Michigan Women's Foundation, 17177 North Laurel Park Dr., Suite 445, Livonia, MI 48152
telephone: (734) 542-3946; fax: (734) 542-3952; http://comnet.org/mwf
Center for Women, 25 Sheldon Blvd., SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503
telephone: (616) 742-2389; fax: (616) 459-8460

Michigan Women's Foundation
Women's Road Map
The Newsletter of MWF's Management Assistance Program
September 1992


Finance

Audits: Most nonprofits need, and may have, an audit performed each year by a certified Public Accounting firm. Most nonprofit executives dread the process and wonder sometimes whether it's money well-spent.

An audit is an examination of the financial statements of an organization by an independent auditor. It's designed to express an opinion on whether the statements as a whole have been properly prepared within a framework of recognized accounting policies as to present fairly the financial position and result of the organization. (Definition adapted from an Accountants for the Public Interest guide; see below.)

Many nonprofits are required by funders, state regulatory agencies and/or the federal government to have an audit performed. Even if your nonprofit is not required to do so, there are other reasons to seriously consider engaging an auditing firm:

  • Provides assurances that financial statements conform to generally accepted accounting principles and are not materially misstated;
  • Potential funders may require one as part of the application process;
  • Bankers, creditors and vendors may find them useful, e.g. when you're applying for a loan or line of credit or leasing equipment;
  • An audit can be useful to your directors for planning and control purposes

    There's no doubt that accounting services are very expensive, typically costing anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 (though the range can be higher or lower). Nonprofits often are able to have an audit performed at a reduced price by an audit firm that likes the work they do in the community, though keep in mind that you're competing for that kind of consideration with every other nonprofit in town.

    In selecting an auditor, be sure that the firm and the person who will conduct the audit are experienced in nonprofit accounting and avoid conflicts of interest. That wonderful CPA who serves on your board is not the appropriate person to be providing the audit; and, according to the API, the independence standards governing CPAs prohibit the use of auditors who are close relatives of members of your governing board.

    API is a national network of affiliates through which accountants volunteer their time and expertise to nonprofit organizations, small businesses and individuals who need, but cannot afford, professional accounting services. Among the programs provided by affiliates are: tax assistance clinics, hotlines for accounting questions, financial management seminars, and direct assistance to small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

    For more information on API programs, call (202)347-1668 or write to the address below.

    To prevent an audit from becoming an annual nightmare and to assure instead that it becomes a valuable management tool for the board and staff, API -- with a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation -- has published three guides for nonprofits: What A Difference Nonprofits Make: A Guide to Accounting Procedures ($10 regular price/$8 API member), What A Difference Preparation Makes: A Guide to the Nonprofit Audit ($15/$12); and National Directory of Volunteer Accounting Programs, 2nd Ed. ($6/$4.80). Send a check or money order to: Accountants for the Public Interest, 1012- 14th St., NW, Ste. 906, Washington, D.C. 20005.


    Communications

    Media Guides: Is your organization making the best use of free publicity like talk radio, the newspaper editorial page and cable access? Are you thinking about production a video designed to sell your organization or programs? Could an 800 or 900 telephone number help your organization reach more people with more and better services?

    The Benton Foundation and the Center for Strategic Communications (with funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund) have published a series of nine media guides for nonprofits that make for fascinating reading and are packed full of forward thinking ideas, practical advice and how-tos. The series includes: Talk Radio, Voice Programs, Op-Eds, Using Video, Media Advocacy, Cable Access, Electronic Networking, and Strategic Media. The guides range from 25 - 60 pages and are a bargain at $50 a set ($35/set for orders of 10 or more).

    For more information, write or call: Benton Foundation, 1710 Rhode Island Ave., NW, 4th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036; 202/857-7829.


    Administration

    Americans With Disabilities Act: The ADA became law in July, 1990. It is now in effect for most large nonprofits and will take effect for smaller nonprofits (with 15-25 employees) in July, 1994.

    According to the July/August issue of Nonprofit World, the ADA provides that employers must have their offices ready to accommodate people with disabilities. This means making "reasonable accommodations" for employees and job applicants with disabilities, including changing work hours, restructuring job requirements, acquiring new equipment, moving facilities or making structural changes. The journal points out that most changes won't be expensive, and both disabled employees and the organization will benefit.

    For more information on how to meet your obligations, call the ABA hotline of the Disability Rights and Education Defense Fund at 1-800-466-4232.


    Fundraising

    Fundraising Idea: Lansing Auto Glass Co. recently sponsored a unique fund raising project that could be adapted to any business or community, and to establish an equitable program to serve all charities in the area.

    In a letter, Steve Hurrell, company Vice-President, told nonprofits that for 90 days, the company would donate 50% of all insurance deductible amounts up to $50 for all glass replacement work done. Each customer would be asked to designate the recipient organization their deductible was to go to and the check would be sent the same day. He projected that the company would donate between $8,000 and $10,000 during the 90 day period.

    To participate, nonprofits were asked to send the glass company a letter stating they would accept donations and including a brief summary of current projects. The letters were displayed for customers' review.

    MWF recently contacted Hurrell to find out how the project worked out. Several organizations did receive sizable donations; but the total amount raised was not what he hoped it would be, which he attributes to difficulty in getting the word about the project. He was surprised and frustrated that the media wasn't interested in the project. He lamented, "If I'd committed some kind of crime, my name would be in the papers and on TV -- I try to do some good, and no one's interested."

    Hurrell plans to continue the program next year and is currently working on a media strategy that will help the program grow, including directly involving the nonprofits that benefitted from the project this year in next year's publicity plan.


    Grantseeking

    Foundation Relations: Grantseekers make many mistakes when requesting funds from foundations. Here are some key things to consider, according to the foundation officers:

  • Develop a relationship with the foundation people before submitting a proposal.
  • Become thoroughly familiar with the types -- and sizes -- of grants a foundation gives. Conduct research to find out who;'s been successful with a particular foundation - and why.
  • Let the foundation know -- in clear language -- what your goal or mission is and how you plan to work toward it. Be precise in describing what steps you plan to take.
  • Put the financial request up-front and request a specific amount. Don't ask for "any amount you can give us."
  • Be frank and honest in approaching the foundation. Don't pretend everything is rosy. Tell about your problems -- but be sure you include your plan of action for correcting them.
  • Check your basic arithmetic.
  • Make a realistic connection between what your organization is doing now -- and where you plan to be five or ten years from now.
  • Present the foundation with the proper IRS documentation.
  • If you receive a grant, thank the foundation people who gave it. A major complaint: "Once thy received the money, you never hear another word from them..."

    Source: Adapted from Contributions, 634 Commonwealth Ave., Ste. 201, Newton Center, MA 02159 as published in Communication Briefings (June, 1992).

    More Grantseeking Tips from MWF: Before -- and after -- receiving a grant, don't "shoot yourself in the foot" by:

  • Failing to return a funder's phone call promptly -- she is very likely to be calling because she needs a piece of information nor an answer now in order to make a decision about your grant request. If you don't respond now, the funds you seek may go to another agency that did promptly return a call.
  • Failing to mention your funding sources in your newsletters, press releases, brochures, and other printed materials. Many fund raisers require you to do so - and all of them appreciate it (unless the grant is made under conditions of anonymity).
  • Making it hard for a funder to make a site visit. Try your best to keep your calendar open during the week(s) you think the funder will be making these visits. If you're schedule is too tight, try your best to rearrange it and offer two or three options for meeting with the funder.
  • Keeping it a secret when your funding project -- or your organization -- is in trouble. Funders know that problems can and will arise. Let the funder know right away what's going on and, where appropriate, ask for their advice and assistance. By doing so, you can turn a floundering project around, and you may also help the funder learn a valuable lesson for future grantmaking.


    Et Cetera

    Documentary Guide: The Media Network, a media activism organization and grantee of The Hunt Alternatives Fund, has published a catalog of documentaries about women's potential in both developed and developing countries. The catalog lists 82 films and videos under eight timely categories and includes well- written descriptions, distributors and prices. According to Anne Lieberman, project director, "The documentaries in this guide explore and expose the realities of women's lives." For more information, write or call Media Network, 39 W. 14th St., Ste. 403, NY, NY 10011; 212/929-2663.

    Leadership Program: The newly-launched Michigan Political Leadership Program, sponsored by Michigan State University and the Kellogg Foundation, is designed to teach people how to prepare for, run for and serve in public office. For information on the ten- week program, which includes full-paid fellowships, write or call: The Michigan Political Leadership Program, 4700 S. Hagadorn, Ste. 290, E. Lansing MI 48823; 517/336-0057.

    Acknowledgements
    Women's Road Map is a publication of the Michigan Women's Foundation. Distributed free of charge as a project of MWF's ongoing Management Assistance Program, this newsletter is designed to improve the management of women's organization and thus enable them to compete more successfully in the nonprofit world.

    Acknowledgements
    MWF was founded in 1986 as a way to increase support for programs and projects that empower Michigan women and girls. In addition to the Management Assistance Program, MWF uses donors' contributions to make grants to a variety of women's organizations and works to increase public awareness of the needs of Michigan women and to encourage other foundations, individuals and the corporate community to increase their support of women's programs.

    Need Help?
    Is there a question on your mind about managing a nonprofit? Drop us a line and we'll do our best to find and publish the answer.

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