Internal control, 5th century version

(cross-post from my other blog, Attestation Update.)

Here is an illustration of internal control, a specific mention of “checks and balance”, and the goal of internal control from the 5th century:

From the Fourth Ecumenical Council in 449 A.D.: “As we have learned, in some churches, the bishops administer the material goods of the church without a treasurer; it has seemed right and proper that every church with a bishop should also have a treasurer taken from the clergy who will administer the church’s goods with advice of his own bishop. In this way the administration of the church will not be without checks and balances, the goods of the church will not be dissipated, and the priesthood will be free from all suspicion.”

The quote was listed at LinkedIn by a former colleague, Jennifer Perez, CPA.

That’s too good of an explanation of internal control to let pass without quoting it and making some comments.


Overview of what churches should include in board minutes

For a quick summary of how to prepare minutes of church board meetings, check out Mastering Minutes for Church Business Meetings at Church Law & Tax. The article is written by Frank and Elaine Sommerville.

Churches often struggle with preparing minutes that are appropriate, helpful, and not dangerous.

Read the full article for a great primer.

Here is what minutes should do: (more…)

Webcast for NPO board member orientation

Christian Leadership Alliance will have a webcast on 5/23/13 on board member orientation in a nonprofit organization – Effective and Efficient Governing Board Orientation.

The presentation is from Mr. Michael Batts, CPA, managing partner of Batts Morrison Wales & Lee, P.A. His firm focuses on serving the nonprofit community.

If I’m reading the description correctly, the webcast will cover the material in Mr. Batts’ book, Board Member Orientation.


What is your price?

(Cross-post from my other blog, Attestation Update.)

We know the price Mr. Scott London, former partner of KPMG,  is accused of setting for his integrity, honor, and reputation. The entrance price tag was several thousand dollars and added up to under $100,000.

Cumulative amount is allegedly $50,000 cash plus a watch with claimed value of $12,000 plus some concert tickets for his family, with asserted total around $70,000 or $90,000.

That total allegation isn’t the real measure of his price. The starting point was a few thousand dollars in the first deal. If the story outlined in the criminal indictment is correct, that is the point his integrity was sold.

An old joke about your price

There is an old joke with many variations that goes something like this:

Man to woman in a social setting: “would you sleep with me for a million dollars?”

She indicated she would be willing to do so.

Him: “How about for $20?”

With great indignation, she said “Of course not! What kind of woman do you think I am?”


Internal control, 1860s edition

Two posts at my other blog illustrate how Wells Fargo stagecoaches used internal controls in the 1860s.

You will see the concepts discussed by your auditor today have been around for over 150 years.

Posts have some fun photos from the Wells Fargo Museum in San Diego. Well, okay, they are fun if you are an accountant or banker or like history of the Old West.

Are people too nice in the nonprofit sector?

That’s the question in Caroline Preston’s article at The Chronicle of Philanthropy Some Nonprofit Leaders Ask: Is Philanthropy Killing Itself with Kindness?

The answer in over 1,500 words: check out Ms. Preston’s article.

The answer in six words: Do you really need to ask?

The answer in one word: Yes

A one paragraph explanation from the article:


Here’s a bad place to be – the board isn’t sure which set of bylaws are current

Beth Chase describes a board that didn’t know whether the bylaws they were looking at were current. A major decision was put on hold while they made sure they were looking at the correct set.

Check out Don’t Let This Happen To Your Board.

She has a couple of suggestions to keep out of this jam.


10 easy ways to get sued as an employer – don’t go there

The California Chamber of Commerce has a list of the most common mistakes employers make that result in lawsuits. You can find the full list at The Top 10 Things Employers Do to Get Sued.

Here are three that you may not have heard about before. Since I’m not an attorney, I will summarize some of the points made by CalChamber.


So if you have your board read your 990, you will be a better run NPO. Right?

That is perhaps the conclusion you could reach from reading a new study from the IRS.

Holly Hall, of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, reports on a speech by Lois Lerner of the IRS in a post, Good Governance Makes tax Compliance More Likely, Says IRS Study.

The IRS looked governance issues in 1,300 charities after the IRS had involvement with those organizations for other reasons. They found a very strong correlation between organizations that had good governance and high levels of compliance with the tax law.

Key findings:


Board training

This week I gave a presentation at Heartbeat International. The topic – helping board members of a nonprofit understand their responsibilities.

The course was well received by the board members in attendance.

I’ve long been concerned about helping time-stretched board members learn and grow in their responsibilities so they can be more effective.

This presentation was part of my efforts to help the NPO community.

I plan to take the presentation and expanded it to a large number of blog posts. Then I will weave them together into an e-book.

Many posts will arrive on this site. Check back often.

Some traps church business administrators need to avoid

The urgency of things that must be addressed now can take focus away from bigger issues that have long-term payoff.  Verne Hargrave, CPA, of PSK has started a good series on traps that business administrators can fall into because of tyranny of the urgent.

Looks to be a very helpful series. Would be worth your time to visit his blog regularly. Maybe even set it up on your RSS feed.  I’ll highlight it occasionally.

Ten Things to Avoid  in Church Administration starts the discussion. Mr. Hargrave points out a few problems that can arise if tyranny-of-the-urgent takes over your life: (more…)

10 ways for NPO board members to reduce their personal liability

Beth Chase has some great suggestions for NPO board members:  10 Ways boards can reduce their personal liability risk.

All 10 are great ideas. Two that I think have particular value:

Insisting that board meeting minutes only record decisions made.

Avoiding completely any conflicts of interest, fully disclosing any potential conflicts and assuring any disclosures are included in the board minutes.

If you get into a serious conflict of interest mess in California, the Attorney General could sue the organization to have you removed from the board and then sue you to reimburse the organization for any losses incurred.

Full disclosure and board approval of possible conflicts can prevent a lot of problems.