3/19/15 Boston Networking Group Meeting

Thursday, March 19, 2015 from 9:00 am to 11:00 am.

This meeting will be held at the Accounting Management Solutions office

located at 800 South Street Suite 195, Waltham, MA

We are very lucky to have as our guest speaker, Melissa Herman, who will be speaking to the group about “LinkedIn and What it Can Do for You.” This promises to be a very interesting and informative session.

Melissa Herman is a Relationship Manager in the Financial Services group at LinkedIn. Melissa focuses on developing and strengthening relationships for her clients by educating financial sales organizations on how to drive business results. With 347+ million members worldwide, LinkedIn is one of the most powerful relationship building and lead generation tools in the enterprise today and can be used to help find, relate and engage with clients. Melissa assists with elevating the sales profession to that of a trusted advisor and partner.

Melissa’s background has always been sales and relationship focused. She previously worked at Intralinks where she was responsible for helping NYC’s best investment banks and private equity firms close deals faster through a secure virtual data room solution. She received her degree from the University of Rhode Island and also spent the semester abroad in the South of France to study French.

Melissa’s interests outside the sales industry includes traveling, reading, and hiking.

Due to space restrictions, this meeting will be limited to 25 attendees. Please RSVP by March 5th to ltucker@amsolutions.net and also to Karen Boonstra at kboonstra@amsolutions.net.

12/4/14 New York Networking Group Meeting

Thursday, December 4, 2014 from 9:00 am to 11:15 am. 

This meeting will be held at the NYSSCPA office located at

14 Wall Street 19th Floor, Conference Room #1, New York, NY

We are very lucky to have as our guest speaker, Ms. Julie Flodr, who will be speaking to the group about “LinkedIn and What it Can Do for You.” This promises to be a very interesting and informative session. 

Julie Flodr is a Relationship Manager in the Financial Services group at LinkedIn. Julie focuses on developing and strengthening relationships for her clients and to help educate financial sales organizations and individuals on how to drive business results and personal networks. LinkedIn is one of the most powerful relationship building and lead generation tools in the enterprise today and can be used to help find, relate and engage with clients. Julie assists with elevating the sales profession to that of a trusted advisor and partner.

Julie’s background includes various business development roles at Bloomberg helping her clients increase efficiencies, business and generate revenue growth.

She received her BS in Business Administration from the University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business and prior to that, she also studied abroad at the Budapesti Corvinus Egyetem studying the language of Hungarian. Julie’s interests outside the sales industry includes volunteering at the New York Cares cause which helps alleviate poverty.

Due to space restrictions, this meeting will be limited to 25 attendees. Please RSVP by November 28th to ltucker@amsolutions.net and also to Karen Boonstra at kboonstra@amsolutions.net.

12/9/14 Boston Networking Group Meeting

The next Nonprofit Executives Meeting with Leigh Tucker of Accounting Management Solutions will be held on Tuesday, December 9th from 8:30 am to 10:30 am.

There will be light refreshments and coffee/tea provided.

This meeting will be held at the Accounting Management Solutions, Inc. office located at 800 South Street, Suite 195, Waltham, MA 02453.

Please RSVP no later than December 2nd for this meeting. Replies should be sent to me at ltucker@amsolutions.net and to Karen Boonstra at kboonstra@amsolutions.net.

Self-Dealing in St. Louis and Lessons Learned

In April of this year, the news outlets in St. Louis, Missouri turned their attention to a story about the Zoo-Museum District board that awarded a multi-million dollar contract to a design firm to build a pavilion within the St. Louis Science Center. The contract, ranging from $1.2 to $2.5 million was, unbeknownst to the board, awarded to a design firm that was owned by one of their very own directors. Once this became known to the public it sparked a heated debate in the media, and was promptly followed by the resignation of the board member.

This serves as the perfect illustration of what nonprofits must work to guard against—the real (or perceived) conflict of interest that takes place when a board member stands to gain personally from their relationship with the organization.  The story in St. Louis involves a public organization that receives taxpayer dollars and is governed by a different set of rules than the ones that govern nonprofits, but conflict of interest issues arise from the same set of circumstances. Both types of entities need strong boards, comprised of members who are knowledgeable in their fields and able to provide expert guidance and direction. In many cases, the best candidates for board positions also have a financial interest in businesses that can help advance the mission—but therein lies the danger.

The IRS offers some guidelines for nonprofits that are designed prevent board members from unethically profiting from their positions. First, the IRS requires the completion of a Form 990 in which nonprofits must disclose the compensation and potential conflicts associated with officers, directors, trustees and key employees. Second, they encourage nonprofits to establish a formal conflict of interest policy and have ongoing reviews of the policy with its staff. But the guidelines they recommend leave some wiggle room for board members to do business with the nonprofit. The IRS’s sample policy states: “A financial interest is not necessarily a conflict of interest.  Under Article III, Section 2, a person who has a financial interest may have a conflict of interest only if the appropriate governing board or committee decides that a conflict of interest exists.”

From this policy, a board member (or a company they have a financial stake in) can still ethically bid for contracts with the nonprofit, but ideally, they would be offering below-market rates of their goods and services, creating a win-win for both parties.  In the real world, things don’t always work out that way. In 2007, the Urban Institute did a survey of over 5,100 nonprofits and found that more than 41 percent of nonprofits with at least $10 million in annual expenses purchased goods and services from board members. The study also showed that only 39 percent of the larger nonprofits that did business with board members received below-market rates. The other 61 percent may not be in outright violation IRS regulations, but they are taking an enormous risk with regard to public opinion and loss of support from contributors if it becomes the public perception that a board member is taking undue advantage of their position.

Many financial consultants would advise against letting board members bid on contracts because it puts the nonprofit’s reputation at too great of a risk. Even where there is no impropriety, the mere perception of impropriety can have a damaging impact on their name, their donations, and their ability to fulfill their mission. Others might argue that the very reason board members volunteer their time and expertise is because of the financial opportunities that come from the relationship with the organization, and without these opportunities, nonprofits won’t be able to properly staff their boards.

It’s a slippery slope that each nonprofit should manage carefully according to their own code of ethics and risk tolerance. The best course for mitigating some of the risk is to create a clear conflict of interest policy, outlining precisely what behaviors and relationships are allowed, and socialize it regularly among the board and the public. If a conflict does arise, the nonprofit needs to deal with it openly and swiftly to maintain its credibility. Establishing, socializing and enforcing a strong conflict of interest policy will go a long way toward protecting your nonprofit organization from scandals like the one in St. Louis, so that when you do end up in the press, it’s for all the right reasons.

9/16/14 Boston Networking Group Meeting

The next Nonprofit Executives Meeting with Leigh Tucker of Accounting Management Solutions will be held on Tuesday, September 16th from 8:30 am to 10:30 am.

There will be light refreshments and coffee/tea provided.

This meeting will be held at the Accounting Management Solutions, Inc. office located at 800 South Street, Suite 195, Waltham, MA 02453.

Please RSVP no later than September 9th for this meeting. Replies should be sent to me at ltucker@amsolutions.net and to Karen Boonstra at kboonstra@amsolutions.net.

Does Your Bookkeeper Drive an Airbus?

Fifty billion dollars. It’s a staggering sum of money that most people can only fantasize about, and when asked, what you would do with such an outrageous amount of money, there is  a struggle to translate into everyday terms.

To provide some perspective, here’s a fun shopping list of things you could buy if you had $50 billion:  33 Yankee Stadiums, 25 percent of the Microsoft Corporation, 520 Neverland Ranches, or 120 Airbus 380s (these are the cool double-deckers that Saudi princes buy.)

What is even more unfathomable than owning just one Yankee Stadium, is the fact that $50 billion is  the estimated amount that is lost each year to fraud in nonprofit organizations (according to the New York Times). One might assume that most fraud takes place in  large global charities with deep pockets similar to the Red Cross or UNICEF.  In reality, most embezzlement takes place in smaller organizations with fewer than 100 employees due to the fact that these organizations are less likely to have adequate internal controls in place.

When it comes to embezzlement, it is a sad irony that nonprofits are founded on the noble intention of improving the state of mankind, and unfortunately can become the easiest targets for  fraud.  Small nonprofits are even more vulnerable because their environments are very personal, more intimate, and nurture a false sense of security that “it could never happen here.” But it isn’t too hard to imagine how an employee, facing their own financial pressures and temptations, might begin to skim a little cash here or there. If you are watching the news headlines,  there have been multiple reports on   how  cash skimming  soon evolves into falsified time sheets, expense reports, and more, until the nonprofit is losing huge amounts of money – one Airbus seat cushion at a time.

What to do:  to protect the mission and the reputation of a nonprofit? Leaders can implement best practices that will go a long way toward preventing “fraud,” “embezzlement,” “larceny,” “and other charges” that are often described in the news. Conducting surprise audits, requiring regular job rotations, enforcing cross-checking and review processes for all financial transactions, and providing hotlines for anonymous whistleblowers are just a few of the precautions that can be taken. These policies are not meant to be a burden to your operations, but a way to preserve both your financial resources and the public’s trust in your good name.

If you are not sure whether or not you have enough checks and balances in place to protect against fraud, external auditors, industry experienced consultants can offer some important insight into where you may be at risk. With so much at stake, you want to ensure that the  donations that are generously made to your organization are used for their intended purpose and not for an employee’s personal gain.

6/25/14 Get on Board: Tech + Nonprofit Matchup

I thought this free event might be of interest to those who attend the Nonprofit Executives Meetings.

Get on Board: Tech + Nonprofit Matchup

Wednesday, June 25 from 5:45 – 7:30 pm @ GA Boston 51 Melcher Street Boston, MA 02210

ABOUT THIS EVENT

Ever think about joining a nonprofit board but not sure how to get involved? Do you have an in-demand skill that you’d love to share for the greater good? Well, now is your chance to learn how you can add value to a nonprofit and meet a few who are looking for new board members and young professionals to get more actively involved in their organization.

Startups and nonprofit organizations are two of the biggest and most exciting players in Boston’s ecosystem – but they don’t also have the opportunity to work together. General Assembly, TUGG and WeWork would like to change that.

Nonprofit organizations are always on the look out for energetic, smart, mission-driven people to participate on their boards, mentor or volunteer. Entrepreneurs are often looking for ways to connect with the greater community and hone their technical and business skills.

There will be a short presentation discussing all the ways you can add value as a board member outside of monetary contributions followed by a meet and greet fair featuring several local non profits who are looking for board members.

More Information & Registration