Washington DC Nonprofit Advisors Ask, “Does Everyone On Your Board Raise Funds?”

As Washington DC nonprofit advisors, we work with a lot of nonprofits in many areas of charitable and philanthropic work. One question we often ask is simple but often evokes sarcastic laughter when we ask it when meeting with clients.

“Does everyone on your board help raise funds?”

If you laughed out loud at that, it’s time to rethink your position on Boards and fundraising.

The role of a Board of Directors isn’t just to guide and manage the operations of the nonprofit organization. Nonprofits often struggle with fundraising (surprise, surprise). It starts at the top when the Board doesn’t do its share of the heavy lifting and turns away from fundraising tasks.

There’s an old saying that “many hands make light work.” If you want to make light work out of fundraising, it’s time to get your Board’s hands into the mix. Ready? Let’s talk about fundraising!

Five Steps to Engaging Your Board in Fundraising

Professional fundraisers tell us that there are five steps to raising money for a nonprofit. As Washington DC nonprofit advisors we’ve also seen these steps in action and can recommend them to your nonprofit.

The steps to successful fundraising, which you can teach to your Board of Directors, include:

  1. Identify prospects: Often the Board of Directors are professionals and high-level executives from the surrounding community. They may be well-connected to wealthy individuals, corporations, and others who might be interested in donating to the organization. Ask and follow up with your Board on their ability to crack open their address books and identify top prospects.
  2. Educate, cultivate and involve: This is where a little help from your marketing and communications folks comes in handy. Help your Board members learn to educate, cultivate, and involve their prospects in the work of the organization. Create events in which potential donors can see the work at hand that supports the missions. Utilize video, photography, and a mixture of media to engage donors and prospects at every step of the process. Involve potential donors in the work of the organization to see if there’s a fit. Help your Board do this by providing them with the tools that they need to educate, cultivate and involve.
  3. Ask: This is the step at which many people get tongue-tied. Teach people how to ask gracefully and graciously for the donation.
  4. Thank: After the ask, thank people. Thank them through written letters, notes, and public speeches. Thank them early and often. Acknowledgment goes a long way towards making donors feel valued and honored to contribute to supporting the mission of the organization.
  5. Involve: Continue the cycle by involving donors even further in the activities of the charity. Keep them on your mailing list and share stories and updates of what the organization has been doing to further its mission. Board members should have many opportunities to invite their prospects to events and other engagements where they can get involved in the activities of the nonprofit.

All Board members and Trustees can – and should – participate in the fundraising activities.

But what happens if you have someone on the Board who absolutely refuses to help out?

A little peer pressure can alleviate the situation. Talk privately to several Board members who are the best at fundraising. Perhaps the holdout needs coaching or encouragement to get on the fundraising bandwagon. With a little help from your friends and theirs, i.e., the Board members and Trustees who are comfortable with fundraising, you may be able to convince them to at least give it a try. Once they are successful, they’ll feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment that inspires them to continue with the fundraising work.

Fundraising isn’t as onerous as it sounds. With a little coaching and encouragement, everyone on the Board can become a fundraising ally for your organization.

Beck & Company

Beck & Company is an independent certified accounting firm offering accounting and tax service for nonprofits, nonprofit financial management, auditing services and more. Since 1987, we have helped many nonprofits in the Washington D.C. area and along the Eastern seaboard with their accounting and financial management needs. We provide audit, tax, accounting, and consulting service that addresses all aspects of a small to mid-sized nonprofit organization’s business. Contact us or call 703-834-0776 x8001.

Washington DC Nonprofit Advisors Recommend Workforce Diversity

As Washington DC nonprofit advisors, we work with many nonprofit organizations to address questions, concerns, and issues. One issue we’re seeing frequently is diversity in the workplace.

Now, you may think that you know what diversity means. It means ensuring equal opportunity in the employment to men and women, people of different races, religions, and nationalities, and treating people with different sexual preferences equally. But there’s one area of equality that many people forget to mention when speaking with Washington DC nonprofit advisors about workforce issues: age diversity.

A Workforce Like No Other in History

Only a few times has the United States and indeed the world has seen such an interesting shift in age-related demographics. The famous Baby Boom post-World War II led to a surge in population that was unmatched until recent years with the Millennials. Currently, Millennials, or those who came of age around the turn of the millennium, are the largest demographic in the history of the workforce.

By 2020, nearly all Baby Boomer-generation workers at your nonprofit will have retired. Following in their footsteps are many Generation X employees, those who are entering their 50s, who have the seniority, experience, and institutional history to do a good job leading the organization.

Millennials make up the majority of the current workforce and are likely the new, upcoming people in your company. Much has been written about managing Millennials; some if it makes them sound like an exotic species rather than simply a demographic with a unique shared set of values and ideals.

Understanding how each generation interacts with the workplace, their approach to work, and their values as leaders and coworkers can help you ensure that age diversity works for, rather than against, your nonprofit. Age diversity can help you:

  1. Understand, respect, and address the different needs of your constituents.
  2. Discover creative solutions.
  3. Reach new demographics through renewed efforts.
  4. Develop additional donor and member cohorts.
  5. Build a stronger, more stable nonprofit organization.

Different generations view and interact with the world differently. Each brings with it their own strengths and weaknesses. Understanding this and parlaying it into an effective workforce development strategy is challenging but part of running an effective nonprofit in the 21st century.

Reject Biases

Just as you know that you should reject biases around certain attributes such as nationality, skin color, or religious affiliation, so too must you reject age-based biases. It’s one thing to be aware of what a certain age-related demographic values in the workplace; it’s quite another to be biased against it, eschewing hiring people from a certain demographic because of fears they won’t perform as well as others.

The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits discrimination based on age to all organizations receiving federal aid. Nonprofit organizations would be well advised to enact policies and mindsets to prevent age discrimination in the workforce.

As Washington DC nonprofit advisors, we caution all against anything that smacks of discrimination. However, there is a place for managing around age-related expectations and norms so that your nonprofit flourishes. Finding that happy medium is tricky but worthwhile. A diverse workforce, including age diversity, builds stronger nonprofits.

Beck & Company

At Beck & Company, we work with many nonprofits to help them improve their operations, accounting, and overall management. We are Washington DC nonprofit advisors with a tradition of creative thinking, technical expertise, and a collaborative spirit that can help your nonprofit achieve its goals. Whether you want to increase donor confidence and support through transparent accounting practices or find a partner for your annual audit, we can help. Contact us today or call 703-834-0776.

Washington DC Nonprofit Advisers Offer Interview Tips

As Washington DC nonprofit advisers, we are often asked if we know of any potential candidates for open positions among our nonprofit clients. Networking, as you know, is one of the oldest and most trusted methods of finding great people for open positions. But, there are other ways in which you can find the best person for an open position. Pre-interview preparation is one of the most important tasks we recommend to our clients when they claim they can’t find great talent for their open jobs.

What is pre-interview preparation? As the term implies, it’s doing your homework before the candidate walks through the door or picks up the phone to begin the interview. Here, our Washington DC nonprofit advisers offer tips to help you prepare for candidate interviews.

Consider Past History When Preparing for Interviews

Every organization has their share of stories—the great candidate who turned out to be a nightmare, the star player who quit after one day, the great candidate who ended up being not so great.

Before you even begin the new hire recruiting process, take time now, as a team, to talk about those mistakes. It’s not about blame or shame. Rather, it’s about finding some commonalities behind the mistakes.

For example, were you rushed into making a hiring decision? Like buying a house or a car, rushing through the decision often leads to disastrous consequences that are difficult, although not impossible, to rectify.

Did you check references? Many candidates sail through the interview process because they have a professional appearance and are practiced at answering in just the right way to offset any questions. Checking references may open other avenues of questioning that can get to the real person behind the shiny, perfect facade.

Bring together a group of managers from your organization to talk about the new hires that worked out well and those that didn’t. Seek common problems, situations, or reasons why people didn’t work out. This will point you in the right direction to fix the problem now, before you go through the hiring process again.

Plan for Each Interview

Set aside time to research each candidate and think through the questions you’d like to ask them before the interview begins. A question guide, created in conjunction with the human resources department, can be a useful rubric to start an interview.

Online research may bring to light any issues with the candidate’s reputation or work ethic. Google searches, LinkedIn profiles, and other techniques can help you verify information or get a better idea of questions to ask potential employees.

Don’t skimp on the interview process. Although phone interviews are a great first step to narrow down the pool of suitable candidates, in-person interviews are the gold standard for finding the right fit for your team.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Make sure you ask plenty of open-ended questions to get a feel for the person’s character and problem-solving abilities. Open-ended questions do not allow for a simple “yes” or “no” answer.

Some examples of open-ended questions include:

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Tell me about your career goals.
  3. Share an example of a problem that you experienced at your last job and how you solved it.
  4. What would you do if faced with [common situation at the nonprofit?]
  5. What do you know about our organization?
  6. What attracted you to this job?
  7. Where do you see your career going five years from now?

Learn to Read Body Language

Body language is a controversial subject, but many believe that we communicate just 7% of our intention through words. That leaves 93% through tone of voice and body language. Some simple body language cues include:

  1. Expressing nervousness by fidgeting, flushing, or playing with hair, pencils, etc.
  2. Indicating a false answer by averting the eyes, looking down, or raising the voice.
  3. Looking at the clock or watch and sighing repeatedly as a sign of boredom or tension.

Positive body language indicators include “mirroring” in which the candidate mirrors the interviewer’s body language, thoughtful answers that reflect an engaged and neutral tone of voice, eye contact, and a firm handshake. Keep in mind that these cues may shift with cultural differences. What is considered professional behavior in New York may differ from perceived professionalism in Bangkok.

Read the Resume and Cover Letter

You’d be amazed at how many hiring managers fail to read through the entire resume or cover letter of a candidate. Reading through both may provide you with icebreakers (“You enjoy kayaking; how interesting. Tell me more.”) or commonalities that can put the candidate at ease (“I see you went to Duke University, too.”)

Although there’s no perfect way to find great candidates, with a little preparation, you’ll improve your chances of finding the right person from among the applicants at your doorstep.

Washington D.C. Nonprofit Advisers

We’re Washington D.C. nonprofit advisers with a passion for the world of nonprofit organizations. We offer consulting, accounting, auditing, and other services to help nonprofits grow and thrive. Contact us today.

Washington DC Nonprofit Advisers Say: Keep Your Data Safe

As Washington DC nonprofit advisers, we are concerned by the growing threat of cyber-attacks and data breaches among our nonprofit clients.

Since 2005, 110 nonprofit organizations in the United States have reported data breaches. At first glance, that may not seem like many; it works out to a little less than 10 per year.

However, you certainly don’t want your organization to be that unlucky one that finds out hackers have accessed their donor files, credit card information, and other confidential notes. In fact, some information contained in nonprofit databases is downright scary.

While your data breach may not be as simple as one in the United Kingdom in which an unencrypted memory stick containing confidential patient data was lost, any data breach can result in serious consequences. Companies can be fined, face lawsuits, and lose donor and member trust.

There are many steps that your nonprofit organization can take to safeguard donor data. Not all steps are time-consuming and costly; many are simple, common sense approaches to data management that are within the reach of any size nonprofit organization.

Six Steps to Keep Data Safe

  1. Know what data you collect: Start by understanding the data collected by your nonprofit organization. Do you collect donor data, membership data, or data on those receiving your nonprofit’s services? These are all potential sources of data breaches. Take an inventory of all your data sources now. Don’t forget volunteer and employee data too, including social security numbers, names, addresses, and email information.
  2. Find out where all the data is stored: That sounds easier than it looks. Data may be stored on multiple servers, clouds, or a combination of on-premise servers and off-premises clouds. Look for copies and backups kept on memory sticks (see the U.K. breach, above) and external hard drives.
  3. Classify the data: Develop data classification lists based on the sensitivity of the data. Some data may be highly sensitive, such as credit card information, health records, or social security numbers. Other data is less sensitive because it is easily found in the public domain—addresses, for example.
  4. Create data policies: A data policy lists guidelines around who may view, access, store, and utilize data. It should also include details on how data is backed up and updated.
  5. Build an emergency plan: In the event of a data breach, what are the steps you will follow to lock down the remaining data, alert those affected, and safeguard against future breaches?
  6. Train staff: Take the time now to update written policies regarding data use. Train your teams on how to safeguard and protect data. Also train them on basic internet security practices, such as avoiding phishing scams and viruses.

Consider Data Protection Insurance

If your nonprofit organization handles extensive personal data or highly sensitive data, you may wish to consider specific insurance to cover against data theft, losses, and cyber-attacks. Such insurance can provide you with peace of mind so, in the event of a data breach, you will have specific coverage to help your organization recover and repair the damage.

No one likes to think about cyber threats, data breaches, and the ramifications of lost or stolen data. However, given that most experts believe the incidences of cyber-attacks against nonprofits will rise, it’s a smart move to take steps now to protect yourself. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Beck & Company

We are Washington D.C. nonprofit advisers, consultants, accounting professionals and CPAs with a passion for helping nonprofits thrive. We can assist you with accounting, audits, and nonprofit technology questions. Contact us today for assistance.

Washington DC Nonprofit Advisors Recommend Retention Strategies for Nonprofits

As Washington DC nonprofit advisors, we work with many nonprofit organizations in and around the Eastern seaboard on a variety of topics. This includes both financial and organizational management.

One topic that we’ve been watching carefully lately is the topic of employee engagement. Employee engagement leads directly to employee retention, an important aspect of a stable, long-term leadership and development team at any nonprofit organization.

According to the Journal of Accountancy, the number one concern among CPA firms is retaining staff. Turnover rates exceeded 13% in 2015, the last year of the survey, a high percentage caused in part by the strengthening economy. Job seekers can find new opportunities more easily than in past years, which leads to lower retention rates for organizations.

Employee turnover is costly. Every time an employee leaves, nonprofits must spend time and money to recruit, hire, train, and onboard new employees.

Focusing your time and effort on improving employee retention is more than a human resource imperative. As Washington DC nonprofit advisors, we will tell you that it is also an important aspect of nonprofit financial management, helping to keep your costs low and improve the productivity of your organization.

Focus on Employee Engagement

The biggest tip for improving employee retention is to focus on employee engagement. Millennials, the biggest employee cohort currently working in the American market, has a low tolerance for boredom. Because of this, they tend to job hop not out of a sense of disloyalty but disconnection. When boredom strikes, they leave before giving it a chance to dissipate.

You can offset this tendency by encouraging employee and job engagement. Prevent boredom by providing plenty of opportunities for employee growth. Challenge all employees, not just millennials, to take on new responsibilities and projects. Find work that offers expression, insight, and leadership roles so people feel motivated by their work.

What Sets Your Workplace Apart?

Another way in which you can encourage employee engagement is to focus on the positive strengths that your workplace offers. What sets your workplace apart from others?

For nonprofits, the general atmosphere is one usually of positive, mission-driven alignment. The workplace is fueled by a sense of dedication to the mission and motivated by the thought of doing good while making money. Both are powerful concepts that motivate, inspire, and engage people in their work.

Retention Begins with the Hiring Process

Improving employee retention rates begins by improving your hiring process. Ensuring the right people are in the right jobs is the first step.

Evaluate your current hiring process. How are you finding potential employees? What do you look for during the screening process?

This may be a great time to update job descriptions, evaluate new hiring methods, and examine your nonprofits corporate brand. Social media, for example, is a powerful method these days of finding new employees and shoring up your organization’s brand. A strong brand presence brings interested people to your doorstep, so you do not have to work as hard during the hiring process; people are eager to work at your organization.

More Than Workers

Remember that employees are more than workers. As Washington DC nonprofit consultants, we often encounter workplaces that treat lower level employees as commodities rather than individuals.

Your workers are more than cogs in a wheel. They are valuable members of the community and culture that makes up your nonprofit. The more you can embrace their unique strengths and offer the flexibility and challenges that people crave, the greater the improvement in employee retention.

Beck & Company

Beck & Company is an independent certified accounting firm specializing in nonprofit organizations. Since 1987, we have helped many nonprofits in the Washington D.C. area and along the Eastern seaboard with their accounting and financial management needs. We provide audit, tax, accounting, and consulting service that addresses all aspects of a small to mid-sized nonprofit organization’s business. Contact us or call 703-834-0776 x8001.


The Truth About Payroll Taxes and Accounting for Nonprofits

There are many myths swirling about the nonprofit world when it comes to payroll taxes and accounting for nonprofits. Taxes are a hot topic for nonprofits because many nonprofit organizations think that ‘tax exempt’ means they pay no taxes on anything. Unfortunately, this myth can get you into some hot water with the IRS if you’re not careful. Even though nonprofits can be tax-exempt, not every item in your budget is exempt. Salaries and wages are one such item.

Accounting for Nonprofits: The Myth of “Tax Exempt Everything”

One of the benefits that nonprofits receive is the designation of being ‘tax exempt.’ This designation is received from the IRS for nonprofits who comply with IRS regulations regarding nonprofit status. The idea behind this rule is that nonprofits, by their very nature, funnel excess margin back into their good works to help their constituents.

However, tax-exempt does NOT mean tax-exempt everything. Certain items are still subject to taxation. One such item is payroll.

Nonprofit Payroll: Employee Taxes

Nonprofits are made up of volunteers, part-time employees, and full-time employees. Compensation paid to each type of worker may be subject to taxes.

  • Volunteers who are paid in gift cards and gifts may or may not have their compensation taxed It depends on the type, nature, and value of the gifts. Small, low-value gifts may be tax fee; gift cards may be taxed. Speak with a nonprofit accounting expert or CPA to determine whether or not such gifts are subject to taxes.
  • Part-time and full-time employees must pay social security and Medicare taxes. They must also pay personal federal and state income taxes even if the nonprofit they are working for is a tax-exempt entity.

Who’s on the hook if you forget to pay these taxes? Your Board of Directors is responsible for ensuring tax compliance on all taxable matters. If you are part of a nonprofit Board, be sure to look into taxation issues with the help of a good nonprofit CPA or tax accountant to ensure you are correctly following the laws and complying with all applicable state and federal laws.

What About Religious Nonprofits?

There are some exemptions that may apply to nonprofits. These include churches and certain church-controlled organizations. They can take an elective exemption from FICA taxes (social security and Medicare). Certain services performed by ministers or members of religious orders may also be exempt from FICA. And compensation paid to students by a nonprofit organization may also be exempt from FICA.

FUTA Taxes

In regard to FUTA taxes, the IRS states that “Religious, educational, scientific, charitable and other organizations described in section 501(c)(3) are exempt from tax under section 501(a) are not subject to FUTA tax and do not have to file form 940.” In order to qualify for this exemption, such organizations must receive a favorable determination letter from the IRS to qualify for this exemption. It’s not automatic; you must apply for and receive a favorable determination letter from the IRS.

Confused About Accounting for Nonprofits? Contact the Experts

All of these exemptions and rules apply on the federal level; states may have another set of rules that guides tax exemption items for nonprofit organizations. That’s why it’s important for you to have a local nonprofit accounting firm to work with who understands both federal and state tax rules and how to correctly apply them to your organization. Accounting for nonprofits can be complex. It is helpful to have experts by your side to navigate the financial waters safely.

Beck & Company

Beck & Company are Washington DC nonprofit advisors. We also are Virginia certified nonprofit accountants. We work with nonprofits of all sizes serving many different constituents nationwide, providing a variety of consulting, auditing, and accounting services. For more information, please contact us at 703-834-0776 x8001.

Making Mindful Choices in the World of Nonprofit Accounting

Each day, your nonprofit organization faces many choices. One area where choices are of supreme importance is in the area of nonprofit accounting. Choosing how you classify donations, whether to give a trusted employee a raise, or how to comply with the new FASB 958 regulations are all choices that must be weighed and prioritized based on urgency.

Register for this Webinar Now: Financial Reporting – Is Your Nonprofit Seeing the Full Picture? 

When faced with myriad choices, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. As Washington DC nonprofit advisers, we have worked with many nonprofit clients to help them identify and prioritize key elements of their accounting activities for maximum business impact. Here are several tips to help you make mindful choices about your financial and accounting needs.

Three Tips for Nonprofit Accounting to Help You Set Priorities

  1. Focus on strategic clarity: Clarity of purpose, mission and vision is essential for all good business management, but especially for nonprofit accounting. When you clearly identify your organization’s mission and vision, you will find it easier to prioritize the essentials. Activities in direct support of your mission are funded first, with secondary activities funded next, and so on. Developing strategic clarity can be difficult if you are not used to this type of work; a nonprofit business adviser can help.
  2. Diversify income sources: In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Relying upon one source of funding for the majority of your organization’s support can be catastrophic if something happens to the funding source. Grants may end; donations can dry up if the economy sours. Diversification of your income stream is equally as important as diversifying your investments. Diversification spreads out the potential risk if one stream dries up.
  3. Measure outcomes: Measuring outcomes isn’t just for the for-profit world. Nonprofits should also measure the outcomes of their efforts. Measuring donor campaign results, educational activities, and other projects just makes sense. It is only measuring how well you achieved your objectives that you can prioritize funding in future years. Knowing that one activity achieved its objective while another fell short can help you decide whether additional funding, staffing, or publicity can change the dynamic or not.

Asking the Tough Questions

Asking the tough questions about initiatives can also help you set your goals. It may be difficult to learn that a favorite activity doesn’t meet your revised mission statement, but it is better to learn this now than to continue spending resources unwisely.

Ask yourself:

  • Are we continuing any activities just because we’ve always done them? Some companies continue with charitable events, marketing campaigns or other activities in the same manner year after year simply because “it’s what we always do.” Always ask if the activity serves the organization’s best interests now.
  • Are we holding onto “pet” projects? Larger organizations with a strict hierarchy sometimes fall prey to the ‘pet project’ syndrome. It may be the director’s favorite activity, or a cherished idea. It’s done simply because so-and-so asked that it be done. You must have the courage to question even pet projects to prioritize the vital ones from the rest.
  • Does this serve our constituents? No matter what activity you are considering, asking if it serves your constituents’ best interests helps keep your focus on what you do best. This helps you prioritize your budget and accounting activities around what matters most.

As Washington DC nonprofit advisers, we know how hard it is to ask these questions and to change the status quo. It may be helpful to bring in business advisers to help you sort through these issues dispassionately.

At Beck & Company, we offer CPA services, nonprofit accounting, and business advisory functions for nonprofit organizations. Contact us today if you would like more information about our services or help with your nonprofit business needs.