4 Tips to Help Nonprofits Find the Right Accounting Partner
For nonprofits, outsourcing accounting functions is a big deal. And just as you wouldn’t choose a new tax preparer or investment manager for yourself without doing some research, you’ll need to do your homework to find the right accounting firm to meet your nonprofit’s needs.
Here are five tips to make sure you outsource your organization’s accounting functions to the right partner.
Tip #1: Make sure they know nonprofits
The nonprofit world is not the same as the corporate world. It has its own language, accounting standards, reporting requirements, and idiosyncrasies. The firm you outsource to needs to know the nonprofit sector inside and out—and preferably specialize in serving the industry.
Ask potential partners how many nonprofit clients they have and how long they’ve been serving them. If their experience is limited and doesn’t go back at least a decade, you might want to look elsewhere.
Tip #2: Evaluate the value they can deliver
To be blunt about it, if outsourcing doesn’t bring added value to your nonprofit, it’s not worth doing. First, make sure you know which services you want to outsource. Do you need full accounting support, periodic reviews, or something in-between? Do you need accountant-level or CFO-level support? Once you’ve identified your needs, find out how much the firms will charge for those services and weigh out the value.
Of course, “value” is not the same as “cost,” so you’ll also want to ask about the additional value each firm offers. Do they have especially experienced or expert advisors available? Do they have all the latest accounting products and resources? Will they create efficiencies? Determine exactly how much-added value they’ll bring to your organization.
Tip #3: Assess their responsiveness
You need (and deserve) an accounting firm that will communicate clearly, respond promptly to your questions and provide added assistance when you need it.
Even in your initial contacts with potential partners, keep an eye out for trouble signs like unreturned phone calls and emails. Also, ask for a list of client references. When speaking with those references, ask specific questions about how the company communicates. Find out if they respond quickly and provide timely, reliable support.
Tip #4: Find out if they’ll prepare you for your audit
Audits can be incredibly difficult and time-consuming, so look for an outsourcing partner that will prepare you for audits all year long—not at the last minute. Accounting firms should be able to hand auditors a well-organized, comprehensive package of detailed schedules and support in advance of the audit.
This is another topic to discuss with the firm’s references. Ask references how prepared they are for their audits. Does the firm save them time and ensure a smooth, well-planned experience?
Chazin & Company is a premier provider of outsourced accounting and finance solutions for nonprofits. Contact us with your questions about outsourced accounting—from how it works to why we believe we have the resources, experience, and expertise to help your nonprofit achieve its goals.