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COVID-19 Concerns in day-to-day Accounting Functions (Session 2)

How are funders adjusting in day-to-day accounting functions during the COVID-19 crisis?

In this episode of Community Foundation Coffee Talks, we hear from different funders about how their work has changed and the resources, experiences, and creative solutions that are helping them maximize their impact.

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Topics Covered:

  • Managing an Emergency Response Fund if one has been established

  • Is your organization granting already, and if so, are you granting individually or to nonprofits? What is your organization doing to respond to current events?

  • What kind of budget detail are you asking for in your application?

  • Internal control in a remote environment

  • Has anybody sought the advice of their auditors or touched base with their auditors?

  • Monitoring market conditions

  • Making Adjustments for Budgets

YOU can be heard on a future episode. Register for a community foundation coffee talk webinar

Check out this and other episodes of Community Foundation Coffee Talks on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, and Spotify!

Managing Emergency Response Funds

Susie Lotreck, Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford - We know what partner organizations to pull in in response to a time of need, we have that with the Jewish Federation next door because they're the ones who are directly in conversation with different Jewish agencies within our greater Hartford area.

Tamara Cox, Benton Community Foundation - We started out with disaster relief three or four years ago, due to living in a very small rural community. We have been funding it and we worked with another nonprofit organization that would take applications for that disaster and any disaster in the future, whether it be weather-related or health-related. So they have applications for us and we would be the funding partners. When this came up, we all got together and figured out whose role was going to be what and put up a telephone line that people could call for questions. So we worked very well and very quickly with all the other nonprofits and government agencies.

Is your organization granting already, and if so, are you granting individually or to nonprofits? What is your organization doing to respond to current events?

Taylor Milbradt, Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County - We are closing our grant application on Friday. We are giving to nonprofit organizations that are serving the basic needs of our most vulnerable residents, so food, diapers, and cleaning supplies. Even transportation or medication. This is a time when low-income individuals might still need to refill prescriptions that they can't afford now. As well as maybe they could hardly afford them before either. Yet, I'd be interested in hearing if anyone is opening their company supported employee assistance funds.

Susie Lotreck, Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford- We are not granting to individuals directly, just to nonprofits. We've not issued grants from the response fund yet because the Grants Committee team is vetting the agencies that have already applied. We do have donors that have called in and have requested for us to send out grants to different response funds from other communities or agencies that are in need of funds from their advised funds but not to individuals.

Joyce Darling, Delaware Community Foundation - We have already started issuing grants, we issued $350,000 this past Friday. I think it was about 10 different organizations specific or basic needs, including housing vouchers. We are currently working with a restaurant association about how we can help restaurant workers and servers.

Carol Reynolds, Hancock County Community Foundation - We stopped our unrestricted cycle and reallocated some of those monies to seed a fund, and then some donor advisors and some community organizations have also donated to that fund. We've had two rounds of grants out the door and we are vetting them for staff approval and then informing the board that our grants are focused on the immediate needs, but we do have a plan going forward for a more long-term plan as the situation continues.

What kind of budget detail are you asking for in your application?

Bettie Stammerjohn, Community Foundation of Greene County- Just two questions describing what it is you want to do and why. And the second question is what kind of impact do you feel that this grant would have on you. And then we asked them to give us a grant budget to describe what it was, just like I normally do. It's not a lot of detail and we're only asking them to describe or share what they are asking for from our fund. So, if they are receiving money from somewhere else, we haven't asked or had a description of that. So we'll see how it works. It's not as much information as I like, but we wanted it to be quick and fast and understanding that some of our nonprofits and directors are really struggling right now trying to figure out how they're retooling and finding new ways of doing things. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for them.

Internal Controls in a Remote Environment

Carol Reynolds, Hancock County Community Foundation - We were very happy to see both the check template improvement and the check process improvement that was implemented right about the time we went to remote work. That's been huge for us. We were able to set up a couple of different levels of checks improved remotely through CommunitySuite and also print checks with signatures after that process happens. And we were able to get approval from our bank to print certain signatures. So at the moment, I am able to do all of the check-writing here and we have been able to maintain our normal internal controls just done electronically instead of in-person.

Karyn McKelvey, Laird Norton Family Foundation - We moved to electronic payments and are figuring out the best practice for collecting banking information from grantees. We’ve since found out that we do not want to collect that in the system. So the question is, any best practices to share?

Crystal Macmillan, Foundant Technologies - I do know some folks were using during our call two weeks ago and folks are using a CH payment. The organizations would submit information through and then the Community Foundation organization could grant to that account easily.

Has anybody sought the advice of their auditors or touched base with their auditors?

Jodi Beers, Armstrong County Community Foundation - Right in the midst of the first week of the pandemic our auditors contacted me and wanted our information to start our audit because they were working from home. So they needed something to do. So a lot of our information is scanned to files. We have Google files on Google Drive, so we were able to download a lot of things and just email them. We're trying now to figure out the best way to scan all our receipts, and how to keep track of those in a very organized way which is a challenge right now. It's really no different from our auditors, they're at their home instead of their office mostly. Everything was emailed and I met her on the street with the box with the receipts and it was actually the day they had just announced the news. We had our first case that day, so we stood eight feet apart.

Monitoring Market Conditions

Have any organizations made any changes to their investment accounts or offerings that they're making with current donors during this time?

Susie Lotreck, Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford -  We have an investment committee and then we have a colonial consulting out of New York that does our investments, and our CEO and head of the investment committee have been asking the consultant to deliver us return information on almost a daily basis. We did call an emergency Investment Committee meeting. We did it through Zoom and basically sought the council from the consultant on if we would need to rebalance and so basically said that he just wanted to wait a little while but he would indeed reach out. So he's been our Bible for keeping track of the market. And then we also still move forward with our annual luncheon where we provide support, he does a presentation to donors, we invite everybody to come in for lunch. So we did that via zoom on April 1. So that was great because he was able to provide our donors with some of what's going on in the market and how things are working and how he's in conversation with our investment committee.

Carol Reynolds - Hancock County Community Foundation - We are not requiring an application.  We are doing surveys every 30 days and doing foundation initiated grants at this time. We will be requiring a short grant report but it will look different from our standard application.

Making Adjustments for Budgets

Julie Cole Mecum, Community Foundation of Boone County  - What, If any, communications are folks making with their Fund Advisors and with the public about their investments are you just not communicating out because everybody knows we're in the same boat or are you sending out communications basically saying that we’re staying the course? This is consistent with our investment policy.

Taylor Milbradt, Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County, Inc.  - We let our fundholders know that we’ve had an emergency investment committee meeting. Then we share with them some information that our advisor put together that looked back at market downturns over the last 50 years and how quickly or not so quickly that the market returned to previous levels and that seems to have been well received by our fundholders.

About the Author

For more than a decade, Foundant Technologies has specialized exclusively in making philanthropy easier and more impactful through intuitive technology solutions. All of our cloud-based solutions focus on grantmaker, grantseeker, scholarship provider and community foundation needs with the goal to make day-to-day tasks streamlined and help maximize the impact of the philanthropic community.

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