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AICPA Survey Points to Big Data, Increased Scrutiny as Big Concerns for CPAs

August 7th, 2014 No comments

Although “big data” has been sort of a buzzword in the business world, it’s becoming more and more of a concern for accountants, including those working in the nonprofit sector. In a past blog post we’ve discussed ways nonprofits can leverage big data, and it appears that the issue of analyzing electronic data is only going to become more important in the near future.

According to The 2014 AICPA Survey on International Trends, published July 30, 85% of CPAs in forensic and valuation services cited big data as their biggest concern going forward. This is a shift from past surveys, which typically placed hiring and retention as the top priority.

Data numbers and line graph

The second most pressing concern for respondents of the survey was increased complexity and scrutiny, coming from different sources such as judges and governing bodies.

Although accountants working for NFPs and NGOs were not included in the survey, these two issues—big data and increased complexity and scrutiny—are big concerns for the nonprofit sector. Peter Brinckerhoff, a former Executive Director of two regional nonprofits and author and internationally renowned lecturer on nonprofit management issues, has stated that transparency and accuracy are two of the most pressing issues for nonprofit financial management.

The Importance of Transparency for Nonprofits

In a whitepaper written for Serenic Software, Brinckerhoff states, “Transparency is no longer optional, either inside or outside the organization.”

Nonprofits, if anything, are under more scrutiny than private sector companies. As Brinkerhoff states, your financials are “on public display at many nonprofit watchdog websites, such as GuideStar and Charity Navigator.”

Reporting requirements are getting more complex, as well. Nonprofits work directly with auditors, and they need to stay on top of all state and federal requirements for reporting, including new requirements for IRS forms 990, 990N, and 990T.

“You might as well have a reporting system that facilitates this easily,” writes Brinkerhoff, “not one that you have to spend hours pulling numbers from.”

The Opportunities of Big Data for Nonprofits

Financial information is a huge part of big data, and making sense of it is a unique challenge that CFOs, board members, and accountants must grapple with.

Brinkerhoff writes, “You still can’t manage what you don’t measure, and like it or not, financial measurements are part of the mission outcome.”  Increasingly, the ability to measure and analyze big data will be crucial to a nonprofit’s financial goals and overall mission.

The biggest opportunity for big data is the potential to gather and analyze financial data in real time, and use it to make important organizational decisions.

Only advanced software solutions give your nonprofit organization the capability to both analyze big data and provide the necessary reporting for complete transparency.

 

Photo by: Tom

 

Accountability and Transparency Highlighted at DFMC

October 11th, 2012 No comments

We recently attended the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference (DFMC) in Houston, TX, a show that has become a staple event in our annual schedule.  We had the opportunity to catch up with some of our nonprofit accounting software users such as the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Fargo, as well as meet new friends.

Our client breakfast featured a demonstration of BudgetVision and the new features included in Serenic Navigator 6.00.02, including enhancements to the Deposits & Loans module.  In addition to the positive feedback we continue to hear from our clients about our Deposits & Loans module, the visitors to our booth also relayed their excitement about a fully integrated Deposits & Loans and Investments module with the Serenic Navigator financial management suite.

One highlight of the conference was the Sunday night keynote speech given by Cardinal Dolan.  He noted that he expects the next attack on the Church to come as an assault on the church’s financial stewardship.  However, by being prepared and using good tools to increase accountability and transparency, the fiscal managers can be equipped to deflect any negative attention.

The members of the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference (DFMC) are united to serve the Roman Catholic Church in the ministry of fiscal management.  In particular, this organization promotes the spiritual growth of its members, encourages the development of professional relationships among members, facilitates the free exchange of ideas and information, and provides fiscal and administrative expertise and professional services to the local and national Church.

See you again next year!

 

See you at the Christian Nonprofit Leadership Academy

September 13th, 2012 No comments

Serenic is looking forward to sponsoring and exhibiting at the Christian Nonprofit Leadership Academy in Denver, September 25– 28. We are one of four sponsors in attendance and will host a table to provide information about the Serenic Navigator financial management suite.  You’ll also have the chance to hear from Chris Brewer, Regional Sales Manager, during the dinner we are sponsoring on Thursday the 27th.

We realize that when you work for a faith-based organization, managing your financials should be secondary to your spiritual work.  That’s why Trans World Radio and Joyce Meyer Ministries both use Serenic Navigator to improve their financial control.  Financial control can help manage risks, provide any warning signs of fraud, meet regulations, prepare you for audits, and provide transparency.

According to the CLA, this academy provides, “ministry leaders with in-depth training in the most important areas of organizational leadership for Christian ministries.”

Some sessions we plan to attend and think would be especially valuable to nonprofit accounting software users are:

  • Protecting Your Ministry’s Finances
  • Building Better Boards
  • Estate and Gift Design:  the major donor/planned giving alliance

We hope to see you there!

 

Visit Serenic Software at DFMC!

September 11th, 2012 No comments

Serenic is once again looking forward to exhibiting at this year’s Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference (DFMC) in Houston, TX.  In addition to exhibiting, we are also going to host a Serenic client breakfast on Monday, September 24th.  We will demonstrate the new features available in Serenic Navigator 6.00.02, including enhancements to the Serenic Deposits & Loan module. Serenic BudgetVision, integrated nonprofit budgeting software, will also be presented during the demonstration.

When you work for an archdiocese or diocese, managing your financials should be secondary to serving your mission. With Serenic Navigator, certified for Microsoft Dynamics NAV, you have financial software designed specifically for archdioceses and dioceses. Serenic Navigator provides the information you need to:

•             Streamline workflow processes

•             Enhance productivity

•             Ensure transparency

•             Easily budget and forecast

•             Simplify deposit and loan management

We look forward to seeing you this year. Be sure to stop by our booth, #14, for your chance to win a travel-friendly laptop bag, and to pick-up a free gift.   If you are one of our nonprofit accounting software users, please contact us at 877.737.3642 ext. 111 for details on the breakfast.

The DFMC is the “extension of the diocesan bishop in fiscal matters” and encourages the professional development of its members with networking, best practices, and fiscal and administrative expertise.

 

Achieving Financial Transparency for Dioceses – Evaluate Your Existing Solutions

February 16th, 2012 No comments

Evaluate your existing financial solutions with these questions:

1. The USCCB recommended the use of the FASB standard financial presentation. Does your current system facilitate this type of reporting?

2. Catholic schools are being challenged by increased operational costs and an economy in which families are opting to send their children to public schools because of the cost. Have you reviewed the administrative operations of schools and parishes to find potential economies of scale by centralizing functions such as payroll processing?

3. Would centralizing each organization’s fundraising activities and/or providing more detailed information on how funds are managed /spent assist in securing larger contributions from parishioners? Do you have such a centralized system in place?

This concludes our series about how Serenic can save time on financial and accounting tasks for diocese, and help you focus on your core mission.

Access the “Achieving Financial Transparency for Dioceses” FREE whitepaper.

Achieving Financial Transparency for Dioceses – Benefits Part 2

February 9th, 2012 No comments

Last week, we took a look at some of the benefits of installing one integrated financial management system across a diocese’s central office, its parishes, and schools. This week, we’re looking at a few more of the benefits that can help increase overall operational efficiency.

More Accurate Data Typically, parishes and schools produce reports for the diocese by printing their data and then manually completing paper forms or by completing online data questionnaires. With import and export capabilities, the right system can eliminate duplication of data entry and the inherent entry errors that can occur. If all entities were using the same system, the consolidation of this information would be automatic.
Better Planning Parishes and schools can manage their funds more effectively throughout the year with cash flow reports and budgeting tools provided by the right solution. They can use tools to determine, for example, if dollars will be available to fund a youth ministry program based on forecasts.
Meet Financial Transparency Goals Ultimately, the right financial management solution implemented over time can help a diocese accomplish the following goals, ensuring it is demonstrating a complete picture of its financial well being:

• Improve transparency and accountability
• Set up electronic approvals and budgetary controls
• Produce budgets and plans for detailed projects or programs
• Increase the efficiency of procurement functions
• Have instant access to critical financial data across any time frame
• Allocate expenses in real-time to increase the accuracy of data
• Manage the entire grant lifecycle

Thanks for learning more about how Serenic can save time on financial and accounting tasks, and help you focus on your core mission.

Access the “Achieving Financial Transparency for Dioceses” FREE whitepaper.

Achieving Financial Transparency for Dioceses- Benefits Part 1

February 2nd, 2012 No comments

 

Benefits for Dioceses

The right financial management system should support and enhance the unique workflow processes of dioceses to help increase operational efficiency, manage cash flow and investments, and generate detailed financial reports. With one system installed across a diocese’s central offices, its parishes and schools, it can expect to realize these benefits:

 

Better Time Allocation With an automated, integrated and standardized accounting system for parishes and schools, more time can be devoted to the vital ministries of the church. The system should make the administrative side of the clergy’s and other leaders’ work more manageable. More timely and accurate reports will be available to church leadership, finance councils, parishioners and parents of school students. An integrated database will allow information to become more accessible to the diocese to save time in gathering data.
Cost Savings A diocese’s parishes and schools can eliminate redundant processes, save money on maintenance and no longer require expensive workaround solutions. In addition, parishes and schools will avoid the potentially catastrophic expense of losing data after a physical server problem. All data can be backed up in a centralized environment from an integrated database. By implementing a single hosted solution, a diocese can expect to eliminate the costs involved in backup management, software updates and additional IT infrastructure at the parish level.
More Reliable Access
To More Complete
Information
A diocese can expect to be able to provide access to advanced technology solutions that individual parishes may not have been able to afford on their own and can expect that more information will be available in real time. In addition, by standardizing the chart of accounts and providing template report formats for parishes and schools, a chancery’s office can expect to provide stronger reporting to finance councils, boards of education and the diocese.
Time Savings Instead of preparing consolidated reports manually, a diocese will benefit from the right solution’s enterprise reporting capabilities, which can significantly reduce the time needed to communicate financial information from the parish, as well as from school leadership.

 

Check back next week as we discuss more of the benefits for Dioceses.

Access the “Achieving Financial Transparency for Dioceses” FREE whitepaper.

Achieving Financial Transparency for Dioceses- Requirements of a Financial Management System

January 26th, 2012 No comments

Financial controls are actually a subset of internal controls and typically refer to segregation of duties. The right financial controls ensure that the person entering invoices to be paid, for example, is not also able to mark the checks for payment or cut the checks without someone else’s involvement in the process. It is important that such processes are in place throughout a diocese, however, this becomes challenging in smaller parishes where there is only a part-time bookkeeper using a manual or moderately automated system. The financial controls need to be documented and monitored, especially if using a manual method. A computerized application through which these “duties” can be limited and the controls enforced with the system security, therefore, is an ideal solution. Dioceses might examine the economies of scale created by centralizing processes and – if possible – provide access for smaller parishes to computerized solutions that they may not be able to afford on their own.

Faced with the ultimate responsibility of the entire diocese, such a financial control system needs to possess certain attributes to ensure fiscal needs are met. Requirements for an enterprise-wide solution include:

Effective and efficient processes – System should eliminate duplicate entry; automate manual processes; provide economies of scale; provide services from within the diocese finance department to all areas of the diocese (e.g., payroll). Investment is best in an application that can be rolled out and phased in over time to provide a costeffective solution with economies of scale. A vertically focused solution embedded within a leading mid-market application platform adds tremendous value, because it is
designed to be scalable to serve diverse needs while providing a set of industry-specific functionality (e.g. chart of accounts structure and adherence to key financial reporting standards).

Reliable financial statements and accounting records – Software should provide a strong audit trail and reporting tools that enable easy ad-hoc as well as management-style report generation.

Safeguard assets – A solution should provide the tools to manage investments and revolving loan funds as well as physical (fixed) assets; offer an audit trail and the ability to enforce financial controls.

Adherence to management policy and procedures – System should, again, provide an audit trail and financial controls, as well as automated workflow and business rules to help prove that mandated procedures are being followed.

Check back next week as we discuss some of the benefits for Dioceses.

Access the “Achieving Financial Transparency for Dioceses” FREE whitepaper.

Achieving Financial Transparency for Dioceses – Increased Need for Financial Controls

January 19th, 2012 No comments

Over the past few years especially, reports of financial scandals within the Catholic Church have flooded the media and prompted
new recommendations from church governing bodies. A widely publicized 2006 survey by researchers at Villanova University found
that 85 percent of Roman Catholic dioceses that responded had discovered embezzlement of church money in the last five years, with
11 percent reporting that more than $500,000 had been stolen.

The USCCB Accounting Practices Committee (APC) concluded that “the vast majority of the aforementioned frauds appear to be occurring at the parish level. At the APC meeting in January 2007, this topic was thoroughly studied and several recommendations were made to enhance the financial governance in the 19,000+ parishes.”  The group’s Accounting Report recommended the use of
the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) standard financial presentation.

Previously in 1995, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) created the Diocesan Internal Controls, making the Bishop
effectively responsible for the entire diocese. The forward stated that “all administrators are to perform their duties with the diligence of a good householder. The bishop can delegate the authority but not the responsibility. He has the duty to ensure that no abuses exist in the administration of church goods within the diocese.”

The Villanova study suggested that whether an organization is a Fortune 500 company or a diocese, the objectives of the internal control structure remain the same (2):
1. Provide reliable financial statements and accounting records
2. Safeguard the entity’s assets
3. Promote operational efficiency and effectiveness
4. Promote adherence to the mission of the Church or organization

Check back next week as we discuss the requirements of a financial management system.

Access the “Achieving Financial Transparency for Dioceses” FREE whitepaper.

Achieving Financial Transparency for Dioceses

January 12th, 2012 1 comment

For all organizations in the nonprofit sector, financial transparency is synonymous with survival. Dependence on donors necessitates an ongoing demonstration of where money is spent and how funded activities and programs fulfill defined mission statements. While Catholic dioceses are not required by law to be transparent and accountable, there is a definite shift towards the production of financial reports that provide a complete picture of the financial health of the entire diocese from the bishop’s and archbishop’s office down to the parishioner donor level.

Recent events have emphasized the importance of financial transparency. From embezzled funds to extortion, indictments have been handed down within the Catholic Church and a strong case has been built for not only increased scrutiny, but for better safeguarding of a diocese’s assets.

Like any nonprofit group that constantly works to do more with less money and resources, it can be a daunting challenge for dioceses to provide a more holistic financial view of multiple, complex layers of the organizations in their areas of service. From schools and parishes to cemeteries, there exists a strong need for the chancery office to help each operating center succeed without adding a huge burden to its own management responsibilities.

Challenges at the organizational level include Catholic schools facing increased operational costs and a market in which many families cannot afford the expense of private schools. Nonprofits, in general, today are faced with declining donations in an uncertain economy.

Check back next week as we discuss the increased need for financial controls.

Access the “Achieving Financial Transparency for Dioceses” FREE whitepaper.