Nikisha Sanders 2015 Q&A: Finances, Group 2

When Elections was ordered to remove Nikisha Sanders from the 2015 Election ballot, the committee was told to erase all information about her candidacy from the website. However, Elections firmly feels that there is no situation in which candidates, whether former or current, should be silenced or erased from Election information. As in all circumstances, Elections’ policy is to only edit and/or post candidate-written information with candidate permission. Therefore, with Sanders’ permission, we have posted the Q&A responses she completed prior to her removal.

Can you describe your ideal setup for OTW finances going forward, given that many of you flagged the current situation as an issue?

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Nikisha Sanders 2015 Q&A: Finances, Group 1

When Elections was ordered to remove Nikisha Sanders from the 2015 Election ballot, the committee was told to erase all information about her candidacy from the website. However, Elections firmly feels that there is no situation in which candidates, whether former or current, should be silenced or erased from Election information. As in all circumstances, Elections’ policy is to only edit and/or post candidate-written information with candidate permission. Therefore, with Sanders’ permission, we have posted the Q&A responses she completed prior to her removal.

If elected to the board, will you push for a published yearly budget? What would you consider key items in a budget? (more…)

Dan Lamson 2015 Q&A: Finances, Group 2

Note: Dan has withdrawn from the race, but he completed his answers before withdrawing, so they will be posted to the site.

Can you describe your ideal setup for OTW finances going forward, given that many of you flagged the current situation as an issue?

I think the treasurer is a position that needs back up and accountability. One idea that I think has merit is to find a bookkeeper to help carry the load. The treasurer would still do a lot of the day to day work, but the bookkeeper looks over everything on a monthly basis. This would also allow a second pair of eyes between money and a volunteer, which is always a good thing, for everyone involved. I would also love to see the org hire a CPA to check things regularly and to make sure that things will be ready to go come tax time, so there’s no surprises—also they can do the annual taxes, which for an organization this size probably should be done by a professional.

I also think the treasurer should work closely with DevMem to make sure that the committee is fully informed of changes to budget or new expenses that need to be accounted for in our fundraising efforts.

Basically, being treasurer of the OTW is a big job, and having backup would be good for the org as well as the person serving as treasurer.

There is currently no internal or external auditing structure checking the OTW’s bookkeeping (no legal worries, here: the Delaware state laws do not require annual auditing from nonprofits). If you join Board, is this something you would like to change? If so, how?

Audits! I love them. The OTW is long overdue for one, and I would push hard as a board member to get one done, and hopefully one every year or two going forward. Audits are a fundamental part of running a nonprofit, financial transparency. We are well past the point when it became a good idea to have one just so we could see that our financial practices meet acceptable standards. Basically, having an audit completed looks good, it shows potential donors that we are solvent and stable and treat their money well.

Our finances are currently being overseen by only one person with actual decisional and content-producing power, which is concerning in terms of transparency, and efficiency. If elected, how would you go about building a sound administrative Financial structure for the Organization?

I am not sure I would say that one person has decisional power, because all expenses are approved by the full board. That said, it is possible the treasurer not pay for something the board tell them to pay for. Board currently has very little recourse in that instance, but I would hope that the treasurer chosen by board would be willing to follow board’s direction. Going forward, we should also work on a better system and document it so the knowledge is preserved if something happens to the treasurer.

Further, as I mentioned above, I would love to see infrastructure built to help the treasurer do their job better and for more transparently and efficiently.

I saw many concerns about finances in the candidates’ statements, but I did not see outsourcing financial oversight mentioned as a solution. I’d like to know what the candidates think about outsourcing (paying for) some responsibilities, in particular engaging a company with a background in financial services for non-profits.

As I stated above, I would be very much fine with the org bringing in outside CPAs or bookkeepers or an accounting firm. I think it would be something the org could and should pay for, if necessary.

Matty Bowers 2015 Q&A: Finances, Group 2

Can you describe your ideal setup for OTW finances going forward, given that many of you flagged the current situation as an issue?

Without knowing all the details of our current situation, it’s difficult to outline a comprehensive plan. I hope by now a thorough internal audit has taken place and a draft budget for 2016 has been started.

Ideally, I think we need a Finance committee who can help guide and supervise the OTW’s financial practices. They would be responsible for handling taxes, tracking and analyzing spending, ensuring we have adequate internal controls, managing accounts, and developing the annual budget. Board should work closely with the Finance committee to ensure the committee is staying on track and meeting its responsibilities.

There is currently no internal or external auditing structure checking the OTW’s bookkeeping (no legal worries, here: the Delaware state laws do not require annual auditing from nonprofits). If you join Board, is this something you would like to change? If so, how?

I would like there to be an internal audit each year to ensure our finances are being managed responsibly. I also think we should consider having an independent CPA review every three years; this review would be presented to our members and posted publicly for review.

Our finances are currently being overseen by only one person with actual decisional and content-producing power, which is concerning in terms of transparency, and efficiency. If elected, how would you go about building a sound administrative Financial structure for the Organization?

As mentioned above, I think we need a strong Finance committee who can help guide and supervise the OTW’s financial practices. This committee should have at minimum 3-5 staffers who have experience with handling finances, preferably in a nonprofit setting. These staffers would work closely with committee chairs and Board to ensure all finances are managed responsibly.

I saw many concerns about finances in the candidates’ statements, but I did not see outsourcing financial oversight mentioned as a solution. I’d like to know what the candidates think about outsourcing (paying for) some responsibilities, in particular engaging a company with a background in financial services for non-profits.

Again, as mentioned above, I am very much for this idea. The OTW has reached the stage where I believe it would be beneficial to seek professional advice from trained accountants. While I don’t think we need to outsource all financial management, I do think we should have an external audit by a licensed CPA done every three years. Eventually we may need to investigate having formal external audits done more regularly, however due to the cost I don’t think they are needed as of yet.

Katarina Harju 2015 Q&A: Finances, Group 2

Can you describe your ideal setup for OTW finances going forward, given that many of you flagged the current situation as an issue?

Quite honestly there isn’t a good answer I can give to this. What I currently know about our finances is gathered mostly from our Annual Reports and our 990 tax forms. There is no available documentation about how our bookkeeping is done or of any other finance-related issues. To actually have an idea of how to go forward, I would first have to have a better understanding about the current situation. Ideally, I’d start with spending a long weekend alone with our books to get an idea of what our needs are and what, besides the plainly obvious, needs to be remedied.

I’m not entirely sure if reinstating the Financial committee in some form is a viable solution at this point. It depends on what the actual situation is at the moment, but also on the fact that we may have trouble finding volunteers who are not only qualified, but also willing to commit to the amount of work that would be needed in setting up the committee. If we can’t find the volunteer power needed, then at least in the short term I believe we should consider outsourcing some of the work.

There is currently no internal or external auditing structure checking the OTW’s bookkeeping (no legal worries, here: the Delaware state laws do not require annual auditing from nonprofits). If you join Board, is this something you would like to change? If so, how?

I already mentioned in a previous answer that I would certainly like to take a very close look at our accounting myself before being able to form any concrete opinions on what needs to be done; similarly, an internal audit would help map the current situation and identify steps that need to be taken. An audit on its own will not fix problems; however, it is true that an internal auditing structure would help identify problems with our accounting, and be a step towards further transparency. While setting up a structure for audits would be nice, it would not solve the most crucial problem, because an audit would not change the fact that all the accounting related tasks would still be done by one single person, even though it would add a measure of oversight to that one person’s work.

I recognise the fact that it would improve people’s trust in our finances if we could show an outside opinion of them. However, an independent audit (that is an outside audit performed by a certified public accountant) is something I’m a bit more reluctant to commit to, at least on an annual basis. It is a significant cost, it is not legally required and, just like an internal audit, it will not correct problems on its own but will simply tell us how well our accounting reflects our actual financial position. If we do need to have an outside opinion, there are alternatives to a full audit such as a less extensive independent review of the finances, which like a full audit is also performed by a certified public accountant.

Our finances are currently being overseen by only one person with actual decisional and content-producing power, which is concerning in terms of transparency, and efficiency. If elected, how would you go about building a sound administrative Financial structure for the Organization?

I’ve already mentioned the complete lack of internal documentation in regards to our finances, which is troubling on a personal level because I feel like I’m basing my opinions on conjecture, but is of course a bigger issue as well, especially since we have also just gained a new Treasurer (the sole person in charge of the finances, as mentioned in the question). I’m rather worried about how much information might be lost in the transition from one Treasurer to another.

The truth is that I can certainly outline ideas for what could be done to build a better financial structure, but with my incomplete knowledge of the current situation and not having consulted the newly appointed Treasurer on the issue, there is no way to make a concrete plan at this point. Some of the crucial things in any structure we implement is to make sure that there is more than one person with access to the relevant information (such as passwords, bank accounts, bookkeeping material), that bills can be paid by more than one person and that bank statements should not be reconciled by the same person signing the checks.

I saw many concerns about finances in the candidates’ statements, but I did not see outsourcing financial oversight mentioned as a solution. I’d like to know what the candidates think about outsourcing (paying for) some responsibilities, in particular engaging a company with a background in financial services for non-profits.

I’ve already mentioned in another answer that outsourcing some of the work is something that should at least be considered. However, I’m not certain if it is currently financially viable for us to engage the services of something like an accounting firm or other similar company on such a large scale, as such services can be very costly and not necessarily needed for a nonprofit of our size, where for example a single contracted bookkeeper might be enough for our purposes. Of course we would have to investigate the options in more depth, take stock of our current needs and get quotes from accounting firms and contractors, to see what would be the best choice for us.

Atiya Hakeem 2015 Q&A: Finances, Group 2

Can you describe your ideal setup for OTW finances going forward, given that many of you flagged the current situation as an issue?

I would like to see us resurrect the Finance committee (see my answer to the third question in this set for more detail).

There is currently no internal or external auditing structure checking the OTW’s bookkeeping (no legal worries, here: the Delaware state laws do not require annual auditing from nonprofits). If you join Board, is this something you would like to change? If so, how?

I think we should price external auditing, and if it seems reasonable, we should have it, possibly at more widely spread intervals, such as every two years.

While I believe our finances are not currently being responsibly or sensibly overseen, I don’t actually think any fiscal impropriety has gone on. However, auditing would be nice as a reassurance to the Org and its members, and a check against any future misconduct.

Our finances are currently being overseen by only one person with actual decisional and content-producing power, which is concerning in terms of transparency, and efficiency. If elected, how would you go about building a sound administrative Financial structure for the Organization?

I think we should return control of the Org’s finances to a Finance committee. The fact that the previous committee was allowed to die doesn’t mean that a committee isn’t a working model if resurrected with better structure (as committees such as Translation and AO3 Documentation have been). I’d start with internal recruiting; I know we have a number of qualified people within the Org. A Finance committee of multiple members would provide redundancy for completing tasks such as paying the bills, and would have more time and resources available to keep documentation and reporting up to date. In addition, having more than one set of eyes on the books reduces the risk of either intentional or accidental mismanagement. I would like to see such a committee report to Board, but be independent from it as an additional check against abuse.

I saw many concerns about finances in the candidates’ statements, but I did not see outsourcing financial oversight mentioned as a solution. I’d like to know what the candidates think about outsourcing (paying for) some responsibilities, in particular engaging a company with a background in financial services for non-profits.

I am concerned about outsourcing financial oversight on a full-time basis. First, anything of this nature is not going to be cheap. Second, our finances are simply not that complicated. Third, I think it would be easy to find a company that was not in fact competent at the task, and given previous examples of Board choices of external people to pay, I’m not confident we’d be spending our money wisely.

I’d rather we install a functioning Finance committee of volunteers with proper reporting, and prioritize spending money to pay people doing tasks that can’t be easily done on a part-time volunteer basis, and who we can effectively oversee.