Category Archives: Raleigh CPA Firm

Should your nonprofit have an advisory board?

Your not-for-profit is likely governed by a core group of board members. But the addition of an informal advisory board can bring complementary — and valuable — skills and resources to this group.

Review representation

Look at your general board members’ demographics and collective profile. Does it lack representation from certain groups — particularly relative to the communities that your organization serves? An advisory board offers an opportunity to add diversity to your leadership. Also consider the skills current board members bring to the table. If your board lacks extensive fundraising or grant writing experience, for example, an advisory board can help fill gaps.

Adding advisory board members can also open the door to funding opportunities. If, for example, your nonprofit is considering expanding its geographic presence, it makes sense to find an advisory board member from outside your current area. That person might be connected with business leaders and be able to introduce board members to appropriate people in his or her community.

Waive commitment

The advisory role is a great way to get people involved who can’t necessarily make the time commitment that a regular board position would require. The advisory role also may appeal to recently retired individuals or stay-at-home parents wanting to get involved with a nonprofit on a limited basis.

This also can be an ideal way to “test out” potential board members. If a spot opens on your current board and some of your advisory board members are interested in making a bigger commitment, you’ll have a ready pool of informed individuals from which to choose.

Be candid

Advisory board members likely will be present at board meetings, so it’s important to explain to them the role they’ll play. Advisory board members aren’t involved in the governance of your organization and can’t introduce motions or vote on them.

How you use your advisory board members is up to you. Use them as much, or as little, as you need; just make sure they understand limits to their authority. Contact Langdon & Company LLP for more information.

© 2018

Minding eligibility rules when managing 401(k) enrollment

If your organization offers a 401(k) plan, you’re probably aware that you can lay down some rules regarding when participants may enroll. Many plan sponsors strive for a happy medium between immediate enrollment and highly restricted or delayed enrollment.

As you seek to attain the right balance, bear in mind that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act restricts your ability to limit eligibility in multiple ways. Here are a few rules to bear in mind:

Age restriction. You don’t have to enroll employees below the age of 21, but you cannot have an age restriction over such age. This may or may not have an impact, depending on your workforce demographics. Many plans either have no age requirement or use age 18 as the minimum age.

Delayed gratification. You can require employees to wait up to only 18 months to enter the plan. This is accomplished by requiring employees to work at least 1,000 hours over the course of a 12-month period to gain eligibility. The plan then provides that, once eligibility is met, entry into the plan is the next semiannual entry date.

For example, suppose your plan operates on a calendar year. You hire Jane on July 2, 2018, and she completes one year of service and the 1,000-hour requirement by July 2, 2019. She would enter the plan as of January 1, 2020.

Category-based standard. Plan sponsors can assign different standards for exempt vs. nonexempt employees. For example, you could set more generous eligibility rules for exempt employees. You might want to do so if the labor market is tight for the types of jobs your exempt employees hold, but not your nonexempt employees.

However, your ability to establish these job classification distinctions is limited by your need to satisfy IRS coverage tests. These tests are designed to prevent discrimination against lower-paid workers.

For example, the percentage of participating nonhighly compensated employees (NHCEs) cannot be less than 70% of the participation rate of highly compensated employees (HCEs). In addition, the average benefits received by NHCEs must equal at least 70% of benefits received by HCEs. The average benefits test also features a more subjective nondiscriminatory classification component. You can also create different eligibility rules for union and nonunion jobs, and those distinctions, like the delayed eligibility timing tactic, aren’t subject to the minimum coverage tests.

Restricting 401(k) plan participation eligibility isn’t for everyone. But it may help you better control administration costs. Feel free to reach out to our firm for more information.

© 2018

7 ways to prepare your business for sale

For some business owners, succession planning is a complex and delicate matter involving family members and a long, gradual transition out of the company. Others simply sell the business and move on. There are many variations in between, of course, but if you’re leaning toward a business sale, here are seven ways to prepare:

1. Develop or renew your business plan. Identify the challenges and opportunities of your company and explain how and why it’s ready for a sale. Address what distinguishes your business from the competition, and include a viable strategy that speaks to sustainable growth.

2. Ensure you have a solid management team. You should have a management team in place that’s, essentially, a redundancy of you. Your leaders should have the vision and know-how to keep the company moving forward without disruption during and after a sale.

3. Upgrade your technology. Buyers will look much more favorably on a business with up-to-date, reliable and cost-effective IT systems. This may mean investing in upgrades that make your company a “plug and play” proposition for a new owner.

4. Estimate the true value of your business. Obtaining a realistic, carefully calculated business appraisal will lessen the likelihood that you’ll leave money on the table. A professional valuator can calculate a defensible, marketable value estimate.

5. Optimize balance sheet structure. Value can be added by removing nonoperating assets that aren’t part of normal operations, minimizing inventory levels, and evaluating the condition of capital equipment and debt-financing levels.

6. Minimize tax liability. Seek tax advice early in the sale process — before you make any major changes or investments. Recent tax law changes may significantly affect a business owner’s tax position.

7. Assemble all applicable paperwork. Gather and update all account statements and agreements such as contracts, leases, insurance policies, customer/supplier lists and tax filings. Prospective buyers will request these documents as part of their due diligence.

Succession planning should play a role in every business owner’s long-term goals. Selling the business may be the simplest option, though there are many other ways to transition ownership. Please contact our firm for further ideas and information.

© 2018

Mature nonprofits face changing priorities

Successful not-for-profits typically proceed along a standard life cycle. Their early stage precedes a growth period that runs several years, followed by maturity. At this stage, the nonprofit has built its core programs and achieved a reputation in the community. But no organization can afford to rest on its laurels.

Where you are

Mature organizations generally are adept at maintaining adequate operating reserves and sufficient cash on hand to support daily operations. Your nonprofit also may already have initiated a planned giving program and endowment.

Many mature organizations experience greater program and operational coordination and more formal planning and communications. But they’re also more vulnerable to “mission drift.” This happens when a nonprofit begins to make compromises to generate funds rather than stick to its founding objectives and values.

Alliances with other organizations are common at this stage. Such affiliations can extend your impact and increase your financial stability. Alliances also can help reinforce your mission focus and prevent your nonprofit from getting too bogged down by policy and procedures. If you lead a mature nonprofit, you should set your sights toward sustainability.

Your board’s role

Another way to increase fiscal strength is to add members to your board. A mature nonprofit’s brand identity may enable it to attract wealthier and more prestigious board members. Ideally, these members will have more to offer than simply money, such as valuable connections or expertise in a certain area.

As your executive director and staff concentrate on operations, your board should take an even greater leadership role by setting direction and strategic policy. The board may become more conservative, though. (Younger nonprofits tend to have more entrepreneurial, risk-taking board members.)

Program considerations

When it comes to programming, your mature nonprofit needs to be wary of complacency. Regularly review your programming for relevance and effectiveness and make sure your strategic plan both focuses on the long term and outlines new opportunities. Surveys can help ensure that you’re meeting your constituents’ needs and interests, which often change over time.

For more ideas about maintaining your mature nonprofit’s financial health, contact us.

© 2018

How nonprofits can successfully execute a capital campaign

When your not-for-profit desperately needs a new facility, costly equipment or an endowment, a capital campaign can be the best way to raise funds. But to be successful, a campaign requires strong leadership, extensive planning and dedicated participants.

Leading the troops

Capital campaigns generally are long-term projects — often lasting three or more years. To carry out yours, you need a champion with vision and stamina. Consider board members or look to leaders in the greater community with such qualifications as:

  • A fundraising track record,
  • Knowledge of your community and local issues,
  • The ability to motivate others, and
  • Time to attend planning sessions and fundraising activities.

Most capital campaigns require a small army to raise funds through direct mail, email solicitations, direct solicitations and special events. In addition to staff and board members, reach out to current volunteers, like-minded community groups and clients who’ve benefited from your services.

Approaching donors

Identify a large group — say 1,000 individuals — to solicit for donations. Draw your list from past donors, area business owners, board members, volunteers and other likely prospects. Then narrow that list to the 100 largest potential donors and talk to them first. Secure large gifts before pursuing anything under $1,000.

Be sure to train team members on how to solicit funds and provide them with sample scripts. To help volunteers make effective phone solicitations, record a few calls and play them back for the group to critique.

Focus on execution

It’s important to ensure that key constituents share your fundraising vision and strategies for reaching the campaign’s goals. Break down your overall goal into smaller objectives and celebrate when you reach each one. Also regularly report gifts, track your progress toward reaching your ultimate goal and measure the effectiveness of your activities.

Also pay attention to how you craft your message. Potential donors must see your organization as capable and strong, but also as the same group they’ve championed for years. Instead of focusing on what donations will do for your nonprofit, show potential donors the impact on their community.

Many measures of success

You’ll know you’ve reached your goal when you’ve raised a certain dollar amount. But don’t forget about other measures of success, such as return on investment or percentage of past donors contributing. We can help you identify the most valuable metrics to make your capital campaign a success. Contact Langdon & Company today!

© 2018

Now may be a good time to start a paid family and medical leave program

 

Does your organization have a formalized program under which it offers employees paid time off for an illness or family emergency? If not, there’s now an excellent reason to consider establishing one: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed late last year, created a tax credit for qualifying employers that begin providing paid family and medical leave to their employees.

Qualifications and percentages

The credit is available only in 2018 and 2019. To qualify, employers must grant full-time employees at least two weeks of annual family and medical leave during which they receive at least half of their normal wages. In addition, all less-than-full-time qualifying employees must receive a commensurate amount of paid leave on a pro rata basis.

Ordinary paid leave that employees are already entitled to doesn’t qualify for the tax incentive. For example, if you already provide full-time employees with, say, five days of paid sick time per year, you can’t claim the credit for that paid time off. Similarly, if you’re already subject to mandatory paid sick leave requirements by your state or local government, you won’t be able to claim the new tax credit for leave paid under those requirements.

Employees whose paid family and medical leave is covered by this provision must have worked for the employer for at least one year, and not had pay in the preceding year exceeding 60% of the highly compensated employee threshold.

The credit is equal to a minimum of 12.5% of the employee’s wages paid during that leave. That credit amount increases to the extent that employees are paid more than the minimum 50% of their normal compensation, to a maximum of 25% of wages paid. The maximum amount of paid family and medical leave that can be eligible for the tax credit is 12 weeks per year.

Competitive advantage

Establishing a paid family and medical leave program can boost morale and serve as a point in your favor when competing for job candidates. But additional rules and limits may apply beyond the points discussed here. Please contact us for further details and assistance.

© 2018

When does professional association management make sense?

If your new or fast-growing not-for-profit could use an extra pair of experienced hands, an association management company (ACM), with its turnkey infrastructure, might be able to help. AMCs are paid to manage your nonprofit’s business, leaving you to concentrate on its mission.

Business on their mind

Your organization can rely on an AMC for help with recruitment, employee benefits, training and other time-consuming tasks. Most AMCs provide their services based on a flat fee or monthly retainer. Their clients share overhead costs, so you pay only for the services you need. For example, you can contract with an AMC to provide technology and website support rather than hire a full-time IT staffer.

AMCs support an array of nonprofits, including trade associations, professional societies and charitable organizations. Many serve as the organization’s headquarters, providing it significant savings on space and equipment costs.

Assessing needs

Can you use AMC services? Identify your nonprofit’s requirements through an organizational audit. Your board can then decide which needs should be fulfilled by current employees and which could be outsourced to an AMC.

Next, find a vendor. The AMC Institute lists members on its website at amcinstitute.org. It provides other resources as well, in some cases for a fee.

Choose three or four firms based on the types of services they provide, years of experience and cost. Then conduct in-person interviews, paying particular attention to the types of client the AMC serves and whether its culture is similar to your own. Be sure to check references before settling on a firm.

Growing pains

Whether you need help with your new or growing organization or have specific service needs, a professional AMC could be a solution. We can help you conduct an organizational audit to pinpoint which services you might be able to outsource.  Contact us for more information.

© 2017

Boosting the matching gifts your nonprofit receives

Corporate matching can double the value of donors’ gifts — a bonus no not-for-profit organization can afford to pass up. Are you doing everything you can to educate your financial supporters and their employers about matching gifts?

Encourage donors and employers

Most matching programs are managed by HR departments, which provide employees with matching gift forms. Typically, the employer sends the completed forms, along with the matched donations, to the charity the employee has chosen. Dollar-for-dollar matching is most common among participating corporations, but some companies offer more, others less. Many match donations to any nonprofit, but some are more restrictive.

To encourage increased matching gifts, draw up a list of employers in your area that offer matching. Typically, you can find this information in annual reports, on company websites or by calling companies’ HR, PR or community relations departments. If the company operates a foundation, its matching program may run through that entity.

Once you have a comprehensive and accurate list, post it on your website’s donation page. Also use the list to reach out to existing donors you know work for those companies. All of your nonprofit’s solicitations should encourage supporters to check with their employers about the availability of matching.

Set up your own program

If, despite your nonprofit’s best efforts, matching gifts only occasionally trickle in, consider creating your own matching pool. Ask board members and major supporters to match donations during a certain time period, for certain populations or for a minimum donation amount. For instance, your board might match all donations from new contributors in February or a major donor might commit to match gifts made at your annual gala.

Also keep in mind that some charitable foundations will match gifts to jump-start a fundraising effort or major campaign. Such an arrangement might be easier to set up than securing a large employer to donate to your organization.

Be persistent

Gift-matching enables donors to make larger contributions than they can manage on their own. Knowing their gift will be matched, they might even bump up the amount. Therefore, do everything you can to foster matching gifts. Contact us for more information.

© 2018

Not Necessarily a Luxury: Outsourcing

For many years, owners of small and midsize businesses looked at outsourcing much like some homeowners viewed hiring a cleaning person. That is, they saw it as a luxury. But no more — in today’s increasingly specialized economy, outsourcing has become a common way to cut costs and obtain expert assistance.

Why would you?

Outsourcing certain tasks that your company has been handling all along offers many benefits. Let’s begin with cost savings. Outsourcing a function effectively could save you a substantial percentage of in-house management expenses by reducing overhead, staffing and training costs. And thanks to the abundant number of independent contractors and providers of outsourced services, you may be able to bargain for competitive pricing.

Outsourcing also allows you to leave administration and support tasks to someone else, freeing up staff members to focus on your company’s core purpose. Plus, the firms that perform these functions are specialists, offering much higher service quality and greater innovations and efficiencies than you could likely muster.

Last, think about accountability — in many cases, vendors will be much more familiar with the laws, regulations and processes behind their specialties and therefore be in a better position to help ensure tasks are done in compliance with any applicable laws and regulations.

What’s the catch?

Of course, potential disadvantages exist as well. Outsourcing a business function obviously means surrendering some control of your personal management style in that area. Some business owners and executives have a tough time with this.

Another issue: integration. Every provider may not mesh with your company’s culture. A bad fit may lead to communication breakdowns and other problems.

Also, in rare cases, you may risk negative publicity from a vendor’s actions. There have been many stories over the years of companies suffering PR damage because of poor working conditions or employment practices at an outsourced facility. You’ve got to research any potential vendor thoroughly to ensure its actions won’t reflect poorly on your business.

To further protect yourself, stipulate your needs carefully in the contract. Pinpoint milestones you can use to ensure deliverables produced up to that point are complete, correct, on time and within budget. And don’t hesitate to tie partial payments to these milestones and assess penalties or even reserve the right to terminate if service falls below a specified level.

Last, build in clauses giving you intellectual property rights to any software or other items a provider develops. After all, you paid for it.

Need more time?

Outsourcing may not be the right solution every time. But it could help your business find more time to flourish and grow. We can help you assess the costs, benefits and risks.

© 2018