Whole Foods Market is now famous as the upscale supermarket chain that was acquired by Amazon for close to $14 billion. However, Whole Foods Market began with humble beginnings. In 1978, John Mackey and Renee Lawson borrowed money from friends and family to open a small natural food store in Austin, Texas. As the store expanded to open more locations and Mackey and Lawson admitted two additional partners and designated specific tasks to each partner, such as finance, human resources, and sales. This process continues today where, although Whole Foods Market is a multinational food chain with 500 locations, each regional manager has the autonomy and flexibility to decide on suppliers and pricing.
The proverb “too many cooks spoil the broth” applies to the management of a business. Thus, establishing the sequence of control as part of a succession plan ensures that the company continues to operate effectively and efficiently – especially if the business is bequeathed to children who do not work in the family business.
The sequence of control of a business succession plan outlines the decision-making process of a closely-held, family business once the owner is determined to be incapacitated or deceased. Although this can be emotionally tolling, the sequence of control is essential for the continuity of the business. The following are questions that arise when planning the sequence of control.
What is the definition of incapacitated?
You undoubtedly know of instances in which the patriarch of a family suffered from dementia or a form of memory loss. You are probably familiar with cases in which people took advantage of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Such undue influence can arise if a business owner can no longer exercise prudent business reasoning and judgment. Accordingly, the business succession plan should define “capacity” and specify who makes the determination, which can be a physician or a member of the clergy.
Who assumes control?
It may seem irresponsible to vest absolute control to the child or children who work(s) in the business; however, it may be imprudent to allow children who do not work in the company to be involved in the decision-making process of the business. A business administrator who requires approval for the day-to-day operational decisions in the ordinary course of business may be unable to perform basic administrative duties of the company, especially if consent is needed from an adverse party. Nevertheless, a proper business plan may require a vote of all members for significant business decisions, or decisions that may alter the business structure or significantly impact the business.
How can I secure oversight over the business administrator?
Proper internal controls are always recommended to promote accountability and prevent fraud, but it is even more critical when one heir controls the family business. The business succession plan can provide for a salary and fringe benefits or performance-based compensation, methods for removing or replacing the administrator, an arbitrator to adjudicate disagreements or disputes among family members, and an exit strategy or process of dissolving the business or partnership.
How can I provide for myself and my spouse while incapacitated?
If you are considered an owner of the business during your lifetime or so long that your spouse is alive, your succession plan can stipulate that you receive periodic distributions. However, a fixed withdrawal may prove to be insufficient for your medical needs or general cost of living. Conversely, the business may be dependent on its working capital that is now being distributed and accumulated in your personal checking account.
Do you want to control costs and improve delivery of your not-for-profit’s programs and services? It may not be as difficult as you think. First, you need to know how much of your nonprofit’s expenditures go toward programs, as opposed to administrative and fundraising costs. Then you must determine how much you need to fund your budget and weather temporary cash crunches.
4 key numbers
These key ratios can help your organization measure and monitor efficiency:
Percentage spent on program activities. This ratio offers insights into how much of your total budget is used to provide direct services. To calculate this measure, divide your total program service expenses by total expenses. Many watchdog groups are satisfied with 65%.
Percentage spent on fundraising. To calculate this number, divide total fundraising expenses by contributions. The standard benchmark for fundraising and admin expenses is 35%.
Current ratio. This measure represents your nonprofit’s ability to pay its bills. It’s worth monitoring because it provides a snapshot of financial conditions at any given time. To calculate, divide current assets by current liabilities. Generally, this ratio shouldn’t be less than 1:1.
Reserve ratio.Is your organization able to sustain programs and services during temporary revenue and expense fluctuations? The key is having sufficient expendable net assets and related cash or short-term securities.
To calculate the reserve ratio, divide expendable net assets (unrestricted and temporarily restricted net assets less net investment in property and equipment and less any nonexpendable components) by one day’s expenses (total annual expenses divided by 365). For most nonprofits, this number should be between three and six months. Base your target on the nature of your operations, your program commitments and the predictability of funding sources.
Orient toward outcomes
Looking at the right numbers is only the start. To ensure you’re achieving your mission cost-effectively, make sure everyone in your organization is “outcome” focused. This means that you focus on results that relate directly to your mission. Contact us for help calculating financial ratios and using them to evaluate outcomes.
Your not-for-profit’s ability to pursue its mission depends greatly on its financial health and integrity. If your nonprofit is growing and your executives are struggling to juggle financial responsibilities, it may be time to hire a chief financial officer (CFO).
Generally, the nonprofit CFO (also known as the director of finance) is a senior-level position charged with oversight of accounting and finances. He or she works closely with the executive director, finance committee and treasurer and serves as a business partner to your program heads. A CFO reports to the executive director or board of directors on the organization’s finances. He or she analyzes investments and capital, develops budgets and devises financial strategies.
The CFO’s role and responsibilities vary significantly based on the organization’s size, as well as the complexity of its revenue sources. In smaller nonprofits, CFOs often have wide responsibilities — possibly for accounting, human resources, facilities, legal affairs, administration and IT. In larger nonprofits, CFOs usually have a narrower focus. They train their attention on accounting and finance issues, including risk management, investments and financial reporting.
Making the decision
How do you know if you need a CFO? Weigh the following factors:
- Size of your organization,
- Complexity and types of revenue sources,
- Number of programs that require funding, and
- Strategic growth plans.
Static organizations are less likely to need a CFO than not-for-profits with evolving programs and long-term plans that rely on investment growth, financing and major capital expenditures.
The right candidate
At a minimum, you want a CFO with in-depth knowledge of the finance, accounting and tax rules particular to nonprofits. Someone who has worked only in the for-profit sector may find the differences difficult to navigate. Nonprofit CFOs also need a familiarity with funding sources, grant management and, if your nonprofit expends $750,000 or more of federal assistance, single audit requirements. The ideal candidate should have a certified public accountant (CPA) designation and, optimally, an MBA.
In addition, the position requires strong communication skills, strategic thinking, financial reporting expertise and the creativity to deal with resource restraints. Finally, you’d probably like the CFO to have a genuine passion for your mission — nothing motivates employees like a belief in the cause.
If your budget is growing and financial matters are becoming more complicated, you may want to add a CFO to the mix. Otherwise, consider outsourcing CFO responsibilities to a CPA firm. Contact us for more information.
Most not-for-profits are intensely focused on present needs, not the possibility that disaster will strike sometime in the distant future. But because a fire, flood or other natural or man-made disaster could strike at any time, the time to plan for it is now.
You likely already have many of the necessary processes in place — such as evacuating your office. A disaster or continuity plan simply organizes and documents your processes.
Identify specific risks
No organization can anticipate or eliminate all possible risks, but you can limit the damage of potential risks specific to your nonprofit. The first step in creating a disaster plan is to identify the specific threats you face when it comes to your people, processes and technology. For example, if you work with vulnerable populations such as children and the disabled, you may need to take extra precautions to protect your clients.
Also assess what the damages would be if your operations were interrupted. For example, if you had an office fire — or even a long-lasting power outage — what would be the possible outcomes regarding property damage and financial losses?
Make your plan
Designate a lead person to oversee the creation and implementation of your continuity plan. Then assemble teams to handle different duties. For example, a communications team could be responsible for contacting and updating staff, volunteers and other stakeholders, and updating your website and social media accounts. Other teams might focus on:
- Safety and evacuation procedures,
- IT issues, including backing up data offsite,
- Insurance and financial needs, and
- Recovery — getting your office and services back up and running.
Planning pays off
All organizations — nonprofit and for-profit alike — need to think about potential disasters. But plans are critical for some nonprofits. If you provide basic human services (such as medical care and food) or are a disaster-related charity, you must be ready to support victims and their families. This could mean mobilizing quickly, perhaps without full staffing, working computers or safe facilities. You don’t want to be caught without a plan. Contact us for more information.
It’s a well-known truism in the corporate world: Organizations that don’t evolve run the risk of becoming obsolete. But instead of anticipating and reacting to market demands like their for-profit counterparts, many not-for-profits hold on to old ideas about how their organizations should be run. Here are a few things your nonprofit can learn from the business world.
The strategic plan — a map of near- and long-term goals and how to reach them — lies at the core of most for-profit companies. If your nonprofit doesn’t have a strategic plan or has been lax about revisiting and revising an existing plan, this should be a top priority.
Although the scope of your plan will be specific to the size and nature of your organization, basic principles apply to most. For example, you should set objectives for several time periods, such as one year, five years and 10 years out. Pay particular attention to each strategic goal’s return on investment. For example, consider the resources required to implement a new contact database relative to the time and money you’ll save in the future.
You probably already develop an annual budget, but how closely does it follow your strategic plan? For-profit businesses use budgets to support strategic priorities, putting greater resources behind higher priority projects.
Businesses also routinely carry debt on their balance sheets in the belief that it takes money to make money. Nonprofits, by contrast, typically avoid operating deficits. Unfortunately, it’s possible to operate so lean that you no longer meet your mission. Applying for a loan or even creating a for-profit subsidiary could provide your nonprofit with the funds to grow. Building up your endowment also may help provide the discretionary cash essential to pursue strategic opportunities.
Although nonprofits must disclose financial, operational and governance-related information on their Form 990s, public companies subject to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other regulations are held to higher standards. Consider going the extra mile to promote transparency.
If you don’t already, engage an outside expert to perform annual audits, and make your audited financial statements available upon request. Outside audits help assure stakeholders that your financial data is accurate and that you’re following correct accounting practices and internal controls.
We can help with your audit needs and assist you in adopting for-profit business practices that make sense given your organization’s needs. Reach out to learn more.