Donella Wilson

Partner

I believe that to be a successful firm, we need to invest in developing the leadership and professional skills of our staff.

Contact

Fun Facts

Favorite place in the world:

Cape Town, South Africa

Favorite music/band/singer:

My favorite musician is my husband, drummer Peter Barnett

Favorite movie or book of all time:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

One word that best describes me:

Purposeful

When I’m not working, you’ll catch me doing this:

Doing yoga

    Nonprofit Boards and Risk

    Originally published in Philanthropy News Digest While most nonprofits know they need to be forward thinking in order to create change, many are (understandably) focused on the day-to-day delivery of programs and services and don't know how to proceed. It's a challenge to strategize about future plans or consider taking on new activities and programs with broader impact when resources are limited and the organization's staff and leadership already have their hands full. Which is why […]

    See Details

      Getting Your Board on Board with Fundraising

      Originally published in Notations on Non-Profits  Without fundraising, most nonprofits would cease to exist.  However, BoardSource’s 2017 Leading with Intent report once again had fundraising performance as one of the top three most important areas needing improved Board performance. There is no doubt that fundraising is outside of the comfort zone for most Board members, so what can be done to ensure the success of this essential Board responsibility? Establish expectations for fundraising […]

      See Details

        Nonprofit Webinar: Experts Discuss What is Ahead for Nonprofit Organizations

        On March 29, 2017, Green Hasson Janks broadcasted an exciting webinar on the 2017 Outlook for Nonprofits. Partner and Nonprofit Practice Leader Donella Wilson of Green Hasson Janks moderated a provocative discussion with Principal and Nonprofit Tax Leader Lauren Haverlock of Green Hasson Janks and Nonprofit Consultant Larry Kaplan. For those of you who missed the webinar or wanted to revisit key topics that are relevant to your organization, please click here to download your copy of the […]

        See Details

          Case Study: Application of the New Minimum Wage Phase-In Requirements

          There have been numerous discussions about the economic pros and cons of a phased-in $15 wage floor but not that many around the practical application, so I thought I’d share a recent situation I encountered. Background: On January 1, 2017, the minimum wage in California increased to $10.50 per hour for employers with 26 employees or more (a large employer). Question: A subsidiary employs 24 staff (i.e. it is a small employer), however it is 75 percent owned by a parent with 50+ employees (a […]

          See Details

            The Greater Good

            The following is adapted from a speech given by Donella at the Los Angeles Business Journal’s Women’s Summit on May 23, 2016 (Green Hasson Janks was a sponsor). Donella is Board President of the Downtown Women’s Center, the only organization in Los Angeles exclusively dedicated to addressing the needs of women overcoming poverty and homelessness in Skid Row. Something very exciting happened earlier this year. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Homeless Count numbers were released on May […]

            See Details

              Utilizing Your Volunteer Army

              Volunteers are an integral part of the nonprofit world. Most nonprofits can’t operate without their volunteers. Not only do they provide their time and skills to help support your cause at no cost, but volunteers are ten times more likely to donate to your organization. The more volunteers and the more donors you get for your organization, the better. This means it is really important that you give them an engaging and fulfilling volunteer experience so they keep coming back and they keep […]

              See Details

                The Real Cost Project – Shifting the Funder’s Focus

                With long-term sustainability in mind, Northern California Grantmakers, San Diego Grantmakers and Southern California Grantmakers recently announced the launch of a new joint initiative – The Real Cost Project – to increase the impact of philanthropy across California. “Real cost” is all the necessary investments for a nonprofit organization to deliver on a mission and to be sustainable over the long term. The initiative changes the approach to grantmaking by starting with the end in mind and […]

                See Details

                  Ordinary to Extraordinary – What Does it Take?

                  At our nonprofit conference last week, themed “The nonprofit leaders’ journey from ordinary to extraordinary:  Tell me something I don’t know,” Pegine Grayson, vice president of Philanthropic Services at Whittier Trust, was one of our panelists. After the conference I asked Pegine if I could capture some of her insightful reflections. Donella: When asked to describe a situation where you had observed someone moving from ordinary to extraordinary, you told the story of a Board member who stepped […]

                  See Details

                    Becoming a Better Ambassador

                    In my last blog posting I mentioned reading BoardSource’s 2015 Leading with Intent. The report is a comprehensive review of nonprofit board practices, policies and performance and builds on data that BoardSource has collected and analyzed for over 20 years. One of the takeaways for me was that board members need to raise their collective voices as committed and informed champions for their missions. Engaging actively in advocacy is essential for making a positive impact beyond service delivery. […]

                    See Details

                      Redesigning Board Meetings to Maximize the Value of the Board

                      As a new Board Chair, I’ve been reading BoardSource’s 2015 Leading with Intent with interest.  The report is a comprehensive review of nonprofit Board practices, policies and performance, building on data that BoardSource has collected and analyzed for over 20 years. Now that I’m chairing Board meetings myself, I’m aware of my responsibility to facilitate meetings that allow more time for meaningful discussion on strategic issues.  Leading with Intent noted the following trends around Board […]

                      See Details

                        Give, Get or Get off

                        This past February, we kicked off our 2014 nonprofit workshop season with a panel discussion on Board governance – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly:  The Path to a High-Performing Board.  One of the questions we heard from the audience was "Should our Board have a giving requirement, and if so, how much?" Personal giving is an essential part of a Board’s commitment to fundraising.  While each Board should determine its own personal giving policy, the goal should be 100% Board member […]

                        See Details

                          Unpaid Interns and Volunteers to be Protected from Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

                          Legislation to protect unpaid interns and volunteers from sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week, on Sept. 9, 2014.  The bill, AB 1443, expands current protections against sexual harassment and discrimination for employees to unpaid interns and volunteers. The types of discrimination covered in the bill include race, gender, physical disability, sexual orientation and religious belief.  Existing law protects employees from workplace […]

                          See Details

                            Invitation to Participate in CPE Web Event on New OMB Cost Principles & Administrative Requirements

                            Last week I blogged about the new FAQs related to understanding and applying the new Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, otherwise known as the Supercircular.  The AICPA’s Governmental Audit Quality Center (GAQC) has scheduled an event open to non-GAQC members that may be of interest to you as a recipient of federal awards.  It is titled, Uniform Guidance for Federal Awards: The New Cost Principles, Time and Effort Reporting, […]

                            See Details

                              Council on Financial Assistance Reform (COFAR) Releases 2nd Set of FAQs on Uniform Guidance

                              On Friday, August 29, 2014, the Council on Financial Assistance Reform (COFAR) released the second set of FAQs related to understanding and applying the new Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, otherwise known as the Supercircular. Over two hundred questions and comments have been received from grantors, grantees, and grant management and oversight professionals throughout country.  This 2nd set of FAQs includes additional information […]

                              See Details

                                Strategic Planning

                                Having a strategic plan is essential to ensure a nonprofit’s vision and mission are fulfilled.  Not every plan is a strategic plan though, and too often strategic plans collect dust on a shelf, rather than being a living and breathing document. TCC Group’s "Ten Keys to Successful Strategic Planning for Nonprofit and Foundation Leaders" is a great resource for Board’s and management embarking on or refreshing their strategic plan - […]

                                See Details

                                  Causes Count – CalNonprofits Report on the Economic Impact of California’s Nonprofit Organizations

                                  The results of the first-ever statewide nonprofit economic and social impact study were shared last Friday at the CalNonprofits 2014 Policy Convention in Los Angeles.  One finding that struck me was that Californians who responded to the individual perspectives part of the survey expressed slightly more confidence in nonprofits to create jobs in the community and to work efficiently compared to the for-profit sector.  Furthermore, respondents expressed much greater confidence in nonprofits to […]

                                  See Details

                                    Nonprofit Trends – Return on Investment and Social Impact Bonds

                                    As many of you know, I serve on the Board of the Downtown Women’s Center, a wonderful organization committed to ending homelessness for women.  At a Board meeting earlier this month, our CEO, Lisa Watson, shared some of the nonprofit trends she has been observing.  One trend she noted was that the government is looking at Social Impact Investment and Social Impact Bonds or what has been titled “pay for success.” Lisa has been studying this, as she believes it will be part of the future for […]

                                    See Details

                                      Nonprofit Finance Fund’s 2014 State of the Sector Survey Results are Here

                                      Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) released the results of its 2014 State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey last week, and the findings are not surprising: The economic recovery is leaving behind many nonprofits and communities in need: 80% of respondents reported an increase in demand for services, the 6th straight year of increased demand. 56% were unable to meet demand in 2013 - the highest reported in the survey's history. Only 11% expect 2014 to be easier than 2013 for the people they […]

                                      See Details

                                        Focus on Fraud

                                        Fraud not only hurts a nonprofit organization financially, it hurts the people it serves and the community that supports it.  Due to the negative publicity that can result, it is often kept quiet.  But management and Boards of nonprofit organizations need to be aware of the risks and ensure appropriate internal controls are in place.  Setting the right "tone at the top" is equally important, and education and clear communication encourages employees and volunteers to come forward with […]

                                        See Details

                                          Spotting a Cash Flow Problem – A Board’s Perspective

                                          One of the basic responsibilities of a Board is to ensure there are adequate financial resources for the organization to fulfill its mission.  Striving for the desired three-to-six months of operating cash reserves is never easy, and we continue to see nonprofits struggle with limited cash operating reserves.  Not having sufficient cash reserves makes it difficult to deal with unplanned reductions in funding, build organizational and fundraising capacity, and invest in new programs. So how does […]

                                          See Details

                                            Tips for a High-Performing Board Meeting

                                            Yesterday’s panel discussion on best Board practices explored some interesting ideas around Board engagement and fundraising.  We will continue the discussion through upcoming blog postings. A few tips for making Board meetings more effective were mentioned yesterday, and as a reminder: The most important items should be first on the agenda, allowing sufficient time for strategic discussions. Group routine items under one umbrella that can be approved without discussion, unless a Board member […]

                                            See Details

                                              The Path to a High-Performing Board

                                              On Tuesday, February 18, we will kick off the first of our quarterly nonprofit workshop series for 2014 with " The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:  The Path to a High-Performing Board," which will include a panel discussion on best Board practices. Why is an effective Board so critical?  Well, in the words of a major philanthropic funder in Southern California, Weingart Foundation, "a strong, engaged and knowledgeable board is a critical factor in a nonprofit organization’s ability to be effective, […]

                                              See Details

                                                Volunteer Trends and Challenges

                                                Last April, I blogged about the value of volunteers from a financial statement standpoint, and there is no doubt that volunteer engagement is crucial to most nonprofit organizations.  Volunteers increase capacity, are cost effective and extend a nonprofit’s reach by getting the word out, engaging their networks and becoming advocates.  And of course volunteers are more likely to become donors. As many of you readers know, I serve on the Board of the Downtown Women’s Center, which is a nonprofit […]

                                                See Details

                                                  Frequently Asked Question: Check Signing Thresholds

                                                  At a recent Finance Committee meeting of one of my clients, a question was raised about appropriate check signing levels.  While every organization is different, the following three part signing resolution can be considered a guide for medium-sized organizations: Up to $10,000, any one officer or director. Up to $50,000, any two officers or directors. Over $50,000, any two officers or directors, but one of them must be a director.  In other words, for 1 or 2, it can be just […]

                                                  See Details

                                                    Looking for a Good Holiday Read? The OMB Supercircular Final Guidance is Published

                                                    Yesterday, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released for public inspection the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards.  The intention of this 758 page document is to streamline Federal grants rules and procedures.  The new requirements apply to continuing awards as of the start of the 2014/2015 fiscal year on October 1, 2014. In addition to reforms to procurement standards and increased assessment and monitoring requirements for […]

                                                    See Details

                                                      Food Banks in Need

                                                      With most of us looking forward to a day of over-indulgence with friends and family at the dinner table tomorrow, there are many who will be visiting community kitchens and missions for a donated meal, or sadly, even going hungry. On November 1, 2013, food stamp benefits were cut to more than 47 million Americans on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  This was a result of the ending of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 law that raised food stamp benefits to […]

                                                      See Details

                                                        How Can a Nonprofit Tell Their Story So Donors Will Listen?

                                                        Last night, I attended Social Venture Partners’ Fast Pitch event at the California Science Center.  This is the culmination of a two-month training and mentoring program for innovative nonprofits that are effecting social change in Los Angeles County.  At last night’s competition, each of the 10 nonprofit finalists shared their mission and vision and made a monetary ask in just 3 minutes each, in front of a panel of judges.  Nail-biting stuff!  The energetic, engaging presentations were all […]

                                                        See Details

                                                          Government Shutdown – Week Two Status Check

                                                          As another week closes on the Government shutdown, we reflect on the impact felt so far by our nonprofit clients: Social Security and Medicare Benefits – these continue to be paid out, but there could be delays in processing new disability applications if the shutdown continues.  Unemployment benefits are also still being paid. Federal Grant Administration - grantee activities and projects already funded under existing grants will generally be able to continue to the extent the grantee has […]

                                                          See Details

                                                            Exploring the World of Contributions – Modifying Permanently Restricted Net Assets

                                                            During our August nonprofit workshop, our nonprofit team shared the latest in accounting and tax updates, as well as insights from AICPA’s recently revised Audit & Accounting Guide for Not-for-Profit Entities. We posed various questions during our workshop and over the next few blog postings, we will share the answers to those questions.  Q.  Can permanent restrictions be changed? A.  Restrictions on permanent endowments can be modified or released in two ways: Donor consent Court […]

                                                            See Details

                                                              Exploring the World of Contributions – Permanently Restricted Net Assets

                                                              During our August nonprofit workshop, our nonprofit team shared the latest in accounting and tax updates, as well as insights from AICPA’s recently revised Audit & Accounting Guide for Not-for-Profit Entities. We posed various questions during our workshop and over the next few blog postings, we will share the answers to those questions. Q.  What happens to a permanent endowment if the donor stipulates that the gift principal is to be held in a particular investment security? A.  The gains […]

                                                              See Details

                                                                Exploring the World of Contributions – Expiration of Donor-Imposed Restrictions

                                                                During our August nonprofit workshop, our nonprofit team shared the latest in accounting and tax updates, as well as insights from AICPA’s recently revised Audit & Accounting Guide for Not-for-Profit Entities. We posed various questions during our workshop and over the next few blog postings, we will share the answers to those questions. Q.  Are overdue pledges receivable still considered temporarily restricted for time? A.  No.  Time restrictions on contributions receivable lapse when the […]

                                                                See Details

                                                                  Exploring the World of Contributions – Bequests

                                                                  During our August nonprofit workshop, our nonprofit team shared the latest in accounting and tax updates, as well as insights from AICPA’s recently revised Audit & Accounting Guide for Not-for-Profit Entities. We posed various questions during our workshop and over the next few blog postings, we will share the answers to those questions. Q.  Is a bequest receivable time restricted? A.  As always, the particular facts and circumstances need to be considered, but absent any purpose […]

                                                                  See Details

                                                                    Exploring the World of Contributions – Donor-Imposed Conditions and Restrictions

                                                                    During our August nonprofit workshop, our nonprofit team shared the latest in accounting and tax updates, as well as insights from AICPA’s recently revised Audit & Accounting Guide for Not-for-Profit Entities. We posed various questions during our workshop and over the next few blog postings, we will share the answers to those questions. Q.  When is a challenge grant considered met?  For example, assume a nonprofit receives a challenge grant from a donor to raise $1 million by December 31, […]

                                                                    See Details

                                                                      Exploring the World of Contributions – Government Grants

                                                                      During our August nonprofit workshop, our nonprofit team shared the latest in accounting and tax updates, as well as insights from AICPA’s recently revised Audit & Accounting Guide for Not-for-Profit Entities. We posed various questions during our workshop and over the next few blog postings, we will share the answers to those questions. Q.  What is the appropriate classification of government grants?  As a contribution or an exchange transaction? A.  There has been significant discussion […]

                                                                      See Details

                                                                        Exploring the World of Contributions – Back to Basics

                                                                        During our August nonprofit workshop, our nonprofit team shared the latest in accounting and tax updates, as well as insights from AICPA's recently revised Audit & Accounting Guide for Not-for-Profit Entities. We posed various questions during our workshop and over the next few blog postings, we will share the answers to those questions. Q.  Why is distinguishing contributions from other types of transactions so important? A.  Contributions are unique to nonprofit organizations.  So is the […]

                                                                        See Details

                                                                          Volunteers – The Rules of Engagement

                                                                          Last week I blogged about the recent court ruling regarding interns and earlier in the year I blogged about the value of volunteers. The use of interns and volunteers by nonprofit organizations comes with legal risks, and it’s worthwhile to remember the 4 basic rules when working with volunteers: Rule 1: Do not pay volunteers in cash or in kind (expenses may be reimbursed, but only in accordance with a written expense reimbursement plan) Rule 2: Have volunteers sign a volunteer agreement (which […]

                                                                          See Details

                                                                            Are Nonprofit Internships at Risk?

                                                                            This week’s ruling in New York by a Federal judge that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated minimum wage and overtime laws by not paying interns should lead nonprofit organizations to reassess their policies for using interns. In the ruling, the judge held that Fox Searchlight Pictures should have paid the two interns who filed the lawsuit because they did the same work as regular employees, provided value to the company and performed low-level tasks that did not require any specialized […]

                                                                            See Details

                                                                              Is Your Audit Committee Legal? If Not, Here’s One Solution

                                                                              The Role of the Audit Committee – A Refresher The Audit Committee, under the governing Board’s supervision, is responsible for making recommendations to the Board on the hiring and firing of the independent CPA. The Audit Committee can negotiate the independent CPA’s compensation, on behalf of the governing Board. The Audit Committee must: Confer with the auditor to satisfy committee members that the financial affairs of the nonprofit organization are in order Review the audit and decide […]

                                                                              See Details

                                                                                Healthcare Reform – Are You Ready?

                                                                                I thought I’d share some key takeaways from a recent presentation I attended on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Most organizations have not… Determined the expected financial impact of health care reform Modeled scenarios to determine the cost-benefit of offering or not offering benefits to employees Thought about the “look back” period and how to adjust employee hours accordingly Considered how to design, implement, and manage a wellness program Some important changes […]

                                                                                See Details

                                                                                  The Value of Volunteers

                                                                                  Volunteers increase capacity, are cost effective and extend a nonprofit’s reach. They have value, even though the value of their services may not meet the criteria for recognition in financial statements. The Independent Sector has released the new value of volunteer time - $22.14 per hour for 2012. This represents an increase of 35 cents from 2011. The value of a volunteer by hour in California is $24.75 for 2011 (note that 2011 is the latest year for which state-by-state numbers are available. […]

                                                                                  See Details

                                                                                    Nonprofit Finance Fund’s 2013 State of the Sector Survey Results are Here

                                                                                    Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) released the results of its 2013 State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey last week, and the findings are not surprising: Need continues to rise, and it’s harder than ever to keep up – 52% of respondents were unable to meet demand over the last year Organizations are trying new ways to keep services flowing (partnerships, upgrading of technology, advocacy) and are seeking new types of funding to improve sustainability – 23% of respondents will seek funding other than […]

                                                                                    See Details

                                                                                      Form I-9 Audits on the Rise

                                                                                      Federal law requires every employer hiring an individual for employment in the United States to verify his or her identity and employment authorization through completion of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. 2012 saw a record number of Form I-9 audits and enforcement actions. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted more than 3,000 audits in 2012, compared to just 250 in 2007. A number of audits focused on discriminatory employment practices. For example, employers […]

                                                                                      See Details

                                                                                        Charity Navigator v. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles

                                                                                        Charity Navigator’s new ‘joint cost allocation adjustment’ is drawing criticism from many charities and nonprofit professionals, including accountants and auditors. A long-established accounting practice (embodied in FASB ASC 958-720) establishes guidelines for accounting for costs of activities that include fundraising. Such activities include direct mail, telephone solicitation, door-to-door canvassing and special events, which might be more immediately associated with fundraising, but such […]

                                                                                        See Details

                                                                                          Spotlight on Governance – BoardSource presents its Nonprofit Governance Index 2012

                                                                                          BoardSource has recently released its 2012 Nonprofit Governance Index. The Governance Index is a national survey of nonprofit chief executives and board chairs. It identifies trends in board composition, policies and practices, and provides a view of the various challenges nonprofit boards are facing in their governance roles. Two key findings from the survey that I found very encouraging are : Hopeful signs of recovery across the nonprofit sector – the survey found a significant reduction in […]

                                                                                          See Details