment to providing high-quality specialized resources and learning opportunities for not-for-profit professionals.

About 52 percent of our current members are business advisers to not-for-profits, such as consultants, auditors and tax professionals. The remaining 48 percent are leaders working within the not-for-profit sector, including charities, human service agencies, faith-based organizations, associations, educational institutions and a whole host of other causes that are united by one common focus: achieving a mission to make a difference.

In the last decade, the growth rate of the not-for-profit sector surpassed both the private and government sectors. However, they face unprecedented challenges-- economic, regulatory and financial. Among fundraising organizations, competition for contributions is fierce. At the same time, the donating public wants accountability from not-for-profits. From a regulatory standpoint, state attorney generals are acting aggressively, prosecuting - and making an example out of organizations associated with or involved in wrongdoing. The resulting negative publicity does not just affect the entities involved, but can affect entire communities. It can trigger a ripple effect that becomes an impediment to attracting financial support for not only that specific entity but also related causes. Strong governance oversight and risk management are important for all businesses, especially not-for-profits because they live in the public eye.

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3 Things You May Not Know About Not-for-Profit Board Leadership

NfpIt is an honor to serve on a nonprofit board. In fact, financial professionals often serve in a leadership role as treasurers or finance committee chairs within the board itself. Though board leadership is certainly a meaningful way to give back in your community, it is not without its challenges. Finance committee chairs and treasurers assume additional leadership responsibilities that go beyond the responsibilities of board members at-large. 

Here are three things you may not know about not-for-profit board leadership:

1. Listening skills are paramount and require constant improvement.

You will be working alongside professionals from other fields, typically those with expertise related to the organization’s mission. For example, if your organization serves homeless youth, you may work with professionals from the social-work field. To lend your expertise to business planning and strategy, you will need to spend time talking with your colleagues who are experts on the subject matter and understand the organization’s theory of change. With different viewpoints the board, as a whole, will make better decisions.

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IRS Form 990 is an Opportunity for Not-for-Profits to Shine


Mission

IRS Form 990 is the information return that is filed annually by most tax-exempt organizations, including charities and fundraising organizations. Just like any other return, it is vitally important to comply with the IRS requirements. What makes Form 990 unique is that it reports extensive information on operations, programs and governance and contains not just financial data, but written narratives and opportunities to provide supplemental information as well. Because Form 990 is available to the public, fundraising organizations that view it as merely another compliance requirement are missing a golden opportunity to shine a light on their organization’s accomplishments and attract support for their causes.

Here are some tips to help you or your clients make the most of Form 990 as a promotional tool:

Be mindful of your audience. With few exceptions, organizations are required by law to make their Form 990 returns available to the public. There are several widely accessible online databases, the largest being GuideStar, from which the public can easily access that information at no cost. Also, many online fundraising platforms, such as CrowdRise, Network for Good and Kimbia to name a few, interface with GuideStar’s database to provide would-be donors access to Form 990 information. When preparing your Form 990, consider who is reading your return: your constituents, including clients, customers and citizens in the communities you serve, and others who put faith in your organization. Also, consider your current and prospective donors. These individuals have the expectation that their participation and contributions of time and money are put to good use. Other groups and individuals who may read your Form 990 include community leaders who influence local policy decisions, other not-for-profits and the media.  

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Benchmarking Helps Not-for-Profits Achieve Greater Impact


BenchmarkingWhen I was first introduced to the not-for-profit world, I knew there would be a steep learning curve. I read everything I could find on nonprofit finance, but it wasn’t until I got involved in a networking group of peer organizations that I felt totally at ease in my new role. When a peer recommended that I participate in a benchmarking study, I had no idea what to expect. It turned out that the experience was very valuable. The goal of the project was to explore ways to provide apples-to-apples comparisons and trending reports on key data. The overall lesson was that by comparing operating data and identifying areas where relative performance can be improved, we can make our organizations stronger.

Our group’s first attempt at providing data in a comparable measure was difficult. Fortunately, we had the advantage of meeting face-to-face to explain anomalies in the data and discuss the qualitative aspects behind it. A decade later, our results have been refined for the benefit of everyone in the group and our respective organizations. 

I frequently speak on the topic of benchmarking, and folks ask, “How do you get started?” Often, they do not realize that benchmarking is quite simple. It can typically be performed in six steps:

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Answers to 5 Common Cloud Questions for Not-for-Profits


CloudWith cybersecurity in recent news headlines, more clients are coming to us for advice on accounting software solutions. Cloud systems, especially, have increased in popularity among businesses in the private sector and not-for-profits alike. Organizations with decentralized operations, or with many remote workers that need access to information, can benefit the most from using a cloud system.

Here are the most common questions we encounter in our practices.

Q: What (and where) is the cloud?

A: When we talk about the cloud, it just refers to a system or application that is hosted somewhere outside of your office—usually accessed over the Internet. The term “cloud” comes from the shape used to represent the Internet on network diagrams. 

Some people may also be familiar with the term Software as a Service (SaaS).  The “as a Service” (aaS) suffix also refers to the cloud. There are several flavors of this: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and more keep coming up as additional services are delivered via the cloud.

Another term also often associated with the cloud is “hosted solutions.” This can be software, servers, or even desktop services. Unlike the “as a Service” model, which would be considered “pure” cloud and accessible directly from the Internet in a web browser, hosted solutions usually require a VPN network connection or specially configured client software to access.  However, for most intents and purposes, we can consider hosted solutions as part of the “cloud.”

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Expert Advice on Not-for-Profit Board Service


Board membersThe AICPA Not-for-Profit Section recently hosted a Facebook chat providing advice for those looking to join a board of directors. The event was an opportunity for the public to engage in a conversation with experts working with not-for-profits and serving on boards.

Two members of the AICPA Not-for-Profit Advisory Council were online to answer participants’ questions during the chat. Carolyn Mollen, CPA, is the Chief Financial Officer at Independent Sector, a leadership network for nonprofits, foundations and corporations. Brian Yacker, JD, CPA, is the Managing Partner of YH Advisors, a CPA firm focused solely on addressing the tax, legal, audit and accounting needs of all different types of charitable and other tax-exempt organizations.

Since the chat was such a success, we wanted to share a few of the top questions on AICPA Insights.

 

Question: What are the challenges faced by nonprofits today?

Carolyn: Too many to list! In all seriousness, non-profits face many of the same challenges as the private sector, including information security issues, changing technology, talent recruitment and retention, and general economic pressures. However, not-for-profits also must deal with challenges unique to the sector, such as a changing funding landscape and how to find effective ways to measure impact and evaluate performance.

 

Question: Is it standard for not-for-profits to expect board members to act as fundraisers? If so, would it be better to turn down a position as a fundraiser if you aren’t confident in your fundraising abilities?”

Carolyn: In my experience, asking board members to assist with fundraising is very common in organizations that rely on donations as a revenue source. The board has a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that the organization has adequate resources to serve its mission, and fundraising is often a key component to this. Before joining a board, it is always a good idea to ask about fundraising requirements and make sure that it is something you can commit to comfortably. From an organization’s perspective, I’d recommend evaluating fundraising requirements carefully to ensure that you are able to recruit the right balance of skills and backgrounds, however. While having a well-connected board focused on fundraising can be a great thing in terms of bringing in revenue, it can lead to problems if the board lacks diversity and skills in other areas.

 

Question: What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a not-for-profit board member for each of you?

Brian: For me, being able to play my part in the furthering of an organization’s charitable mission is most rewarding aspect to me.

Carolyn: Board service has been a way for me to connect with organizations and causes that I feel close to and feel like I'm able to add value. I've been drawn in particular to theater organizations because in my past life, I was a theater major and thought for a long time that would be my career. Board service has allowed me to take my professional skills and apply them to causes I care about.

 

Question: What is a conflict of interest and how do I know if I have one?

Brian: A conflict of interest exists when the personal or professional interests of a person affects his or her ability to be objective. In the board context, a conflict of interest arises when a board member (or anyone considered to be related to the board member) undertakes a transaction with the organization, even if the transaction involves the board member providing a discount for their services. Conflict transactions need to be highly scrutinized by the board before they are undertaken. Some conflicts may need to be reported on an organization’s IRS Form 990, the annual information return filed by most tax-exempt organizations, so it is important to have a conflict of interest policy. The AICPA Not-for-Profit Section has addressed the most common conflict-of-interest issues and crafted sample language for inclusion in a policy document you can download here.

The AICPA’s Not-for-Profit Section is a community that supports not-for-profit professionals and business advisors. For more information visit aicpa.org/NFP.

Sandi Matthews, CPA, Technical Manager, Not-for-Profit Content Development, American Institute of CPAs.

Board of Directors image courtesy of Shutterstock

4 Tips to Prevent Fraud at Faith-Based Organizations

Collection basketContributions - whether by cash, check, or online giving - are the lifeblood of faith-based organizations. Many do not realize how often these donations get into the wrong hands.

There are primarily two types of theft that occur in faith-based organizations –larceny and skimming. Larceny occurs after the money has been counted, deposited, and recorded in the books of the organization. Skimming occurs when donations never get logged in the books; that is, they go missing before ever being recorded. It is the counting and depositing process that opens the organization up to skimming, and that is where fraud can be most difficult to detect. 

Faith-based organizations need to take steps to ensure that contributions make it into the bank in the first place. 

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Tips to Make Your Not-for-Profit Clients’ Next Audit a Success

Nfp auditTimes have changed significantly from when I started performing audits over 20 years ago. U.S. Generally Accepted Auditing Standards have evolved, and now emphasize the auditee’s responsibility for financial reporting. Today, not-for-profits are in charge of identifying and recording the adjustments necessary to close their books, gathering the financial statements and designing control systems needed to prevent, detect and correct errors that may occur. As a result, the cost and efficiency of the audit is directly impacted by how well your clients prepare. Here are some best practice tips to help them prepare:

Create a detailed timeline.  It is a good idea to meet with clients at least three months prior to the start of the audit to identify key dates and milestones, such as when the client-prepared information will be completed, when the audit will start, when draft financial statements will be provided to management, and when meetings with the audit or finance committee and board of directors will take place. If your firm is also providing tax services, the timeline should include the expected completion date of the client-prepared tax schedules, as well as the delivery date for the IRS Form 990. All parties should agree to, and receive a copy of the schedule containing these items. This will define each party’s responsibility in meeting the final deadline. 

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Not-for-Profit Board Service is a Meaningful Way to Give

Board responsibilityWe are in the midst of giving season— a time when many of us pause to be grateful for what we have and to help those who are less fortunate. This is the time of year when many CPAs and finance leaders are asked to serve on not-for-profit boards, an experience which can be an incredibly rewarding way to give back. However, volunteering on a nonprofit board requires a significant time investment and comes with serious legal, fiduciary and stewardship responsibilities. 

Before saying “yes” to board service, ask yourself the following questions to help you determine if the board you are considering is the right choice for you.

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Is Your Organization Prepared for a Disaster?

Disaster preparednessTen years have passed since Hurricane Katrina caused $135 billion in damages along the Gulf coast. Unfortunately, businesses in New Orleans learned the hard way about the importance of disaster preparedness. Like many charities, the Greater New Orleans Foundation could not stop working. It simply was not an option, as the Foundation’s leadership was called upon to help with disaster relief.

Below are a number of steps you can take to prepare your organization for a disaster:

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5 Ways Not-for-Profits Can Detect and Prevent Fraud

Internal controlsThroughout my career, I have worked with small businesses and not-for-profits, auditing their financial statements and helping them improve their internal controls. On one hand, I love working with nonprofits and discovering their mission and how they are working to improve society. On the other hand, I do not love discovering one or two people taking advantage of poor internal controls to steal from the organization. Many of my clients conduct their work with limited funding, and some rely on volunteers to perform key roles. When I discuss internal controls with my clients, they are often surprised to learn that small improvements can go a long way in preventing theft of assets and unsubstantiated spending, two of the most common types of fraud in not-for-profits.

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Planning a Fundraising Event? 5 Steps to Avoid Pitfalls

Fashion showIn the summertime, many of us who work with not-for-profits and their philanthropy efforts are gearing up for our fall fundraisers. Thanksgiving and holiday giving season is an ideal time to hold special events to raise money and recruit supporters for our causes, but the planning starts now.

Before joining the AICPA, I worked at a community foundation that carried out a variety of events, including golf tournaments, festivals and charity balls, across my home state of North Carolina. Our most successful event attracted hundreds of people for beachfront food and wine tastings and cooking competitions. Today, I serve on the board of a volunteer center that holds an annual fashion show featuring couture gowns by local designers that are inspired by the work of not-for-profits in the area.

While fundraisers like these are fun and have the potential to raise a lot of money for your cause, it’s important to be aware of the regulatory and financial concerns. As you plan your fundraisers this summer, here are some steps you can take to avoid pitfalls:

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3 Things Not-for-Profits Need to Understand about their Finances

Father and Son pictureThere are roughly 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States. Many of them are grassroots organizations run by well-meaning volunteers who are committed to the group’s mission, but who may not have knowledge of the numerous complicated rules governing not-for-profits. I learned of these complexities when I joined the board of an all-volunteer sports league in my community. I'm sure many practitioners can relate: because I am a CPA, of course, I was elected treasurer. In this role I gained a deeper understanding of not-for-profit finances. As a result, I've learned three things not-for-profits need to understand about their finances in order to run a more effective organization.

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