An integral part of your organization’s success, your nonprofit auditor is someone you will be working with year after year. Keeping this in mind and regarding the role with the weight it deserves when selecting your nonprofit auditor can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
Finding a good fit is more than just making sure that whomever you work with has the right qualifications. That is, however, a good starting point. You need to consider the specific type of audits that they perform, their reputation, and the quality of their customer service.
The Right Qualifications
First, and most obviously, you need to be certain that your potential auditing firm is committed to delivering high quality, technically-proficient, and ethical services.
They should be licensed in Washington state and be able to provide you with a copy of their most recent peer review. Find out if the firm is a member of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Washington Society of CPAs (WSCPA). The firm should also be independent of your organization in accordance with American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Financial Accounting Standards Board, and Government Accounting Standards.
An auditor who can do it all is appealing, but not necessary. Establish precisely what type of audit you need to have performed, what sector expertise you require, and match that with the experience of your prospective auditor. For example, if you require a Single Audit or Yellow Book Audit, is the firm a member of the AICPA Governmental Audit Quality Center?
Consider asking for recommendations from other organizations who do similar work, or if the firm can give you positive client reviews. This will help you avoid making a partnership you’ll later regret. Additionally, while new firms can be just as capable as those who are long-established, partnering with a firm that has not proven itself yet is always a gamble. Picking a well-recognized firm ensures you are working with a group that has a proven history of good business practices and quality work.
When evaluating the customer service of a potential accounting firm, you must consider four main points: front-end operations, involvement in their client’s business, internal efficiency, and back-end operations.
A good impression is more than smoke and mirrors — it is indicative of reliable operations. A good firm will be conscious of this and provide a pleasant, welcoming front-end experience for all clients, including excellent client service in person, over the phone, and online.
Involvement in Their Client’s Business
An accounting firm is a business partner. As much as you prepare to make their job easy, they need to be proactive to be there for you. Quality customer service here means taking active steps to work as an advisor and partner, including check-ins to see if there are any issues they can address and regular summaries of what they’re providing for you.
While not as visible to clients, a good firm should be efficient. This includes organized information systems that provide details to your firm’s representative whenever necessary, without lots of downtime while finding the appropriate documents and materials. Don’t be afraid to ask how a firm prefers to organize their operations.
While the atmosphere and team cohesion of a firm may not be directly visible to clients, the results still translate into happy firm employees who provide excellent service. Searching for a firm to partner with is no different than interviewing to fill an individual position. Ask about the firm’s culture and how team members fit together. You will be working together closely enough that how well your teams mesh matters.
Establish a strategy to use that will make the search for a firm to partner with go smoother. Keep the above details in mind, be direct and honest in asking questions to vet and get to know your prospective partners, and be proactive in establishing a list of prospective firms to meet with.