Monday, October 04, 2010

Accountability, Accounting, Risk….What’s a Board Member and ED to Know

My nonprofit consulting work has specific focus on the following areas:
• Strategic Planning
• Board and Leadership Development
• Technology, Online Giving and Social Media for Nonprofits
• Nonprofit Hiring for Executive Positions

But….I get asked about a much wider range of nonprofit issues. Now that nonprofits have made it through their first 990 with the new govern ance questions they are looking even more seriously at accounting and accountability issues.  I am not an accountant and when I took a graduate course in accounting I learned how much more complicated it was than I had thought.

This article has some resources that are worth checking out if you are interested in these topics. These are not resources for accountants – these are resources written for us “lay people” who need to know something at the policy and “what are the right questions to ask” level.

Principles of Governance Guide and Workbook
Independent Sector and BoardSource collaborated on development of this thorough resource for nonprofits. There are 33 principles in four major categories and information and activities for Board learning are provided for each one. The categories are: Legal Compliance and Public Disclosure, Effective Governance, Strong Financial Oversight and Responsible Fundraising. The materials are availe at each organization’s website.

BoardSource really is the premier resource for nonprofit governance and financial issues. I’ve recommended Financial Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards by Andrew Lang as a good resource on this subject.

Blue Avocado
Formerly The Board Café, Blue Avocado is a free newsletter and besides the Board Café general articles it features Financial and Strategy and Human Resources sections. I have personally found this extremely useful and learned such important facts as the difference between a financial “audit and a “review” and when each is required which can mean thousands of dollars in savings for a small nonprofit.

Gene Takagi is a California nonprofit attorney and writes authoritatively about governance, financial and legal issues the the Nonprofit Law blog.

Kate Barr, Executive Director of the Nonprofit Assistance Fund writes an excellent blog about financial and leadership issues at their blog.

Centers for Nonprofit Management
These centers usually have good basic and state specific information. New Jersey’s Center for Nonprofits provides lots of information written in clear English, workshops and webinars. They have one on risk management that is important for Boards to know more about than they frequently do.

Accounting Firms with a Nonprofit Specialty
I have a relationship with two local accounting firms that provide nonprofit seminars, symposiums, an executive director roundtable, nonprofit newsletters and nonprofit specific accounting articles on their websites. When asked an accounting question I check out these resources to see if there is a good reference I can pass on. I subscribe to Grant Thornton’s nonprofit newsletter and check their website for resource material too. They also have workshops in New York on a regular basis.  I have learned a lot about nonprofit finance by people asking me questions and doing a little research to give them a resource.
If you are in a nonprofit leadership position – whether Board or Staff you really cannot be a “complete blank” of knowledge in this area. These resources are meant for YOU. They are not the detailed stuff the accountants know but they provide the knowledge you need to make knowledgeable decisions and ask the right questions. Start checking some out…today!