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Your nonprofit's
success guaranteed.

We guarantee you'll
raise more in your first
year or your money back.

Terms and conditions apply

Help! I’ve Been Accused of Nonprofit Accounting Misconduct

I appreciate you taking questions! We just had a bookkeeper quit, citing that she felt it was morally reprehensible that my wage (with a % of my time spent on fundraising) was being wrongfully charged to the Administration accounting class (rather than a Development class). We are in the process of changing our accounting to have my fundraising time charged to a development class, but really, how big of a legal error is this?? 

Many errors in her bookkeeping have been found since she left, including paycheck mis-accounting for a year, so I think this was an easy out for her, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. 

How big of a legal error? It depends on a number of factors that vary by state and are best reviewed with a licensed legal professional.

In the interim, friend to friend…my sense is your instincts are spot on in this situation. The bookkeeper needed an out and attacking how your wage is recorded was an easy target. This individual may assume you would be so shocked or embarrassed by her assessment, you would be less likely to share a negative review of her work. If you are comfortable with the previous allocation to the Administration accounting class and plan to allocate to Development moving forward, don’t give it one more minute of airtime. Upward and onward! 😊

Homework: listen to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” 4x/day until concerns disappear.

Additional info on Nonprofit Accounting Basics – https://www.nonprofitaccountingbasics.org/videos

Who should have access to fundraising analytics? Our ED wants to see progress towards goals DAILY – if not multiple times a day. We use fundraising software so I could just give them a login but I’m worried about them poking around, asking a lot of questions about process, sharing login info with a couple of their friends on the (very nosy and overly involved) board. I feel like I’ll be under a microscope. Best practices?

The numbers are the numbers, right? Smart fundraisers know when it comes to analytics, the more the merrier. It requires a little time on the front end, but once you get started, you will be sailing in a sea of compliments in no time.

Be proactive. Take the time you need to get started on the right foot. Get this right now and you will artfully dodge unpleasant headaches down the road. The key to success is developing a one-page “Policies and Procedures” or “P&P document,” preferably a form to share with EVERYONE who has requested a login to your Fundraising Software.

BEST PRACTICE: ask all users to return a signed copy of the P&P form to you prior to receiving login details. Set the tone for how serious this is and others will follow suit.

On this document, I encourage you to include –

  1. List of roles with an explanation of why someone would be a user or need the login details (select one)
  2. Confidentiality policy – encourage users to think about how they would want others to review and/or share details of their giving history and meeting notes
  3. List of everything you want ALL users to know about the process. For example, include the estimated amount of time from when a check is received to when it is entered into the system. If this list exceeds ten items, I encourage you to review and revise your gift recording process.
  4. A staff point of contact for questions and estimated response time. Pro tip – include this in ALL CAPS, BOLD FONT. If anything looks even slightly off, you want users to come to you before replying ALL to an ALL BOARD or ALL STAFF email.
  5. A warning-style disclaimer about how access to the Fundraising Software can be terminated at any time without warning or notice.

Don’t hesitate to run this document by your favorite legal mind prior to distribution. Your organization’s ability to maintain accurate donor records is vital to your nonprofit’s long-term financial health. Treat this with the discretion it deserves.

Ask a Fundraising Coach is Network for Good’s weekly advice column, where Personal Fundraising Coach Andrea Holthouser tackles your toughest challenges in the world of fundraising, nonprofit management, donor relations, and more.

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