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Local experts provide insight into nonprofit issues at annual confab

DeWITT — Nearly 100 professionals gathered recently to hear local experts and leaders discuss the latest nonprofit industry issues at Dannible & McKee, LLP’s 12th annual Nonprofit Conference. 

In addition to nonprofit employees, the Jan. 13 conference at the DoubleTree by Hilton, near Carrier Circle, also drew board members, attorneys, finance-industry professionals, and vendors to the nonprofit sector, according to Dannible & McKee’s marketing director, Jill Richmond. Some attendees even traveled from as far north as Gouverneur and as far south as Johnson City, as well as from Auburn and Utica.

Dannible & McKee, a Syracuse–based CPA firm, offered the conference at no cost to attendees.


Kicking off the event, Karl Jacob, a tax partner at Dannible & McKee, and Jeffrey B. Scheer, a member at Syracuse law firm, Bond Schoeneck & King PLLC, addressed steps that organizations need to complete to become compliant with the New York State Nonprofit Revitalization Act of 2013. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Nonprofit Revitalization Act into law on Dec. 18, 2013, and it became effective on July 1, 2014. The Revitalization Act’s purpose is to enhance nonprofit governance and oversight to prevent fraud and improve public trust, as well as reduce unnecessary and outdated burdens on nonprofits.

According to Jacob and Scheer’s checklist, nonprofits should have already amended their bylaws to include conflict-of-interest policies and whistleblower policies. 

Additionally, organizations that meet the income threshold are required to have an independent CPA audit to ensure their boards or board committees perform certain oversight functions and are aware of any issues identified by the auditors. 

In the following session, two audit managers at Dannible & McKee drilled down to the “nitty gritty” on how to report on financial statements. To help the organizations allocate time and services in the right category on the financial statement, Charla Roth, senior audit manager at Dannible & McKee, encourages nonprofits to have all of their employees conduct a time-study of their hours for a two-week period every quarter. This activity can help determine if an employee’s task should be categorized as “management and general” or as “fundraising,” for example.

The confab speakers also stressed the importance of balance sheets. It’s a major red flag if an organization doesn’t have a balance sheet for board members to review, says Peggy Rowe, co-presenter and audit partner at Dannible & McKee. Ideally, board members should see a balance sheet at monthly meetings, but at the very least, they should see one on a quarterly basis.

New to this year’s conference was a panel discussion with local nonprofit leaders.

“We added [the panel] because we felt attendees really enjoy the stories and examples other like-minded professionals share. It also provided them with an opportunity to have a dialogue with others in the nonprofit community, which is something that really went beyond the typical Q&A at the end of a presentation,” says Richmond.

Panelists included Frank Lazarski, president of the United Way of Central New York; John G. Eberle, vice president for grants and community initiatives at the Central New York Community Foundation (CNYCF); and Pam Brunet, executive director of Leadership Greater Syracuse (LGS). Christopher Didio, partner at Dannible & McKee, moderated the discussion.

Here are a few snippets from the panel discussion.

On what to look for in potential board members:

Lazarski: Make sure the person is clear on the expectations of joining the board. The person has to be there for a reason. He also suggests a person start on a committee before joining a board in full capacity.

Brunet: Time, talent, and treasure. Have a conversation with the person before he/she joins to the board to make clear what the expectations are.

Eberle: Build-in an orientation process to help the person understand the organization’s mission. The CNYCF offers “learning days” which take a deeper dive into material that can’t always be done in detail at regular meetings.

On collaborating with other organizations:

Lazarski: “We know we can’t do this alone.” Find what others can bring to the table and work on ways to stay relevant.

Brunet: “Collaboration is not as scary as it sounds.” She looks for partners who are in line with LGS’s mission and can help generate revenue.

Eberle: He suggests that nonprofits find ways to work together.

On how to handle crisis management:

Lazarski: Be up front, tell the truth. “I’m willing to give you the good, the bad, and the ugly,” he says.

Brunet: “In the absence of information, people will make up stuff. If you don’t know, state it, and then say what you’re doing to get the information.”

Eberle: Perception is real until recognized. Have a good plan of action in place, he advises.





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