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CPAs must help nonprofits make tough decisions now

Written on May 13, 2021

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager 

Changes in the nonprofit industry made because of the pandemic are starting to take hold, and it’s time to decide what areas add value, said one CPA. 

“CPAs we can aid in the process of recovery for our organizations,” said Michael Cade, CPA, CGMA, nonprofit advisor and executive coach, MFCCoach, LLC. “But we have to get out of the day-to-day mindset of just minding the numbers. There is a lot that we can do to help our boards and our management understand what's going on. But we have to do it in a new way.” 

Cade will present at the Not-For-Profit Virtual Conference on June 17. He said that during the first six months of the pandemic, many not-for-profits received sizable contributions from individuals wanting to help. Regardless of whether a nonprofit has done well during the pandemic or struggled throughout, Cade said now there must be a plan for what’s next as vaccinations increase and more restrictions begin to open. 

Man smiling for camera.

“CPAs have been called on to really try to help define what issues are pandemic related and what the pandemic exposed,” he said. 

One area Cade said the pandemic likely exposed for many organizations is underperforming programs. If everything was going well for a nonprofit before the pandemic, a mediocre program might not be scrutinized as closely. But when more successful programs needed to be shut down later because they couldn’t be done virtually, that under-performing programs have been looked at more in detail. 

Cade said when this happens it’s worth considering how each program adds value in the larger context of the mission and strategy of the organization. Just because you had to stop doing a program for a certain amount of time during the pandemic doesn’t mean the program isn’t worthwhile. But if certain programs were never popular and have limped along over the years, consider if it makes sense to continue devoting staff time and resources to it. 

“This is where the CPA is so critically important,” Cade said. “You have to go with the data. Is having this one program perform better a better answer than fixing another one that's not performing so well?” 

Instead of waiting for things to return to normal, Cade say take a detailed look at the nonprofit’s portfolio to understand the long-term impacts of the pandemic and what can be learned from this time to be nimbler in the future. 

“We have to take this learning on how we got through this and be prepared,” Cade said. “So that in five years, 10 years, 15 years, whatever it takes for the next big disruption to come, it’s less of a shock.” 

Register for the Not For Profit Virtual Conference now and save $50 when you register by 5/20.