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 Advisor Recommends GDPR Privacy and Data Checkup

As Washington DC nonprofit advisors, we try to help all of our clients nationwide keep up to date with changes in regulations throughout the nonprofit world. One such regulation is GDPR. This European regulation takes effect in May 2018 and will update data and privacy regulations throughout the European Union, the most sweeping changes since 1995.

Although you may be an American-based nonprofit organization, no one is exempt from GDPR. That’s because the rules apply not just to companies and organizations located within the EU but also to any business entity – for profit or not for profit – that interacts with EU citizens. In today’s global, internet-based world, that opens the door for anyone with a website to fall under GDPR’s requirements.

What, you may wonder, would happen if you just ignored it? After all, you’re not an EU citizen, and your organization is licensed and registered in the United States…well, the penalty for not adhering to GDPR is severe ranging from a warning to fines that could range in the six or seven figures.

GDPR looks confusing on the surface and it is indeed complex. Washington DC nonprofit advisors to the rescue! Let’s break it down into the important parts nonprofits need to know, understand, and act upon to comply.

Data Collection, Storage, and Privacy

Most of the GDPR regulations focus on personal data collection, privacy, and storage. Data breaches must be reported within a 72-hour window and people must give explicit consent to data collection. Data that falls under GDPR collection rules includes:

  • Name
  • Photos
  • Email addresses
  • Social media posts
  • Medical information
  • Bank details
  • IP address

As an organization that may interact with EU citizens, you are required to:

  • Obtain consent that is “freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous” prior to collection of personal information from a data subject
  • Restrict data collection to specific, explicit, and legitimate purposes
  • Limit data retention to requirements for business purposes
  • Provide data processing transparency
  • Maintain data security, confidentiality, and integrity
  • Adhere to breach notification requirements
  • Designate a Data Protection Officer
  • Perform a data protection impact assessment

People whose data you have collected have the right to:

  • Access their data
  • Object to the use of their data
  • Be forgotten (have their data erased)
  • Rectify their data
  • Receive their data and transmit it to another controller

Tips to Help Nonprofits Comply with GDPR

All nonprofit organizations should take GDPR seriously. Although you may not purposely target EU citizens in your marketing efforts, the regulations are so all-encompassing that it is better to be ‘safe rather than sorry’ and take care to adhere to GDPR as best as you can. It’s also just basic smart marketing and good best practices for data security, privacy and control.

You can take the following steps to help meet GDPR regulations:

  1. Identify all interactions and potential interactions with EU citizens. This may include website contacts, email signups, and Eu groups with whom you interact.
  2. Review all places where you collect data. This includes website data, analytics, and even plugins that may collect data from visitors on your website.
  3. Adjust and revise the terms and conditions on your website. Don’t have terms, conditions and privacy policies posted? Now’s the time to add them. Make the navigation to view them prominent and top or at most, second-level, so that anyone seeking them can find them easily.
  4. Review emergency plans and action plans to handle data breaches. Again, if you don’t have such plans in place, now is the time to create them. Data breaches aren’t a question of “if” but “when”; cybercriminals love to target nonprofits and view them as easy targets. Lock the barn door now before the proverbial horse escapes.
  5. Send a permission-reminder email to your email marketing list. This is a notification that you are updating permission and asking once again for explicit permission to send promotional materials to your contact list.

These are small, simple steps to take to comply with the spirit of GDPR. Even if you do not conduct business in the EU and have no intention of doing so, GDPR should be considered best practices for permission-based communications moving forward.

Beck & Company, Washington DC Nonprofit Advisor

Beck & Company are Washington DC nonprofit advisors and consultants. 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 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.