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Blog: Vault staff takes ASAE’s Associations @ Work October 2019

Vault staff takes ASAE’s Associations @ Work October 2019

Two fellow Vaulters will be attending and presenting at ASAE’s Associations @ Work Conference later this month. Amy Horner, Vault’s Chief Operating Officer, and Catherine Robbins, Director of Outsourced Accounting, will be facilitating a round table discussion and presentation on common challenges found in associations, “Efficiency. Transparency. Design. Is your accounting department functioning optimally?” 

Along with the years of practice and expertise in not-for-profit (NFP) accounting that the two bring to the conference, Horner teaches about 10 internal professional development “Vault U” courses on public speaking, presentations, leadership, and mentorship available to Vault staff, warmly dubbed “Vaulters,” and Robbins has recently earned a Not-for-Profit Certificate from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The two CPAs plan to draw from their experiences helping associations and not-for-profit organizations diagnose and remedy typical challenges that leadership may not even realize exist.

The two accomplished Vaulters hope participants will bring challenges to discuss and be able to engage in peer-to-peer dialogue about resolutions or current scenarios they are facing. The pair will also be reviewing each common challenge, contributing ways to identify them, suggesting how and why disruptions may occur, offering some of their own solutions, and sharing with attendees how Vault can help their organizations. 

What Are the Five Common Challenges? 

  • Accounting Department not preparing statements in a timely fashion
  • Accounting Department not satisfying management and/or governance needs
  • Accounting Department foregoing analysis of numerical data or projections
  • Accounting Department producing erroneous statements
  • Accounting Department personnel not having proper oversight, credentials, or education 

According to the two presenters, of those five common challenges, the two challenges they encounter the most is either when accounting departments do not satisfy management or governance needs, or when accounting departments present financial reports that don’t offer analysis or meaning behind what may look like a bunch of numbers to board members or leadership. Horner remarks about an experience working with an association that was experiencing what Vaulters refer to as the “numbers only” challenge, “before I got there, they were staring at pages with numbers and couldn’t tell if what they were looking at was good or bad…the best part for me was relating to them in their language, so that they could start to see the story the financials were telling and see the bigger picture.” 

Still, the hardest one to remedy is preparing statements in a timely fashion, reveals Robbins. The CPA acknowledges, “timeliness can be difficult to remedy if people are stuck in their old ways or if there is not much foresight or budget for technology changes.” 

Overall, Horner and Robbins look forward to empowering participants in any non-profit or association leadership position with the confidence and tools to look past standards and norms, see their accounting departments through a different lens, and change their perceptions of what they have been accustomed to expect from their accounting departments. “We want to highlight that there is a lot of value in not allowing stagnation and that accounting departments should be an area that is regularly assessed,” Robbins concludes.