Responsive Audit Assistance and Professional Integrity

Client Profile:

The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia (LCNV) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching adults how to read, write, speak and understand the English language. By giving adults these priceless skills, the LCNV allows them to access employment, pursue educational opportunities and participate in their community. The LCNV prides itself on building empowered communities through the values of respect, integrity, innovation, excellence and collaboration.

The Challenge:

As a non-profit organization, the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia must go through an annual audit. According to the council’s bylaws, the board of directors must review the LCNV’s auditor every five to six years, undergoing a thorough vetting process of several auditors before choosing one. When the council’s former executive director, Patti Donnelly, began working in 2002, she was unfamiliar with this process and wanted to ensure that she chose the right auditor for the job. Though Donnelly had the option of renewing the council’s contract with its then-current auditor, she sent out RFPs to five different accounting firms and noticed that the current auditor and other firms “didn’t stand out over Halt, Buzas & Powell.”

The Solution:

Donnelly found that HBP’s auditing services remained within the LCNV’s price range and that the firm had received praise from many local nonprofits. When she began working with HBP as the council’s new executive director, she had many questions that audit principal Marco Fernandes and managing partner Andy Powell were always able to answer promptly. Throughout the year, Donnelly called to ask questions and seek guidance in preparation for the council’s annual audit, maintaining an open line of communication with HBP that had not existed with previous firms. “What I liked a lot about Halt, Buzas & Powell were the people and their responsiveness,” Donnelly said. “One of the partners, Andy Powell, was the one who came and met with the [council’s] finance committee every year to present the audit. He didn’t send somebody; he showed up.”

The Result:

Since 2002, the board of the LCNV has gone out to bid every few years and continues to choose HBP as the organization’s audit team. Years later, the council continues to use a formula that Marco and Andy recommended to manage LCNV employees’ distribution of professional time. By allocating hours worked by program (staff time, administrative, development, etc.), the council is able to track more precisely the work its employees are doing, which helps the board follow reporting regulations. “There was nothing as sophisticated as that when I came on board,” Donnelly said. Additionally, the LCNV continues to send its employees to HBP’s nonprofit workshop in Alexandria to learn more about how to prepare for the council’s audits. “We developed a relationship with every single person we worked with at HBP, because they were all so nice,” Donnelly said.