Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Choosing an Auditor

Steven K. Stucky, CPA, Sikich LLP

Being part of a non-profit organization, you know how important it is to timely and accurately report your financial information. These include how much money you are receiving in donations and for what activities those funds are being used. Though many non-profits are not required to have audits performed, your organization’s bylaws may require one.

How do you go about selecting an auditor?

1. Qualifications: First and foremost, find a few potential candidate firms that have the capabilities for which you are looking and dig into their qualifications. Who are the individual staff members with whom you’ll be working directly?
2. Experience: Do they have audit experience in the non-profit sector, or even better, do they have dedicated teams that only work with non-profit organizations? What is their reputation in the industry?
3. Geography: Is it important to have a local auditor, or can you work remotely with one? If you want a local auditor, does the firm have an office in your geographic area?
4. Education: Regulations and laws are constantly changing. How do your audit candidates keep current in the non-profit sector? Are they personally involved with any non-profit organizations at the leadership level?
5. Services: Is it possible that you’ll want or require other services in the future, other than audits? If so, look into a firm that can provide a wide range of services—whether that’s additional tax-related services or even human resources, marketing or technology consulting. Keep in mind that these additional services do not create a conflict of interest with the audit.

The bottom line: Choose an auditor with whom you are comfortable working. Take the time to request proposals, examine what each firm has to offer, engage in interviews with candidates and ensure that your selection is the best fit.

FMI, contact By Steven K. Stucky, CPA; Partner, Sikich LLP. Steven can be reached at 317-842-4466 sstucky@sikich.com.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Surprise People!

Those were the parting words of Michael Kaiser, the President of the Kennedy Center (for the performing arts) and a nationally recognized guru in revitalizing and rejuvenating struggling arts organizations. He joined a panel of local arts leaders in discussing the importance of arts to our community and strategies to strengthen local arts organizations. The session was initiated by Kathleen Hacker of UIndy and took place before a full house at the DeHaan Fine Arts Center on the UIndy campus. Dennis Ryerson, former publisher of the Indy Star was moderator. I have read several of Mr. Kaiser’s books, including “Art of the Turnaround” and really appreciate his perspectives. A few of his comments that stood out to me:

- Build a positive cycle based on “Great Art, Well Marketed” that creates a “family” of active supporters that “attracts funds” through attendance, donations, and sponsorships and supports more “Great Art”.
- Plan your programming several years out so you can be ambitious and rally support
- Most organizations should be doing something to surprise their “family” and the community at least four times each year – large arts organization should aim for monthly.
- There are not too many arts organizations but many are not providing “Great Art, Well Marketed”.
- Institutional marketing, making a name for the organization, is at least as important as marketing specific performances in building financial support.

- There are limited economic efficiencies possible in the performance of most art forms.
- Our venues limit our options – locking ourselves into a facility limits our flexibility and earned income potential.
- It would make a dramatic difference if arts organizations put the same energy into developing managers, audiences, and resources, as they put into developing their programs, artists, and artistic directors.
- It is common for a mainstream arts organization to raise 60% plus of its support from individual donors and corporations, that % drops to 8% for arts organizations in minority communities who are mainly supported by government and foundations.

I refrained from asking him my question about whether there have been any communities who have recently established United Arts Funds or workplace giving programs to promote arts in a broader context to their communities. Cincinnati and Louisville created the first programs in 1949 and now they exist in more than 60 U.S. cities raising $10s of millions of dollars, and just as importantly, visibility and buy-in for the arts. Maybe he would respond to an e-mail.

For more information
- History of United Arts Funds (Cincy efforts www.theartswave.org)
- Michael Kaiser’s efforts in training and educating arts leaders at www.ArtsManager.org
- Jay Harvey at the Indianapolis Star did a nice job capturing the conversation.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Be part of 'Walking for Dreams 2013', Raise $$

Last year, over 1500 walkers raised over $100,000 for the 35 participating nonprofits. Over the past 8 years, close to 100 organizations have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, in total. I have been involved since the 2nd or 3rd year. I think of 'Walking for Dreams' as the walk-a-thon event for organizations who: 1) aren't big enough to do their own event or 2) don't want to spend valuable volunteer or staff time on event organizing, or 3) want to gather a group of their supporters around fund raising for one particular program.

Here's how it works: There is a $400 upfront fee, but then the Sycamore Foundation plans, manages, and runs the event and your organization keeps the remainder of funds that you raise. They even provide an on-line donation website where your walkers can form teams and receive donations. All your nonprofit does is solicit walkers to participate and raise funds for your organization. Whether you have 5 walkers or 50, it is a fun event and can raise a meaningful amount of money for the effort you invest.

Promoted as the 'Walking for Dreams Family and Pet 5k Walk', the event encompasses just a couple hours of a beautiful Sunday afternoon on the scenic Canal Walk downtown. The energy is terrific, the colors are bright, the faces are happy. Each organization is assigned a table to greet and gather their walkers plus promote their organization to others in attendance. Everyone steps out together and then winds their way through the walk route and back to food and festivities at their own pace.

I have discovered that a Walk-a-thon event is a great way to introduce people to your organization, a good strategy to give reluctant board members or staff a 'harmless' way to talk about your organization with friends and family, and a nice time for social connection between people who care about your organization. To learn more or get your organization signed up for the May 19, 2013 event, visit: www.WalkingforDreams.org.