Practical Online CPE Courses

If you need CPE classes as a CPA or other financial professional, you may like my online self-study courses offered by many providers, including:

Financial Statements of Nonprofits are Different  — CCH- Wolters Kluwer

Nonprofit Finance: A Practical Guide — CCH- Wolters Kluwer

Ethics for Enrolled Agents– CPE Depot

Tips on Becoming a Great Consultant- CPE247 — used as training book on CPA and consulting firm.

You can also check out my books:

Nonprofit Finance: A Practical Guide — Nominated for a  2016 McAdam Book Award

15 Quick Tips on Becoming a Great Consultant  — Free on Kindle Unlimited

 

 

Measuring Program Success- Tips

Despite how wonderful your organization is, many funders expect you to prove that your programs work. So, this begs the question of how to measure success, a challenge with people knowing that they made a difference, but not being able to show it with factual data. As a CPA, my take on this is for people to quantify with numbers the ‘before” and “after” scenario as much as possible.

Before and After

The key here is to quantify the “before” as much as possible and make it a baseline.  For example, how many people attended an event before or now? How many calls were made to a center before or now? Set a baseline so that it can be compared and analyzed later on.

The other side is to show results over time and how the program is relevant, “the after.” For example, you could show that a certain drug rehab program started with 15 people and has grown over time with 25 people the following year and today has 100 clients.  However, be sure that you’re measuring significant items.  For example, maybe a better way to measure success in rehab would be how many people finish the program, not just number of clients at a certain point in time.  A nonprofit may have more clients, but if fewer are finishing the program, this may indicate a problem.

Objectives

To determine proper measurements, start with your program objectives. If your objective is to provide literacy services to adults, the number of students may provide a good measure. Or, maybe the number of students that pass a literacy test could make more sense.

A nonprofit that provides temporary housing for the homeless could consider success when the person moves on to permanent housing or when he/she gets treatment for addiction and gets a job.  It all depends on the program final objective. The yardstick to gauge impact could be the number of people in the temporary housing, or the number of people leaving such housing for something more permanent, or maybe how many new rooms have been added to accommodate this population. It all depends on the nature of the program.

Education and awareness

To implement a measurement system, staff and managers must be aware of the situation, so that proper data can be identified and tabulated. Since this may be new to many, be sure to explain the reasons for this “extra work “so that the staff not only understands its purpose but also give good ideas about how to measure impact meaningfully.

Set up a structure for people to work so that information is not forgotten or lost. You could use checklists, ask certain questions or fill out forms– all to document “before and after” on a systematic basis, not just at random. The idea is to institutionalize ways to evaluate programs. Knowing that there is a system in place is sure to please any new donor.

Keep it in writing

Keep all docs in writing with logs, notes, pictures and any pertinent information handy to show funders that your organization is indeed making a difference. Document major processes. For instance, if you provide a child care hotline, every call should be written up on a log with information about who took the call, time, etc. Keep close contact with providers that can give you backup and numbers about how many placements were made because of the hotline, for instance.

Keep the documentation in paper or digital format, safe and organized, so that it can be found and compiled quickly. This information should be available to both program and fundraising/development.  You don’t want people looking around for hours or days, trying to find a specific data that can help the organization grow and keep its funding.

Measuring program success can be a daunting task, but it’s usually doable, once the nonprofit defines what needs to be evaluated. Besides numbers, you can also use pictures to document baseline – “before and after”. This can be very effective when dealing with construction projects, for instance. Make sure to double check on the ways your programs are being evaluated.  Sometimes, a program or focus changes, but instead of changing, the evaluation methods stay the same. Be nimble here.

Check out the book “Nonprofit Finance: A Practical Guide” –– Nominated for the 2016 McAdam Book Award

Donation Details Matter– Some Pointers

Donors want to give, members want to renew memberships, but sometimes they cannot. It can be a real problem for an organization, which may have spent a lot of money and energy in development, but then, somehow it doesn’t receive the funds.  What could be the problem?  It’s on the details…  which some may consider to be a no-brainer, but still, they deserve a second look because they are so common problems.Below are a couple of details to pay attention to:

Detail 1– Links should work

Recently, I received an invoice as an attachment to a nice email. All was well done and professional until I clicked on the link for online payment. Then, I was taken to an error page on the nonprofit website.  Now it’s up to me to figure out how to pay the organization. Do I look around the website for a link? Write a check?  Maybe leave this alone for now…and the organization may never see any donation or membership payment. Some prospective donors may never contact the nonprofit with this issue, and the bad link detail will go on undetected.

*** Pointer —  Check regularly on the invoice or email master text to make sure it’s still valid.  Usually, changing only one invoice or email doesn’t work well, since most systems use a master file that populates all the communications with donors.

Detail 2 – Take information over the phone easily

Have everybody in the organization trained in handling payments over the phone. Not just accounting folks. All the information and forms should be easily accessible and ready to be used, including online forms. When donors or others call to make a payment, get it done, which may be easier said than done. I have seen people transfer donors from one person to another– don’t do that. Don’t frustrate the person on the other end of the line.  Everyone should know how to handle the calls, help and get any payment.

***Pointer — The nonprofit could have a phone setup for people who want to pay so that they can do it so easily. The message could be,  “If you want to make a donation or a payment, please press 1 and someone will get the information right away.”

Detail 3 — Process donations quickly

Money should be in the bank, not sitting in someone’s drawer or safety box. The longer a nonprofit waits to process a donation, the more likely it is for it to have issues with bounced checks or charge backs. Online donations take care of most of these issues, but part of processing donations should also include who, how and when you want to thank donors.  Maybe a donation over a certain amount would receive a different type of acknowledgment than those that give only $10.

***Pointer — Develop policies and procedures regarding donation processing with specific people in charge of sending thank you notes, using autopen and when to actually obtain a real signature.
Nonprofits are competing with other organizations for every cent they get. Sometimes the day-to-day activities cloud the importance of making donations easy and stress-free. Sorry, but if I’m put on hold for a bit too long or get attitude or cluelessness, I hang up and give my money to someone else. So it’s important to make donating an easy, pleasant experience, not one where donors get error messages on the computer or an aggravating phone person. Details matter.
 

 

Check out the book “Nonprofit Finance: A Practical Guide” –– Nominated for the 2016 McAdam Book Award

 

Prevent Volunteer Liability

If you’re around nonprofits, you know that many rely on volunteers for operations, special events, and programs.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, “about 62.6 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2014 and September 2015.”

Usually, these people are good-hearted and do very good jobs.  However, we also have bad apples and those who misbehave or have incidents in the name of the organization. This creates a huge liability for the nonprofit that is counting all pennies to provide goods and services to the community.  It doesn’t matter that volunteers are not paid, they can still do damage that the nonprofit may be held liable for.

Actually,  “Good Samaritan” laws exist for volunteers in the case of personal liability, such as the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997. However, that doesn’t mean that the nonprofit is also covered under this act automatically. Better be safe than sorry.

Training

Usually, when things go wrong, the issue of proper training and oversight of volunteers is often questioned.  So, proper training and supervision is a must in any volunteer situation, including making sure they get an appropriate education and are placed in situations where they are qualified to be.  For example, if you run a swimming class, make sure the lifeguards are properly certified and trained to identify problems and take care of them. Swimming instructors should also have minimum qualifications for the job.  Just because it’s a volunteer situation doesn’t mean that standards can to be lowered.

Policies and procedures manual

Helping to maintain standards, many nonprofits use manuals to clarify policies and procedures, very similar to those created for employees.  Be sure that such manuals include sections about prevention of sexual harassment, safety and proper behavior in the workplace.  Also, consider policies and procedures about volunteer disciplinary actions when warranted.

Background check

One way to avoid unpleasant surprises is to do a background check on all volunteers, even if they cost a bit. It doesn’t mean that everybody should be perfect, but if someone has a riskier background with problems with the law, they may need to be more closely supervised and placed in jobs that don’t compromise the organization.  Also, many insurance companies require such background checks when they cover volunteer activities.

Insurance

Nonprofits must consider getting volunteer insurance policies to protect the organization from volunteers behaving badly or accidents.  Beware that because volunteers are unpaid, they are NOT usually covered by worker’s compensation insurance, and if something happens to them, the nonprofit may be on the hook for it. So, consider adding a rider or a separate policy to include volunteer while they work for the organization.

Volunteers are often wonderful and many organizations wouldn’t be able to offer their programs if it was not for them. However, they also present a liability to nonprofits that must be addressed. Since protecting nonprofits against these risks can be expensive, be sure to include these costs when preparing budgets, grant proposals or gift requests so that you have the required funds to protect the organization against any losses.

Check out my book “Nonprofit Finance: A Practical Guide- Second Edition” –– First edition Nominated for the 2016 McAdam Book Award