Land of the free because of the brave

May 29, 2017, 8:04 am

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Those of us living in the United States are blessed with religious freedom, political freedom, and economic freedom because those who went before us fought for freedom.

Many of those fighting offered up their life for freedom and the offer was accepted.

I am humbled and grateful to God that some of my ancestors are included in the long list of those who fought. I am especially humbled that a great, great grand-uncle is in the list of those who died in the defense of freedom.

Because of their sacrifice, I get to enjoy this kind of freedom:

Read the rest of this entry »


Justice grinds slow, but it does grind: Guilty plea for shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston.

May 4, 2017, 10:38 am

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

In April 2015, an officer with the North Charleston, S.C. police department shot a man in the back as the citizen slowly ran away from the officer after an altercation.

In December 2016 the officer achieved a hung verdict in his murder trial after claiming he feared for his life after a struggle for his taser. He was facing a retrial at state level.

On May 3, 2017, the officer plead guilty to the federal crime of violating the man’s civil rights. He will be sentenced later.

Justice takes time, sometimes.

After you watch the video below and read my description of the incident, you will appreciate two questions that come to mind. For background, consider I am a middle-class, middle-age, white male, who runs my own business.

Here are the two distressing questions I’ve been pondering for the past two years:

  • How often did this type of incident take place in the past, when nobody had a video recorder in their pocket?
  • How often does this type of incident take place today?

A Wall Street Journal article provides background on the plea and the case:  Former S.C. Policeman Pleads Guilty in Shooting of Walter Scott. The officer was fired immediately after the incident. The city apologized and reached a $6.5M settlement with the family.

If you have the stomach for it, feel free to watch the following video:

Please know in advance it is upsetting.

 

 

My observations:

Read the rest of this entry »


After reading about the mess World Vision is in, ask yourself what you are doing to prevent a similar disaster from disrupting your programs.

August 10, 2016, 7:00 am
Question this manager is pondering: Do we have good enough controls to prevent this from happening in our field programs? Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Question this manager is pondering: Are our controls good enough to prevent something like this from happening in our field programs?
Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

A few articles to follow up on the accusations a World Vision manager allegedly routed aid money to a terrorist organization.

  • Looks like the situation with the Gaza branch of World Vision could turn into an accounting argument.
  • Response from World Vision.
  • Other aid workers charged.
  • Finally, more questions for managers and finance teams to ponder.

A number of public comments on twitter are claiming the total budget for the Gaza branch is only $2.2M a year.

Some people making this comment usually continue the discussion by calling into question the entire set of accusations from the Israeli government because the current claim is the manager diverted approximately $7 million a year.

This position implies that accusations of diverting $7M a year when the budget is only $2.2M means the accusations are untrue.

8/8 – AP, The Big Story – World Vision: Israeli charges based on “huge gap” in numbers – Article points out the intelligence agency accuses the program manager of diverting food, agricultural equipment, and medical supplies in addition to currency. That means there was in-kind material as well as heavy equipment.

The accounting argument appears towards the end of the article. A Foreign Ministry representative is guessing that the stated budget does not include in-in-kind donations.

A World Vision representative in Germany says the budget of $22.2M for the Gaza office over the last decade does include in-kind materials.

So, we may wind up with this being an accounting issue in addition to a loaded political issue on top of an alleged defalcation issue carrying over into alleged terrorism funding issue.

8/9 – Al Jazeera – Christian charity ‘top of Israel’s target list’ – It will help you filter news you hear about the manager of the Gaza office if you keep in mind the visible political agenda you will see in much reporting.

Read the rest of this entry »


Initial reaction to alleged diversion of World Vision funds

August 8, 2016, 7:00 am
Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

How can you tell who is really behind the mask, and what is he doing inside your organization? Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Last week, the Israeli intelligence service accused a World Vision manager of diverting resources to Hamas. The allegation is he diverted about 60% of the annual funds flowing through the Gaza office, with the amount diverted allegedly around $7M a year.

Some initial reactions are surfacing from donors. Also, some context for magnitude of the alleged amount. Finally, some questions to ponder for leaders of charities and those of us who audit NPOs.

8/4 – World Vision – Statement on World Vision Staff Arrest – Full statement from World Vision. Doesn’t say a lot because they don’t yet know a lot. I’m sure there will be more comments as the situation develops.

8/5 – Reuters at Business Insider – Australia suspends World Vision funding over allegations its Gaza representative funneled millions to Hamas – The Australian government has provided about $4.4 million over the last three years to World Vision for use in helping people living in Gaza and West Bank. The aid has been suspended over the allegations.

Read the rest of this entry »


How do you keep one person from diverting funds and causing a front-page fiasco for your charity? World Vision illustration.

August 5, 2016, 5:35 pm
Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

How do you keep one person from creating a public relations fiasco or, even worse, damaging the reputation of your entire organization? How do you keep a manager from illegally diverting a huge amount of resources?

What controls and procedures do you have in place to prevent something like this in your organization?

Let’s start with a FBI agent who pled guilty to charges of passing sensitive and classified information to a Chinese government official and businesses in China.

8/1 – ABC News – FBI Employee Arrested for Allegedly Acting as Secret Chinese Agent – According to the story, we can drop the word ‘allegedly.’ This week he entered a guilty plea to one felony charge. The government claims he was gathering sensitive and classified material based on instructions from his handler.

He was born in China and was naturalized in 1985 at age 16.

So, the FBI with all its investigative powers and intentional counter-intelligence operations was not able to prevent this man from being an agent of the Chinese government.

So what chance does a nonprofit charity have of filtering out people who want to do bad stuff? That is something to consider as we grieve the following story.

This week the story broke that a manager of the Gaza office of World Vision allegedly diverted a lot of money to Hamas for use in terrorist activities. At this point the story consists of allegations, but allegations from the Israeli security service after a few weeks of interrogation are extremely serious.

8/4 – Hareetz – Top Official in Christian Aid Group Charged With Funneling Funds to Hamas – The security service, Shin Bet, arrested the director of the Gaza branch office on June 16. He was indicted Thursday.

Shin Bet accuses the manager of joining an armed wing of Hamas in 2004 and being sent to infiltrate a western aid organization a year later.

In 2005 he was hired by World Vision and in 2010 was promoted to director of the Gaza branch.

Read the rest of this entry »


Perhaps reporting under GAAP is not reporting the numbers investors need

July 25, 2016, 9:51 am
Image courtesy DollarPhotoClub

Image courtesy DollarPhotoClub

(Cross post from my other blog, Attestation Update. I usually post comments on accounting theory there. This issues carries over directly to the nonprofit community. Consider the ongoing discussion on the mis-focus on ‘overhead’ and the need for some sort of outcome measures for the charity world and you can see how this applies.)

Consider this idea: perhaps GAAP-based accounting numbers aren’t giving stock investors all the information they need.

What is wrong with this picture?

In April, Netflix announced their earnings fell short of analysts’ expectations. Usually that would drop the stock price. What happened?

Nexflix stock jumped 18%.

Huh?

What could cause that? The market supposedly has incorporated the consensus into the price. Missing the expectation should drop the price.

Consider this: At the same time, Netflix announced their new-subscribers were 4.9 million instead of the expectation of 4.0M.

That means they will have stronger earnings for the next several quarters than was expected the day before the announcement. Thus, the stock price rose.

Investors looked at the new subscriber tally as a better indicator of future earnings and thus future stock price than this quarter’s GAAP net income. New subscribers is more important than EPS.

If you wonder are wondering why GAAP EPS isn’t the driving force in that story, here is a brain stretcher for you:

“The End of Accounting”

Professors Baruch Lev and Feng Gu point to The End of Accounting and the Path Forward for Investors and Managers in their June 21 Wall Street Journal article.

You can find the book at Amazon here. It is a bit steep, $32 in hardback and $26 in Kindle format, which is really high for an e-book. I already have a copy on my e-reader. Started reading it yesterday.

The professors suggest that reported earnings under GAAP are losing relevance for investors as we move further and further away from an industrial economy. When know-how, processes, patents, using the internet, and other intangibles are the source of income, GAAP doesn’t report useful information for figuring out future earnings.

By the way, keep in mind that providing historical information to readers of the financial statements to allow them to make estimates of future earnings and cash flows of the company is, like, sorta’, kinda’, the purpose of GAAP financial statements.

The problem with GAAP

Some drawbacks in looking at GAAP numbers, according to the professors:

Read the rest of this entry »


July 25, 2016, 9:26 am
Image courtesy DollarPhotoClub

Image courtesy DollarPhotoClub

 

Oops. Sorry. I posted this without a title.

Reposted it, but with a title. You can find the article here. Sorry for the confusion.


Why I have known for most of my life that we have serious unresolved racial issues in our society

July 14, 2016, 8:58 am
Maybe we ought to do this with our hands and ears a little more often. Maybe even our hearts. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Maybe we ought to acknowledge there is a gap between us. Maybe each of us should reach out with our ears. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The first time I realized we had racial problems in the U.S. was way back when I was in elementary school.

If I can share my thoughts here without getting tons of hate poured on my head, I will have more to say. If you think this is somehow related to what we have seen in the news this month, you are absolutely correct. Mine is such a tiny, insignificant voice, yet I must speak.

What little I can offer you is one recollection from childhood, brief news reports while in college, and one news report while on active duty.

Take the stories however seriously you wish. Discount them or ignore them or explain them away if you want.  If it is your choice to do so, impute terrible ignorance to me that these feeble stories are what little I have to share. Assume about me whatever you will and paste on me any label you prefer.

So you can put this article into context, please know I am white, male, born into a middle-class family, currently living a middle-class life, and run my own small business. You will shortly be able to estimate my age.

You might want to get a fresh cup of coffee – this will be a long read.

 

Sir, can you call a cab for me?

We lived in a suburb of Wichita, Kansas when I was in elementary school. Don’t recall when this particular event happened, but think it was back in 2nd or 3rd or 4th grade, which would have been the early or mid-’60s. Yes, I know that means you can now calculate my age within a few years. Reason to estimate the timing is so you can put the incident into some sort of context. Think the 1960s.

My family was leaving a grocery store when a woman approached my dad. I remember her as being older (at least to the eyes of a youngster), rotund, black, and with inflection in her voice so thick that any three consecutive words she spoke would have immediately identified her race.

Read the rest of this entry »


The overwhelming change you feel today is going to increase. Engage the change.

July 8, 2016, 10:03 am
Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com before they closed their doors.

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com before they closed their doors.

The massive volumes of change you see surrounding you everywhere you look isn’t going to stop. In fact the pace of change is going to increase.

Each of us have a choice. Either figure out how to cope with and embrace the change or ignore it.

The cost of ignoring massive change is that you and your organization will get left behind. That doesn’t just mean you will be a laggard as you continue doing next month what you did last year. Instead that means your organization will radically shrink and before you know it, will disappear.

The downsides are serious. There is an upside and it is exciting.

Four articles I’ve seen lately focus the mind. While these articles are written in either the accounting or church context, they also fully apply in the church and accounting context. They also apply to every individual and organization.

This article will be posted across all my blogs because it applies to all of them.

7/7 – Bill Sheridan at LinkedIn – Embrace change or resist it: Only one option is viable.

The odds are really high that tax preparation will be completely automated in the next two decades. Estimated odds are almost as high that both accounting and auditing will be fully automated.

Consider my business and my core tasks of auditing charities. There is a real possibility those types of audits could be heavily automated in 10 or 15 or 20 years. I am not old enough to bank on retiring before that massive change starts eating away the entire audit profession.

Automation will take over an increasing number of tasks. The world of tax, accounting, and audit will be affected. Mr. Sheridan explains the shelf life of education and experience we have is shrinking.

As the Maryland Association of CPAs routinely points out our learning needs to be greater than the rate of change; L>C is their formula.

Read the rest of this entry »


Discussions on the WWP financial statements I would like to see

May 16, 2016, 9:05 am
Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

As I’ve watched coverage of the Wounded Warrior Project financial statements in recent months, I have been surprised by the shallowness of the coverage. Minor issues draw heavy focus while major issues remain unaddressed.

Majoring on the minors

Read the rest of this entry »


GuideStar begins major effort to let charities report their outcomes

May 13, 2016, 8:54 am
Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

GuideStar Premium is a new feature allowing charities to describe their goals and what progress they’re making. This provides NPOs the opportunity to quantify their outcomes and impacts.

This is a big step. It is a wonderful experiment.

GuideStar Platinum: Measuring Nonprofit Performance at Scale provides an overview of the new platform. This page provides more detail on the service.

Charities are allowed to self define the measures used. Organizations self measure their progress.

This will create wide variety in the measurement tools. I believe that is a wonderful thing. Self defining outcomes will allow a measure that is very carefully tailored to a particular organization. Over time I am guessing there will be some sort of comparability between charities within a specific sector which will allow some vague level of comparison within sectors.

The important point is that the outcomes for a rescue mission are radically different from an at-risk youth mentoring program, which in turn are radically different from a civil rights group or public issue advocacy group. Each organization needs a metric that specifically addresses what that organization is trying to accomplish.

There are somewhere in the range of 250 charities listed at Platinum Early Adopters. Congrats to these organizations taking the first struggling steps to publicly declare their quantitative progress against their outcome goals.

I took a look at the results for about a dozen of those early adopters. Here’s what I learned from my nonrandom sample.

Traditional input measurement

Read the rest of this entry »


Deeper coverage of Wounded Warrior Project – 5/10

May 10, 2016, 9:36 am

I’ve noticed a number of articles lately that dive deeper into the WWP issues that the first round of coverage. These articles are discussing substance.

4/24 – Wounded Warrior Project – Statement by interim COO Charlie Fletcher – Interim COO promised to continue mission to serve wounded warriors and make the changes need to move organization forward.

5/4 – Florida Times Union at jacksonvile.com – First Coast News: Wounded Warrior Project executive resigns – The WWP Chief Programs Officer resigned, citing personal reasons.

Article gives no more detail.

The webpage listing the executive staff shows the CPO position as second of nineteen. My paraphrase is this looks like a strategic planning position with additional emphasis on managing and directing programs. His most recent experience was in development. He is a ’93 West Point grad.

Following article gives some speculation of what might be behind the resignation.

Read the rest of this entry »


More coverage of Wounded Warrior Project – 4/21

April 21, 2016, 8:42 am

Seems like the coverage of the WWP financial situation is slowing down. A few interesting articles for your consideration:

4/9 – David Bauerlein at Florida Times-Union – Ousted Wounded Warrior Project executives defend in their leadership of Jacksonville-based charity – This is the original article that generated the AP story I mentioned earlier. The Times-Union article is far better.

Note to the public relations, financial, and executive leadership of charities: pay attention to this article. The reporter not only understands joint cost allocation rules, he can explain the issues. Check out the section of the report titled How much really goes to veterans?

Perhaps it is just a function that I don’t get out very much, but I have noticed over the last couple of years that there are several reporters around the country who have a solid understanding of nonprofit accounting. There are quite a few reporters who are skilled at reading a 990. Keep that in mind as you interact with media.

More clearly than I have read anywhere else, this article explains Mr. Nardizzi’s regrets.  He wishes the 2014 conference had not been held at the Broadmoor. It doesn’t matter that WWP got discounts on room rates, food, and meeting space. He also wishes he had not rappelled down the side of the building.

Both of those things have given an impression the organization is wasteful.

Read the rest of this entry »


More coverage of Wounded Warrior Project. Former CEO and COO talking to media. 4/12

April 12, 2016, 9:36 am
Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Stephen Nardizzi and Al Giordano are talking to a variety of media outlets. They are defending the organization and their work. We hearing their side of the story.

Here are a few articles of interest in the last week or so. One odd tidbit is the major report received as part of the board’s investigation was provided in oral form only – the AP article says the board says there was no written report.

Another surprising tidbit – In the Chronicle of Philanthropy interview, Mr. Nardizzi indicates he was told not to speak to the media when the story broke.

One more observation after reading these articles – none of the following reports address the issue of whether WWP does or does not have a broken corporate culture.

4/10 – AP – 2 ousted executives defend work at Wounded Warrior Project – Mr. Nardizzi has repeated his comments on the things he regrets. Previous comments were not clear to me. In this article he is quoted as saying in a different interview that wishes the conference drawing so much attention has been located somewhere other than a luxury hotel. He also wishes he had not rappelled down the side of the building.

Those things allowed others (read that as media) to misrepresent the organization. His regret is allowing things to happen which would be  misrepresented.

His previous comments were confusing to me.

Read the rest of this entry »


Three areas where accountants could help with analyzing charities

February 16, 2016, 7:34 am
Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Professor Brian Mittendorf has outlined his ideas on how the accounting community could pitch in on industry-wide efforts to assess the effectiveness of charities.

1/25 – Counting on Charity – Three Pressing Issues in the Nonprofit Sector that Need Accounting Input – He  introduced three areas of nonprofit accounting where accountants could help:

  • Accounting for impact investments
  • Follow the money trail through multiple organizations
  • The development of alternative metrics of performance

Expanded discussions:

Read the rest of this entry »