What we’ve learned from running 6 non-profit offices remotely
By Tamar Feld, Controller at Perry Davis Associates
We handle the back office of six not-for-profits. It’s easier – and way cheaper – for them to outsource their administrative tasks to us than to hire and supervise their own staff. We process donations, pay invoices, reconcile bank statements and handle board meetings. We’re their mailing address and live receptionist.
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Perhaps, most important, we take on the onerous and demanding job of preparing and overseeing the annual tax return filing and audit.
This also means, in times like these, we’ve had to work swiftly to adapt operations for six different offices (in addition to our own!).
Tamar Feld, PDA’s controller is the wizard who oversees this magic. We asked Tamar and her expert team how to handle the back office when no one’s “home.”
How should organizations track cash flow issues?
Transactions and practices that typically took 24 hours can now take up to 3 weeks. That means your bank account might look disorderly. Make sure you communicate more often when it comes to your bottom line and expected cash flow. This might mean producing alternate/interim reports to keep your leadership in the loop and might include a quick tutorial on how to view shared docs like google sheets.
Analog vs digital – must everything go online?
Continue to send out physical donor thank you notes and acknowledgements. Our inboxes are inundated daily – we’re receiving more emails now than ever before. It’s refreshing for donors to receive thoughtful notes in the mail. Consider investing in an extra printer and supplies for a staff member to continue this service from home.
Pro-tip: Write handwritten thank you notes. Receiving a handwritten note in the mail is a great warm touch. Alternatively, have a staff member handwrite a note on the standard tax receipt letter. Give your board leadership a call and ask them what personal message you can write on their behalf. It makes a difference!
How do you work with six different banks? Did you help your clients get PPP loans?
Close bank relationships really pay off. We handled several PPP loan applications on behalf of our clients. Our experiences reinforced how important it is to have a good relationship with your bankers and the power of persistence. During this process, we found that good bankers don’t just work ‘bank hours’ but go the extra mile for their clients. They do exist, so do not settle for anything less than.
Pro-tip: Keep a file of key organizational documents readily accessible on your device and on your server. You never know when you’ll need to furnish your Articles of Incorporation and prove your date of establishment!
Pro-tip: Keep your financial records up to date – always. Being one month behind can set you back, so don’t let things pile up.
How can I adapt to remote audits?
Tax filings are expected to proceed as usual for nonprofits. Adjust the way you work with your accounting firm to create a fluid and efficient process to complete this heavy task. If you have your materials and records handy, don’t push off your audit. Do it virtually so you’re not caught scrambling in November.
Pro-tip: Ask if your accounting firm has an online portal that you can upload documents to. It’s worth investing in a moderately priced scanner for a staff member’s home office to move this forward. Simple smartphone apps can also be used for moderate amounts of scanning.
How do you keep the human touch?
Your constituents still want to reach you. Make sure your main office line is forwarded to a staff member’s phone number. Try to avoid asking constituents to simply leave a message. It’s a better donor experience to know they will have a live person to speak to every time.
FYI – many of the calls we’ve received are from donors who are wondering if they should still send their donation checks to the same address or if there are alternate ways to make donations. Those are certainly the types of calls that deserve immediate personal attention!
Pro-tip: go above and beyond.
It’s okay to call on your staff to lend a hand in ways that might not have been “in the job description.”
One of our clients is responding to COVID-19 around the clock. We encouraged the group’s leadership to send a small gift as a thanks to each staffer. We made sure to locate them all, in their various remote locations, and took care of the gifts, the notes and the shipping.
How can we use this time most effectively?
If your staff does have some down time, use this as an opportunity to clean up your CRM systems and databases.
When you house your organization with PDA, we worry about the day-to-day, so you can focus on your mission and big picture.
Our clients don’t need to worry about offices expenses like rent, phones, and equipment leases. Outsourcing to PDA is lean and efficient. All six back offices are running smoothly during this displacement. For more information on how you can streamline your back-office operations, contact Tamar at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 347-4501364.