Nonprofit Controls and How to Make them Work for You

On March 14th, Hilda Polanco joined Ruth McCambridge of the Nonprofit Quarterly for a webinar on how to think about internal controls in a nonprofit organization.  Ruth’s title for the webinar, “Maximizing Nonprofit Internal Controls: An Essential Guide for Even the Most Pure” triggered an important initial point: You shouldn’t see the adoption of internal controls as an assault on the culture of an organization. Of course you and your colleagues are “pure” and have the best of intentions, but trusting one another is not a sufficient reason not to adopt internal controls. In fact, internal controls should be championed by those at the top of the organization as a resource for setting its cultural tone and for establishing a shared commitment to mitigating risks to the organizations sustainability. In fact, as Hilda notes, responding to a question towards the end of the webinar, the adoption of internal controls and regular adherence to them, can have the effect of reassuring staff that they work in a fair and transparent environment.

Additional interesting points to consider:

  • Technology is both a tool for diminishing financial risk and a source of additional risks!  Expense-management tools like Expensify or Tallie or payment platforms like can help operationalize internal control processes.  But online banking can make the unauthorized movement of money easier and easier, so working with your bank to ensure that controls are in place is critical.
  • Vacation can be a control! Your finance person might be over-worked, but if he or she never takes vacation, that may be a red flag. Having someone else’s fresh eyes on your books when the finance person takes time off is good for everyone!

As always, the webinar was recorded, and you can watch the whole thing below to learn about five policies that reduce risk! (Fast forward to minute 28, if you can’t wait to see what those are!)

Want to see more NPQ Webinars?  Click on any of the links below:

Maximizing Internal Controls in your Nonprofit: A Guide for Even the Most Pure

Creating High Functioning Nonprofits: Who Should Have What Financial Information?

Nonprofit Capital: How to Think Differently about Its Use in Your Organization

Models and Components of Great Nonprofit Dashboards


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