By Jim DeLuccia
CPAs who work in or perform audits for local government entities and nonprofit organizations share similar responsibilities and challenges. Due to this fact, PICPA members of the Not-for-Profit and the Local Government Accounting and Auditing committees elected to combine the programs that each discipline had presented separately into one conference: the Government & Not-for-Profit Conference, scheduled for July 22-23 in Hershey, Pa., with in-person and webcast options available. I recently chatted with the co-chairs of this new venture – Mike Lamb, CPA, principal at Wessel & Company, and Kathy Rue, CPA, director of finance of the YWCA Bucks County – on how certain topics overlap and what CPAs can expect to learn at the conference this summer.
Enterprise risk management (ERM) is not new, but the way it will be addressed for local government CPAs is new this year. Can you go over a few points on what attendees should expect to hear during that session?
Lamb: This will be a great session for practitioners and public sector professionals who are tasked with evaluating risks to either their clients or organization. Our presenter will share practical examples on implementing and sustaining an ERM program, promoting awareness of ERM methods, and sharing real examples of the benefits of having such a program in place.
The concept of “shared services” will also be addressed this year for local government CPAs. Can you explain what this means and what attendees can expect to learn?
Lamb: Shared services is a way that local governments can identify cost efficiencies or savings by partnering with other like-minded local governments. Local government organizations are consistently trying to deliver services to taxpayers without the benefit of a significant increase in their financial resources. I think this session will provide users with a lot of ideas to take back to their local government clients on where they might be able to partner with another local government and ultimately save taxpayer dollars or reallocate the savings to other needs.
What are a few key points attendees should expect to learn on endowment management?
Rue: The endowment management session will feature two skilled presenters from CliftonLarsonAllen who regularly assist nonprofit organizations with endowments. We'll learn about Pennsylvania rules governing endowments, how the new not-for-profit standards have impacted accounting and financial reporting for endowments, and recommendations on how an organization can develop spending and investing policies to meet fiduciary obligations.
Charities behaving badly is a new topic this year, though Laura Solomon has spoken at our conferences before. What are a few key points you’re looking forward to hearing during that discussion?
Rue: Laura Solomon is a terrific presenter. Year after year our post conference surveys indicate that we should invite her back to share her vast experiences with nonprofit organizations. This year, we asked her to discuss the fiduciary duties of both management and the board of directors, and common pitfalls. She will highlight critical aspects of governing documents and organizational policies, and provide some examples of charities who truly “behaved badly.”
Why is combining government and nonprofit accounting a natural fit?
Rue: We found that many conference attendees who work as external auditors provide services to both nonprofit organizations and municipalities. Also, attendees working as finance directors for nonprofit organizations and municipalities may share similar concerns regarding the application of sound business practices, cybersecurity, risk management, and proper financial reporting. Why not host a bigger conference where we can provide multiple tracks of topics? Now we’re able to let attendees choose what they want to learn about, as well as bringing everyone together in general sessions for those issues affecting all. I also think the larger audience size and diversity will allow for great networking.
Lamb: These disciplines are a natural fit in that local governments and nonprofit organizations are accountable to the public. That may be in the form of taxpayers, donors, or public granting agencies (funded by taxpayers). While every organization is unique, there is also overlap in the grant funding received and various compliance needs that arise from operating such programs.
Are you both excited to see how this plays out? Nervous?
Rue: I think any time we choose to make changes, there are moments of nervousness. However, as the topics came together and the roster of speakers were finalized, I found myself getting excited to see how this conference may appeal to new attendees, as well as spice up the conferences for past attendees. We have tried to retain the parts of the past conferences that were highly rated, as well as address constructive feedback that we received. Hershey is a great location, providing attendees the chance to bring their families and make it a minivacation in July. What's not to like about that?
Lamb: Nervous? No. We live in world that is changing at a rapid pace, and we see that in our profession on a daily basis. The conference committee is full of talented professionals from both disciplines, and the PICPA has a great team in place to deliver a powerhouse conference. I am very excited for the opportunity to unite these two conferences into a single event full of high level programming. Attendees also have a tremendous opportunity to network with peers, discuss industry challenges, and share best practices.