Best Practices for Internal Controls in Not-for-Profits

Best Practices for Internal Controls in Not-for-Profits

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When it comes to not-for-profit organizations, strict internal controls are not merely procedural — they are the backbone of trust and accountability. These controls, ranging from simple duty segregation to sophisticated automated financial systems, serve as the guardians of an organization's financial health. They are designed to prevent and detect errors, ensuring that accounting records are not only accurate but also reliable.

Internal controls also thwart potential frauds such as skimming, payroll theft or asset misappropriation. In an environment where every penny counts and financial transactions are under constant scrutiny, it’s important to know which internal controls should be implemented.

This article focues on key internal controls not-for-profit organizations should be implementing.

Stronger Financial Controls to Implement

Implementing strong financial controls is not just about compliance, it's about using donations effectively and building trust with donors and stakeholders. A key aspect of these controls is the segregation of duties, which involves distributing financial tasks among different individuals. This practice helps prevent fraud and errors by ensuring that no single person has unrestricted control over the funds, thereby enhancing financial transparency and accountability.

Regular financial reviews are another critical practice. Independent audits verify the accuracy of financial statements and compliance with regulations. Plus, conducting interim reviews by the board's finance committee can help identify and address any issues early on. These practices, coupled with the use of financial management software, can enhance the accuracy of bookkeeping and reporting, making it easier to track fund allocations and financial transactions effectively. The software streamlines financial processes, ensuring that all financial data is accurately recorded and readily accessible for review and analysis.

Human Resource Policies to Consider

In addition to financial controls, not-for-profit organizations should consider implementing robust human resource policies as internal controls to ensure ethical conduct, compliance and efficient operations. After all, strong HR policies can minimize legal risks and ensure fair treatment for employees. Clear guidelines covering everything from hiring to termination create a consistent and objective approach.

Training plays a vital role, too. Regular sessions on ethics, fraud prevention and specific job skills empower staff and promote a culture of integrity. Continuous learning keeps employees updated on best practices, allowing them to contribute more effectively to the organization's goals.

Finally, background checks are essential for safeguarding the organization. Thorough checks, especially for financial roles, help identify potential risks before they arise. By vetting candidates carefully, not-for-profits build confidence in their workforce and ensure individuals uphold the organization's values. These checks add an extra layer of security.

Enhanced Governance Practices to Execute

An active and informed board of directors plays a critical role in strong governance. This involves holding regular meetings, having access to up-to-date financial reports and maintaining direct communication lines with key staff. An engaged board can provide valuable oversight and strategic guidance and ensure that the organization stays aligned with its mission and goals.

Implementing conflict of interest policies is another vital aspect of good governance. Such policies require board members and staff to disclose any potential conflicts of interest on an annual basis. By establishing and enforcing these policies, not-for-profits can prevent conflicts from influencing decision-making processes.

Documentation and record-keeping are also important for maintaining accountability and facilitating strategic decision making. Keeping meticulous records, including meeting minutes and financial documentation, is necessary for regulatory compliance and internal reviews. Detailed records provide a clear trail of decision-making processes and financial transactions, which is critical for audits and assessments. Plus, comprehensive documentation provides historical data and insights that can guide future strategies and actions.

Technology and Security Measures for Internal Controls

Implementing and maintaining strong internal controls through technology and security measures allows not-for-profit organizations to protect their sensitive information and ensure operational efficiency. Data protection safeguards donor and financial data from cyber threats. Regular updates and security training for staff mitigate risks and ensure that everyone is aware of potential threats and best practices for preventing them.

IT controls enhance internal processes by automating approvals for financial transactions and utilizing digital record-keeping systems. These technologies streamline operations, reduce the likelihood of human error and ensure that data is both accurate and easily accessible. This not only supports transparency and accountability but also ensures compliance with regulatory requirements.

Connect With Us

Internal controls for not-for-profit organizations are an important step toward more effective and meaningful operations. For more guidance on implementing basic controls and processes, please connect with us.

Copyright © 2024, CBIZ, Inc. All rights reserved. Contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the express written consent of CBIZ. This publication is distributed with the understanding that CBIZ is not rendering legal, accounting or other professional advice. The reader is advised to contact a tax professional prior to taking any action based upon this information. CBIZ assumes no liability whatsoever in connection with the use of this information and assumes no obligation to inform the reader of any changes in tax laws or other factors that could affect the information contained herein.

CBIZ MHM is the brand name for CBIZ MHM, LLC, a national professional services company providing tax, financial advisory and consulting services to individuals, tax-exempt organizations and a wide range of publicly traded and privately held companies. CBIZ MHM, LLC is a fully owned subsidiary of CBIZ, Inc. (NYSE: CBZ).

Best Practices for Internal Controls in Not-for-Profits Practices for Internal Controls in Not-for-Profits_Hero-1920x1000.jpg?ver=e2h05kAx_1zi5wjjFiwg-g%3d%3d Practices for Internal Controls in Not-for-Profits_Thumbnail-300x200.jpg?ver=BszmRDwoqyAu88OmHH9img%3d%3dExplore the critical role of internal controls in not-for-profits, ensuring financial health, preventing fraud, and building donor trust. Click to learn more.2024-05-22T17:00:00-05:00

Explore the critical role of internal controls in not-for-profits, ensuring financial health, preventing fraud, and building donor trust. Click to learn more.

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