Keeping the Focus on the Mission

This blog was originally published on the Standards for Excellence Institute® website, for which Maribel is a peer reviewer. As a peer reviewer, she evaluates an organization’s application for compliance with the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector.

You start with the mission – Point A.  This is your intent. You want to achieve the objectives – Point B, which is stated in your mission.  This is your goal.  You then create your annual report, which is a way of showcasing your accomplishments.  The fundamental message of this report is demonstrate how well you’ve connected the dots.  So why did your annual report miss point B?

Many organizations report on accomplishments that do not address their stated mission, or there is no clear and logical connection between their intent and their achievements.  Some organizations measure activities instead of results. I suspect that many find themselves confronted with having to report their accomplishments, and at the time, come up with the best available data that somehow measures what they’ve done.  This is a last-minute exercise at displaying such a vital aspect of your organization. I view this as a lack of proper planning at the time you set your mission and improper mapping of those essential points that align your intent with your accomplishments.

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Finance Department on Steroids

I always appreciate the opportunity to talk to a prospective client who has not selected us for their services.  Hey, it happens to all of us!  A few days ago, I had a great chat with one such prospective client from whom I had not heard in several months.  The great part about that conversation is that it was no longer weighed down by his attempts to interview me for the “job.”  It was a very casual but insightful conversation in which he shared his two-month experience with having replaced his accounting staff with a full-service accounting firm (our competitors).

During our conversation, this executive director of a not-for-profit organization stated that the term “outsourcing” carries a negative connotation and doesn’t properly describe the relationship that he has developed with the team and the services he is receiving.  As he considered his alternatives a few months ago, he was afraid that any outsourcing would take the finance function completely off his plate to the point that he would lose touch.  He felt there might be a disconnect when the information was brought to the decision table – namely with his treasurer and board.

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Becoming a Digital CPA Firm – Challenges to Clients

This blog was originally published on the AICPA’s subsidiary, website. Maribel is a member of the Advisory Board for and the AICPA Digital CPA Conference. As an advisory board member, Maribel helps empower CPAs and businesses for the digital age.

 Becoming a digital CPA firm is an immediate benefit to clients; that’s a no-brainer.  Clients’ systems become more secure and efficient with fewer touch points.  Clients will have real-time access to their data and remote access to data from most digital devices.  In addition, they get to see their financials in a dashboard format that is easy to understand.  You would think that there would be few if any challenges, right?

Clients enjoy predictability from their service providers.  Predictability is a crucial ingredient to the trust equation.  Attempting to change the processes and the way they must now think about the information brings instability, even if the client understands the benefits.  A usual question is, “Why change a system that is working well at this time?”  Timing can be an issue since we usually try to make these changes to coincide with the client’s fiscal year end, but it may not be the most convenient time for the client if they have an important event or vacation planned.

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Happy auditors= good audit

We just finished the financial statement audit of one of our clients. The auditor, with whom we’ve worked for many years, came to see me after he finished filed work to discuss how the audit went and what to expect.  I was surprised by how much he had to say about the credit card and bill payment system we had implemented last year for this client.

The client being audited is a not-for-profit organization that operates in a virtual environment.  They have staff in practically every state and we operate their entire Finance Department.  Last year, we implemented for their bills and Expensify for their credit card bills.  There are 13 credit cards, since each program director has one.  In addition, employees can request reimbursement of expenses through Expensify.

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Becoming a Digital CPA Firm – Challenges to Staff

This blog was originally published on the AICPA’s subsidiary, website. Maribel is a member of the Advisory Board for and the AICPA Digital CPA Conference. As an advisory board member, Maribel helps empower CPAs and businesses for the digital age.

Attending the and AICPA’s first Digital CPA Conference at the end of 2012 was a huge “Aha!” moment for me.   For years I knew that technology was advancing rapidly and that the processes we were using to service our clients could be replaced with much more efficient workflows.  During our internal team meetings we discussed increasing the efficiency of our processing of transactions to allow us to focus on being our clients’ advisors.  The Digital CPA Conference provided the context and platforms I thought existed but did not know how to bring together.  We jumped in the digital bandwagon and started the process of becoming a digital CPA firm.  This was over 18 months ago and even though we’ve come a long way, we have encountered several expected and unexpected challenges along the way.

Our first mistake was not being clear and specific about how these changes would affect each staff member. 

Making the decision was never a challenge since I hold the highest level of decision-making in the firm.  However, I needed to quickly get the buy-in from other leaders in the firm – I need a champion to echo my excitement and sense of urgency.  We were off to a good start after attending a two-day workshop that gave us sufficient compelling reasons to move in this direction.  It was on the way back from this workshop that we discussed how this new blueprint for servicing our clients would affect staff members and company culture.  We recognized this was going to be one of our immediate expected challenges.  The unexpected challenge was the blank expressions we faced during our quarterly firm meeting after showing a very detailed power point presentation of the changes we had in mind for the firm.

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5 Steps to Approving a Bank Reconciliation

Reviewing the monthly bank reconciliations is part of a complete set of internal controls for your organization’s financial process and will be an item your auditors will look for.  However, for those of you new to this task or for those who simply want a quick break-down of the process, read on… I will try to simplify it for you in 5 easy steps.


A bank reconciliation report is fundamentally a comparison of your bank account balance according to the bank versus the bank account balance according to your accounting records.  You must therefore request the following three documents to do a proper review:

  1. Bank statement (from the bank) for the corresponding month.
  2. Reconciliation Report for the corresponding month (this is generated from the accounting software).
  3. Balance Sheet or Trial Balance for the corresponding month (also generated from the accounting software). Continue reading “5 Steps to Approving a Bank Reconciliation” »

New Standards of Excellence for Nonprofits

The Standards of Excellence Institute released its enhanced code of ethics and accountability for the nonprofit sector.  See press release

The Maryland Association of Nonprofits, the organization that created the national Institute, hosted a forum on version 2 of their code for seal holders, peer reviewers and licensed consultants.  During the forum, they introduced the process followed, key changes and major additions.  I attended as a peer reviewer and walked away with excitement for the new and enhanced process and standards. Continue reading “New Standards of Excellence for Nonprofits” »