Think back to when you first started your organization. Responsibility sat on a director or small group of individuals to promote, produce, and account for the organization’s mission. Each task was approached with a “whatever-it-takes” mentality. Everyone was in touch with what was happening, identified areas of improvement, and felt confident in the direction of the organization. As your team grew from either 3 to 20 employees or 10 to 50, the complexity did, too, while clarity and oversight may have decreased. Reassessing your processes and internal controls to provide clarity, oversight and peace of mind is essential to propel your organization forward. To do this, start by outlining where you are today, identify areas for improvement, and evaluate solutions to succeed.
Outline Your Current Processes
Think about all the tasks your team completes every day. Take time to identify each task within the process from beginning to end and who is responsible along the way. Be meticulous with the details to properly assess where you have issues or opportunities.
Identify Improvement Opportunities
Once you have the processes outlined, find aspects that need improvement. Do you have bottlenecks in your procedures? Collaborate with your team to discuss what slows down the processes you have in place. Think about the software, partnerships with other organizations and business, and your team involved in each step.
Ask questions like:
- Are too many tasks in a process concentrated with one person?
- Is there proper oversight and documentation behind each decision and transaction?
- Do processes overlap, and can some steps be eliminated?
- What is preventing steps from being bypassed in the process?
- Is your software efficient and easy to use, and does it provide clear, understandable reporting?
Here is where the rubber meets the road. Finding solutions to the opportunities you have outlined will be key to see drastic changes in your organization. This may feel overwhelming as you likely don’t have specialized knowledge of what solutions are available and don’t know where to start. Utilizing a trusted advisor who has this knowledge can propel improvements. Solutions come in different forms including new software that better suits your needs, better utilizing your staff’s strengths, and mutually beneficial agreements with vendors.
Some examples of these are:
- Your software was initially chosen for the needs you had at the time but has not maintained the same functionality and relevance at your current stage
- Identified improvements shined a light on under-utilized staff or processes to eliminate
- An opportunity to outsource a function of a process to a vendor allows you or your staff to focus on areas you’re more passionate and proficient in
Where to Begin
Much has changed over the lifetime of your organization. Often overlooked, internal controls and processes may hold the key to fulfilling your mission in your organization’s next stage. Reach out to your trusted advisor to help you navigate through the unique challenges you’re facing.
Paul Fienup, CPA and Manager at TDT, discusses how to reassess your internal controls as you have grown. With many years of experience, Paul specializes in helping nonprofit leaders produce accurate and timely financials, understand their reports, and make decisions from relevant data. Paul is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Iowa Society of CPAs.