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Navigating The Crowded Non-Profit Sector

Nonprofit donors

How organizations can set themselves apart to secure—and retain—donors

By Shannon Crowley, CPA, MSA
Accounting Manager

Despite the Great Recession and the long process of economic recovery of the 2000s, the non-profit sector has become one of the country’s fastest-growing industries. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics’ most recent research, the United States is home to more than 1.5 million registered non-profit organizations—marking a nearly 20 percent increase over the last 10 years, a time frame in which many businesses in the for-profit sector have struggled.

This rapid growth is certainly a sign of success, and—as non-profits employ nearly 11 million American workers and contribute roughly $887 billion to the national economy—it is difficult for anyone to argue against the economic value of a thriving non-profit sector.

However, the unprecedented rate at which new organizations are being created is also creating a challenge. The non-profit sector is more crowded than ever before, making it very difficult for organizations to secure—and retain—their donor bases.

On a local level, there are 33,000 non-profit organizations registered in Massachusetts—each competing with one another for precious dollars from a limited pool of individual donors, corporate foundations and other fundraising sources. In a recent cover story in The Boston Globe, many industry experts argue the field of non-profit organizations in Massachusetts is simply too large to sustain.

However, the organizations themselves, and the tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents employed by non-profits, are doing everything they can to prove those experts are wrong.

And that starts with donor retention.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals reports that, on average, donor retention rates across the non-profit sector are around 43%, meaning less than half of an organization’s 2016 donor base will contribute. In order to grow in a competitive non-profit environment, organizations have to find a way to land recurring donors. To do this, non-profits are employing several strategies. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on three:

Differentiating themselves from other, potentially similar organizations

Many potential donors or grant-awarding foundations would love to support every deserving cause that asks for and needs their help. Realistically, though, donors need to choose between hundreds, if not thousands, of similarly operating organizations to which they can lend their financial support. Non-profits, especially non-profits working to support similar demographics, are under enormous pressure to set themselves apart to attract new sources of funding. It’s never been more important for a non-profit to have a very clear, very specific mission.

Investing in “fundraising infrastructure”

Fundraising success is entirely beholden to the amount of time and resources organizations are willing to invest. In order to succeed in today’s hyper-competitive non-profit sector, organizations must invest in fundraising professionals, such as high-ranking development officers, and fundraising “infrastructure,” such as top-notch technology and donor databases.

The clear, specific vision makes an organization attractive to donors. Development professionals and in-depth donor databases help organizations find them.

Increase efficiency by streamlining their accounting functions

Back-office financial work is crucial to the long-term success of the organization. That said, it’s also very time-consuming. As many organizations are investing significantly more time to their fundraising operations, some non-profit leaders are finding ways to take complex financial paperwork off their desk so they can focus on the organization’s core competencies. This may entail creating new jobs for a full-time accounting team, or hiring a third-party financial organization to take on those responsibilities.

How BlumShapiro Can Help

BlumShapiro offers the accounting, tax and business consulting expertise non-profits need today. We are one of the largest non-profit accounting service providers in New England, our blend of accounting expertise and knowledge of non-profit organizations means we can offer you tremendous added value. We can assist you in complying with state and federal grant requirements, charitable giving rules, capital campaigns, endowment fund responsibilities and other specialized needs. Learn more >>

View Shannon’s Bio Here >>

What are the responsibilities of individual non-profit board members?

shutterstock_275563196In my previous article, I laid out the overarching responsibilities of non-profit boards, which include big-picture strategic planning; selecting executive staff members; overseeing executive leadership; approving the organization’s budgets; overseeing compensation for staff members and leadership; and fundraising.

In this article, I will focus on the responsibilities of each individual board member.

Understand your fiduciary responsibilities

As members of non-profit organizations’ governing bodies, individual board members must adhere to the legal responsibilities of fiduciaries. A fiduciary is a “person who has the power and an obligation to act on behalf of another under circumstances that require total trust, good faith and honesty.”

As fiduciaries, non-profit board members have three specific legal duties:

  1. Duty of Care: To act with such care as an ordinary, prudent person would employ in your position.
  2. Duty of Loyalty: To act in good faith and in a manner you reasonably believe is in the best interest of the organization.
  3. Duty of Obedience: To be faithful to the organization’s mission. You are not permitted to act in a way that is inconsistent with the central goals of the organization. A basis for this rule lies in the public’s trust that the organization will manage donated funds to fulfill the organization’s mission.

Long story short: board members must, at all times, act in the best interest of the non-profit organizations they represent.

Educate yourself on the organization you represent

In order to responsibly serve on a non-profit’s board, members should understand the organization’s mission, strategic vision and financial situation. That means reviewing:

  • Audited financial statements of past years
  • The organization’s Form 990
  • Missions and values of the organization
  • The organization’s bylaws
  • The organization’s most recent strategic plan
  • Current financial statements

Once new board members are initiated, they should review all provided information in advance of board meetings, including financial information, so that each member is prepared to make informed and responsible decisions.

Joining committees to stay involved with the organization

Most non-profit boards have committees dedicated to specific organizational efforts. These committees vary based on the size and operations of each organization.

Individual board members should actively seek out committees relevant to their specific skill sets and interests.

 

Hatch-Michelle-150x150Michelle Hatch is a partner in our Non-Profit Services Group. She oversees audit and accounting engagements for non-profit organizations, including independent schools, trade associations, health and human service organizations and art, cultural and membership organizations. Michelle is also a member of the Employee Benefit Assurance Group and oversees audits for 401(k), 403(b) and defined benefit retirement plans.

The firm, with over 400 professionals and staff, offers a diversity of services, which includes auditing, accounting, tax and business advisory services. In addition, BlumShapiro provides a variety of specialized consulting services, such as succession and estate planning, business technology services, employee benefit plan audits, litigation support and valuation.  The firm serves a wide range of privately held companies, government and non-profit organizations and provides non-audit services for publicly traded companies.

Disclaimer: Any written tax content, comments, or advice contained in this article is limited to the matters specifically set forth herein. Such content, comments, or advice may be based on tax statues, regulations, and administrative and judicial interpretations thereof and we have no obligation to update any content, comments or advice for retroactive or prospective changes to such authorities. This communication is not intended to address the potential application of penalties and interest, for which the taxpayer is responsible, that may be imposed for non-compliance with tax law.

Revenue Recognition Step 5: Recognize Revenue When (or as) the Entity Satisfied a Performance Obligation

As noted in our prior blog post, new revenue recognition standards were issued in 2014. The fifth and final step of the new revenue recognition standard is to recognize revenue when (or as) the entity satisfies a performance obligation. An organization satisfies a performance obligation by transferring control of a promised good or service to the customer. The transfer can occur over time or at a point in time. A performance obligation is satisfied at a point in time unless it meets one of the following criteria, in which case it is satisfied over time:

  • The customer simultaneously receives and consumes the benefits provided by the entity’s performance as the entity performs.
  • The entity’s performance creates or enhances an asset that the customer controls as the asset is created or enhanced.
  • The entity’s performance does not create an asset with an alternative use to the entity, and the entity has an enforceable right to payment for performance completed to date.

Assessing whether each criterion is met will likely require significant judgment.

Read other articles in our “Revenue Recognition” Series:

Hatch, Michelle Michelle Hatch is a partner in our Non-Profit Services Group. She oversees audit and accounting engagements for non-profit organizations, including independent schools, trade associations, health and human service organizations and art, cultural and membership organizations. Michelle is also a member of the Employee Benefit Assurance Group and oversees audits for 401(k), 403(b) and defined benefit retirement plans.

Revenue Recognition Step 4: Allocate the Transaction Price to the Performance Obligations in the Contract

As noted in our prior blog post, new revenue recognition standards were issued in 2014. The fourth step of the new revenue recognition standard is to allocate the transaction price to the performance obligations in the contract. For a contract that has more than one performance obligation, an organization should allocate the transaction price to each separate performance obligation in the amount that depicts the amount of consideration to which the entity expects to be entitled in exchange for satisfying each separate performance obligation.

To allocate an appropriate amount of consideration to each performance obligation, an entity should determine the standalone selling price at contract inception of the distinct goods or services underlying each performance obligation. Sometimes, the transaction price includes a discount or variable consideration that relates entirely to one of the performance obligations in a contract. The requirements specify when an entity should allocate the discount or variable consideration to one (or some) performance obligation(s) rather than to all performance obligations.

Any subsequent changes in the transaction price should be allocated on the same basis as at contract inception.

Read other articles in our “Revenue Recognition” Series:

Hatch, MichelleMichelle Hatch is a partner in our Non-Profit Services Group. She oversees audit and accounting engagements for non-profit organizations, including independent schools, trade associations, health and human service organizations and art, cultural and membership organizations. Michelle is also a member of the Employee Benefit Assurance Group and oversees audits for 401(k), 403(b) and defined benefit retirement plans.

What is Considered Unrelated Business Income?

shutterstock_130231046Non-profit organizations that have gross income of $1,000 or more from an unrelated trade or business are required to file Form 990-T with the IRS. But what is considered unrelated business income (UBI)? According to the IRS, for most organizations, an activity is an unrelated business, and therefore subject to unrelated business income tax (UBIT), if it meets the following three requirements.

  1. It is a trade or business;
  2. It is regularly carried on; and
  3. It is not substantially related to furthering the exempt purpose of the organization.

An example of possible UBI is a non-profit organization that regularly holds weddings or other events not related to the organization’s exempt purpose on their facilities. Another is a non-profit university that regularly charges the public for usage of a parking garage for unrelated activities. Note that there are a number of exclusions and exceptions to the general definition of UBI. Determining whether a certain activity is UBI is not usually black and white and requires some judgment and analysis. Annually, management should consider their current year operations to determine if there could possibly be any UBI. Management should seek help from their tax preparer for guidance. All management decisions should be supported and documented in writing. For more information and detail on UBI and examples and exceptions, please click on the following link to the IRS Publication 598.

 

Shannon Crowley Massachusetts CPAShannon Crowley is a manager in BlumShapiro’s Accounting and Auditing Department, based in Quincy, Massachusetts, Shannon oversees audit engagements and is responsible for engagement planning, staff supervision and coordination with client personnel to ensure successful completion of projects. Shannon has worked with clients in a variety of industries, including healthcare, higher education, non-profit, manufacturing and distribution.

Revenue Recognition Step 3: Determine the Transaction Price

137299508The third step of the new revenue recognition standard is to determine the transaction price,  which is the amount of consideration to which an entity expects to be entitled and includes:

  1. An estimate of any variable consideration (i.e. amounts that vary due to rebates or bonuses) using either a probability weighted expected value or the most likely amount, whichever better predicts the amount of consideration to which the entity will be entitled.
  2. The effect of the time value of money, if there is a financing component that is significant to the contract.
  3. The fair value of any non-cash consideration.
  4. The effect of any consideration payable to the customer, such as vouchers and coupons.

The transaction price is generally not adjusted for credit risk. However, the transaction price is constrained because of variable consideration. This means that the standard limits the amount of variable consideration to the amount for which it is probable that a subsequent change in estimated variable consideration will not result in a significant revenue reversal.

This is a change from current accounting for revenue, as accounting for variable consideration is inconsistent across industries. Under current guidance, an organization does not include variable amounts in the transaction until the variability is resolved. The new standards give a single model whereby variable consideration (e.g., rebates, discounts, bonuses, right of return) will be included in the transaction price to the extent it is probable that a significant reversal in the amount of cumulative revenue recognized will not occur. This inclusion of variable consideration may accelerate the recognition of revenue compared to current standards.

Read other articles in our “Revenue Recognition” Series:

Hatch, MichelleMichelle Hatch is a partner in our Non-Profit Services Group. She oversees audit and accounting engagements for non-profit organizations, including independent schools, trade associations, health and human service organizations and art, cultural and membership organizations. Michelle is also a member of the Employee Benefit Assurance Group and oversees audits for 401(k), 403(b) and defined benefit retirement plans.

What have you done for your employee handbook lately?

In November 2014, Massachusetts citizens voted to entitle Massachusetts workers to earn and use paid sick time. In April 2015, the Attorney General released proposed regulations in order to help businesses comply with the new law. All employers are impacted by the law; however, only employers with 11 or more employees (not full-time equivalents (FTE’s)) during the calendar year are required to provide paid sick time to any employee whose primary workplace is located in Massachusetts, including part-time, full-time, seasonal or temporary employees. The new law takes effect on July 1, 2015.

According to a summary and the draft regulations published by the Attorney General’s office, some of the highlights of the new law are as follows:

• Massachusetts workers whose employers have 11 or more employees for at least 20 weeks during either the current or preceding calendar year (whether consecutive or not) can earn and use up to 40 hours of paid sick time per calendar year

• For employers with less than 11 employees for at least 16 weeks during either the current or preceding calendar year, workers can earn and use unpaid sick time

• The use of earned sick time can be used for:

o Caring for a physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition affecting the employee, spouse, child, parent or parent of a spouse

o Attending routine medical appointments for the employee, spouse, child, parent or parent of spouse

o Addressing the effects of domestic violence on the employee or employee’s dependent child

• Employees will earn at least one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked

• Hours will begin to accrue on the date of hire, or July 1, 2015 (whichever is later) and employees can begin to use the sick time 90 days after that date (July 1, 2015 or date of hire, whichever is later).

• Up to 40 hours of earned sick time can be carried over to the next calendar year, but the employer is not required to provide more than 40 hours of paid sick time in one calendar year

• Earned sick time is not required to be paid out upon termination from employment

• Employers cannot require workers to make up the used sick time

• Other provisions exist within the law regarding requirements to provide notice, certification, documentation, retaliation, confidentiality, breaks in service, exempt employees and other responsibilities on the part of the employer and employee.

The above highlights are just a sample of what is in the draft regulations. All employers should be reviewing their employee handbooks containing human resource and PTO policies to ensure that their policies are up-to-date and compliant with the new law. An experienced employment attorney is recommended to ensure that circumstances specific to each organization are considered when reviewing for compliance.

Jeanne Pagnozzi Boston AccountantJeanne Pagnozzi is a manager in BlumShapiro’s Accounting and Auditing Department, based in Quincy, Massachusetts, Jeanne oversees attest and tax engagements and is responsible for engagement planning, staff supervision and coordination with client personnel to ensure successful completion of projects.

Best Practices to Keeping Your Board of Directors Engaged

A strong, engaged board of directors is crucial to the success of any non-profit organization, no matter the size, mission or vision of that organization. Ensuring the board is engaged should be a focal point for the leadership of the organization and the board itself. It is not enough to have a full slate of board members. Each of those board members should have a clear role within the organization’s board of directors. Following are best practices in order to keep the board engaged and facilitate the fulfillment of the organization’s mission:

  1. Keep the focus on the organization’s mission. The organization’s culture should assist with all employees and board members in carrying out the mission of the organization. The mission should be at the center of all decisions made by the board and the organization. Board members and potential board members should understand the mission and continually review the activities of the organization to ensure they are in line with the mission of the organization.

  2. Continuously monitor the organization’s strategic plan, including the goals set by the strategic plan. The organization’s strategic plan is not something to file drawer or put on a bookshelf. At least twice a year a significant portion of the board meeting should be devoted to the review of the strategic plan. In addition, the strategic plan should be updated periodically, especially if significant events take place, such as staffing changes or program changes.

  3. Review the needs of the board continuously. How often does someone say to their fellow board members during a meeting, “I wish we had someone who could do that for us.” I’m sure every board has had this conversation. The board should continuously review the skills of the existing board members and identify the holes they may need to fill. For example, if the organization’s social media presence is not quite up to par, the board should seek out a potential board member that can help with social media, or someone who can guide the organization’s staff members, depending on the size of the organization.

  4. Create a clear committee structure. Committees are particularly important to small organizations that rely on board participation and volunteers. Committees are equally important to large organizations that require governance over several different programs and activities. The board should ensure all board members are part of a committee and that each committee has clear marching orders and tasks to complete. This helps board members understand their roles within the organization and keeps them engaged.

  5. Plan for the future. Succession planning for non-profit boards is important. Current leadership must work with their fellow board members to identify the future leadership of the board. This is extremely important in small organizations that are managed by the board of directors or volunteer organizations where the board members take on staff responsibilities. The current leadership should look for opportunities for those future leaders to take on responsibilities within the organization to allow them to grow their skills. They also need to keep an open dialogue with fellow board members regarding the future of the board’s leadership.

  6. Communicate. Keeping the board engaged requires a lot of communication. It is not enough anymore to fill a seat at a monthly board meeting and vote on the issues put forth by the chairperson. Decisions constantly need to be made, and committees and subcommittees are constantly working to accomplish the goals of the organization. The leadership of the organization, the board and the committees must continuously communicate with each other in order to make timely, informed decisions.

There is a lot of responsibility that comes with participating on the board of directors for an organization. The easier the organization and the current board leadership makes getting involved in the organization, the more talented future board leaders they will attract. Also, the clearer and more structured the board is, through use of committees and communications from leadership, the more engaged the board members will be. This will result in a more productive and effective board for the organization, allowing for the organization’s success in fulfilling their mission.

Jessie Kanter, CPA, is a manager in the firm’s Accounting and Auditing Department with 15 years of public accounting experience. She has provided audit services to a variety of clients, including non-profit organizations. Jessie’s focus is in quality control of financial statement audits in which she provides consulting on complex technical accounting matters and internal support and review for the firm.

Revenue Recognition Step 2: Identify the Performance Obligation in the Contract

The second step of the new revenue recognition standard is to identify the performance obligation in the contract. In this step, an entity will evaluate the goods and services offered and determine which are distinct and should be accounted for as separate performance obligations. The key determinant for identifying a separate performance obligation is whether the good or service is distinct.

A good or service is distinct if both of the following criteria are met:

1. Capable of being distinct. This means a customer can benefit from a good or service if the good or service can be used, consumed, sold for an amount that is greater than scrap value or otherwise held in a way that generates economic benefits.

2. Distinct within the context of the contract. Factors that indicate that an entity’s promise to transfer a good or service to a customer is separately identifiable include, but are not limited to, the following:

• The organization is not using the good or service as an input to produce or deliver the combined output specified by the customer.

• The good or service does not significantly modify or customize another good or service promised in the contract.

• The good or service is not highly dependent on, or highly interrelated with, other goods or services promised in the contract.

Each distinct good or service is separately identified from other promises in the contract and represents a separate performance obligation.

Stay tuned for our next post, which will cover transaction pricing.

Read other articles in our “Revenue Recognition” Series:

Revenue Recognition Step 1: Identify the Contract(s) with a Customer

As noted in our prior blog post, new revenue recognition standards were issued in 2014. The first step of the new revenue recognition standard is to identify the contract(s) with a customer. A contract with a customer must meet all of the following criteria:

1. Has approval and commitment of the parties
2. Rights of the parties are identified
3. Payment terms are identified
4. The contract has commercial substance
5. Collectability of consideration is probable

The contract may be written, verbal or implied by customary business practices. The enforceability of the rights and obligations in a contract are a matter of law and vary across legal jurisdictions, industries and entities. An entity should consider these practices and processes in determining when an agreement with a customer creates enforceable rights and obligations of that entity.

A contract does not exist if each party has the unilateral enforceable right to terminate a wholly unperformed contract without compensation to the other party. A contract is wholly unperformed if both of the following criteria are met:

1. The entity has not yet transferred any promised goods or services to the customer
2. The entity has not yet received, and is not yet entitled to receive, any consideration in exchange for promised goods or services.

If an organization receives consideration from a customer, and a contract with a customer does not meet the criteria to be considered a contract under revenue recognition, the entity should recognize the consideration received as revenue only when either of the following events occur:

1. The organization has no remaining obligations to transfer goods or services to the customer, and all, or substantially all, of the consideration promised by the customer has been received by the entity and is non-refundable.
2. The contract has been terminated and the consideration received from the customer is non-refundable.

If one of the above criteria is not met, the organization should record the consideration received as a liability until a contract exists or one of the above criteria is met.

There is also an option to combine two or more contracts entered into at or near the same time with the same customer, and account for them as one contract if they meet the following criteria:

1. The contracts are negotiated as a package with a single commercial objective.
2. The amount of consideration to be paid in one contract depends on the other price or performance of the other contract.
3. The goods and services promised in the contracts (or a portion of goods and services promised in the contracts) are a single performance obligation.

In addition, in this step entities must also determine whether or not it is probable that the consideration to which it is entitled will be collected. This includes considering the customer’s ability and intention to pay the consideration when it is due. If it is not probable that an organization will collect the consideration, then revenue will not be recognized until payment is collected from the customer.

In our next post, we will cover how to identify the performance obligation in a contract.

Read other articles in our “Revenue Recognition” Series:

 

Michelle Hatch is a partner in our Non-Profit Services Group. She oversees audit and accounting engagements for non-profit organizations, including independent schools, trade associations, health and human service organizations and art, cultural and membership organizations. Michelle is also a member of the Employee Benefit Assurance Group and oversees audits for 401(k), 403(b) and defined benefit retirement plans.