Non-Profit Organization Consulting: A student initiative helping community leaders to follow their passions

Tuesday, April 12, 2022
by Harshita C., F21, Social Media and Web Associate

Supporting the community by providing accounting and financial consultation to non-profit organizations

A C-suite executive discussing with a student in an office

The Non-Profit Organization Consulting (NPOC) group consists of student volunteers passionate about providing their financial expertise to non-profit organizations (NPOs) to help grow their initiatives. The School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) interviewed Robert G. Ducharme, lecturer and initiative lead, to learn more about the mission, as well as the successes, and challenges faced by NPOC.

Q1. How did NPOC start? What were the reasons for its establishment?

The concept for NPOC started about three years ago. I was involved in another student experiential learning team (the David T. Carter Foundational Review Team) with some other faculty members working with local foundations that distributed grant funding to small NPOs. The SAF students in the team would review and analyze grant funding applications that were received by the foundations and follow-up with the applicant on behalf of the foundation. After over a decade of working with the foundations, they decided to change their process and perform the application analysis in-house. This left a void for learning opportunities in the not-for-profit area. After some brainstorming, I thought it would be beneficial to assist small to medium size NPOs prepare grant applications, provide general organizational advice and explain NPO concepts to new start-ups.

Q2. What are some accomplishments of the NPOC to date?

As this is a new SAF initiative, we started from the ground up by recruiting some extremely dedicated founding student team members, followed by developing some basic governance and organizational structures and documents. Various educational sessions were developed by the senior NPOC team members and held with new student members to introduce them to NPO concepts since they are generally not introduced to NPOs until upper-year courses. NPOC has recently developed a series of research articles to share with small organizations and start-ups. The first research series has eight mini-articles on ‘Tips for New NPOs’. Future research article series are underway and include topics on performance management and tax tips for NPOs.

Visit the NPOC website to read more about these tips for NPOs.

Q3. What are some milestones you wish to achieve in the next five years?

Over the next five years, we hope to build our client base and help micro and small NPOs deliver social goods and services to their communities. We would also like to enhance our reach and ability to assist NPOs in locating and completing applications to external funding agencies. At some point, we would also like to enter a partnership with a public accounting firm to provide some general bookkeeping, tax filing, and specific accounting advice for small to medium NPOs. This would allow students to implement the skills they are currently learning in the classroom into real-life situations instead of textbook simulations.

Q4. How have you seen NPOC benefit non-profit organizations?

Most of the staff/volunteers managing micro to small NPOs are not accounting majors, nor do they need to be. They need to focus on how to best serve their targeted beneficiaries. We found executives spent much of their precious time learning and solving accounting issues – time that could be used elsewhere in their organization. We try to provide basic financial literacy to the executives, staff, and volunteers of the organization so that they can understand the financial concepts and issues more comprehensively and allow them to manage their organizations more confidently.

Q5. Can you provide me with some of the challenges faced by NPOC in the past years in achieving its goals? How did you manage to overcome them?

Our initial challenge was starting a whole new student experiential learning initiative and communicating our ambitions with prospective team members. All of this took place at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic while still trying to navigate through a new virtual meeting environment. The biggest challenge that we currently face is to spread the word to micro, small, and medium-sized NPOs about the services that we can offer them. An eager subset of the NPOC team has taken on the role of the marketing team. They have created various social media accounts that provide updates about our services. My goal is to have a backlog of potential NPOs that we can assist, as the student team members in NPOC have the resources and ambition to work with these organizations—we just haven’t reached that milestone yet.

Q6. Why do you think students should apply to be a part of NPOC?

Given time constraints, students' curriculum focuses a lot on profit-oriented entities. I firmly believe that an important aspect of working in a professional career path is giving back to the community. This is a great opportunity for accounting and finance students to expand their knowledge into the not-for-profit sector and apply their learning into practice for real-life organizations. This also allows them to build a stepping stone in their careers, by being stewards of the community and sharing the skills and knowledge with organizations that can benefit from the support.