I believe that to be a successful firm, we need to invest in developing the leadership and professional skills of our staff.
What’s your role in the firm, and how do you make a difference?
I’m an audit partner, with a keen interest in learning and development. I believe that to be a successful firm, we need to invest in developing the leadership and professional skills of our staff. This will result in stronger future leaders, who stay at the firm and in turn help develop others.
Who is/was the biggest influence in your business life and how did s/he shape who you’ve become?
When Gayle Whittemore merged her nonprofit practice into our firm in 2004, she became not only a mentor to me, but also a sponsor. She opened my eyes to the amazing world of nonprofits, encouraged me to develop my professional skills, and gave me opportunities to use them. Now I’m leading the nonprofit practice at the firm, and chairing the board of a wonderful nonprofit organization, the Downtown Women’s Center.
Describe the best thing about Green Hasson Janks and why it matters to you.
Many companies don’t make a real commitment to the hiring and advancement of women, it’s not part of their culture. But I’m happy to say that at my firm, our women count.
What issues in our community do you care most about, and how does that motivate you?
There are far too many women in Los Angeles County experiencing homelessness. Many factors may drive a woman to the streets – domestic violence, lack of affordable housing, job loss and unemployment, lack of a social support network, mental illness, physical disability or substance abuse. At the Downtown Women’s Center we know housing first is key to an individual’s successful transition out of homelessness and 95% of the women we serve remain housed permanently. I’m proud to be part of the solution.
If I weren’t an accountant/consultant, I’d be a __________________. Why?
An archaeologist. Influenced by my Italian grandmother, who was passionate about the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, and who could spend hours in museums and archaeological sites, I used to think I’d like to be an archaeologist. I studied Greek and Roman Literature and Philosophy at the University of Cape Town, but that is as far as I got. I do, however, love traveling in Italy!
Donella Wilson, CPA, leads the Firm’s Nonprofit Practice. Donella is a member of the California Society of CPAs and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. She has more than 20 years of public accounting experience providing audit, accounting and special project services and works exclusively in the nonprofit sector.
Committed to ending homelessness for women, Donella is immediate past president and Board member of the Board of Directors of the Downtown Women’s Center and a member of the Southern California Grantmakers Corporate Leadership Council. She was recognized as a 2018 “Women Executive of the Year” and a 2017 “Most Influential Women in Accounting” by the Los Angeles Business Journal. In 2017, Donella was also the recipient of a Women to Watch Award, as well as the Trailblazer Award for her charitable activities, from the California Society of CPAs. In 2017 she was also honored as a Southern California Leadership Network (SCLN) “30-in-30,” a year-long celebration honoring 30 outstanding SCLN alumni throughout 2017.
Donella obtained a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Cape Town, South Africa and further obtained post-graduate diplomas in accounting and taxation. As a qualified South African chartered accountant, she worked for an international accounting firm in Cape Town before relocating to England. In England, Donella worked in private industry, primarily for telecommunications and television companies, where she provided management accounting and special project services. In 2000, Donella relocated to Los Angeles and joined Green Hasson Janks.
Donella enjoys volunteer work, travel and outdoor adventure, with yoga and backpacking being her favorite past-times.
Favorite place in the world:
Cape Town, South Africa
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:
When I’m not working, you’ll catch me doing this:
Originally published in Philanthropy Journal For nonprofits, an engaged board is crucial for effective governance, fundraising and mission alignment. Despite its’ importance, this year’s Green Hasson Janks Nonprofit Survey and Whitepaper, which annually interviews nonprofit leaders from the LA area on important industry trends, revealed that just 20 percent of respondents said their board’s focus on engagement was top priority. In taking a closer look at engaging the board, we have identified […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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. […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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, […]
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 […]
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 - […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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, […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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, […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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. […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]