We need an audit to apply for funds. But we have no funds to pay an auditor
October 25, 2012 12:18 PM   Subscribe

How can I get my nonprofit an independent audit pro bono? Is it possible?

I work on a wonderful nonprofit that runs on a very small budget, ~$120K annually. We are really really tight on funds right now and can barely meet our obligations, so we are looking at grant applications to find more sources of funds. Many grants require an independent audit of finances to be eligible, and this is something we've wanted to do for a long time because it is of course a great practice for all nonprofits. However, we just can't afford to pay much if anything at all. Is there any way to find people who do such audits pro bono? I imagine they are hard to come by. Is there a website or organization for this? Might I have any luck by "cold calling" accountants about this?? Your advice much appreciated.
posted by treehorn+bunny to Work & Money (13 answers total)
Do you have an active board or any major donors/supporters? The best thing would be to talk to them first and see if they would do it or if they have friends that would.

I'm not sure if accounting firms are the same way, but many law firms require that their attorneys due a certain number of hours of pro bono work annually. I would research some of the larger firms in your area and see if they have information about pro bono work on their websites.
posted by anotheraccount at 12:22 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Deloitte offers pro-bono services.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:31 PM on October 25, 2012

I was going to suggest checking out Deloitte. I've never worked with them on an audit, but when a nonprofit I was working with decided to merge with another nonprofit, Deloitte provided merger services for something tiny - like $5000 or so.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 12:43 PM on October 25, 2012

Like just about everything else in "business," your best leads are going to be people already connected to the organization. Board members, friends of the Director, etc. I'm sure anybody offering pro-bono audits has way more requests for their time than they have free time to give. So the way you get your organization to the top of the list is by being the neighbor of the accountant, or knowing him or her from the gym, or your kid's Little League team, or whatever.

So start networking, and get everybody else in the org doing it too.
posted by COD at 12:45 PM on October 25, 2012

Have you talked to the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits? They may know of local resources Metafilter won't.
posted by postel's law at 12:53 PM on October 25, 2012

Yeah, your best bet is to go to your board. Someone on your board probably knows an accountant or knows someone who knows an accountant. Cold calling is probably unlikely to get you very far, but as a last resort might be worth a shot.

As far as grant funding goes, many foundations will only require audits from organizations of a certain size. A $120k NPO is really really small, so you should call the program officers at the places your interested in applying to for a grant and just ask about the audit. Many will waive the requirement for small NPOs (and you should call the program officers anyway).

The other thing to consider is that if you are looking at a foundation for grant support, consider asking them for a capacity building grant and build an audit into it. You can definitely make the argument that to grow your fundraising capacity, you need an audit and you might be able to get that covered.

I deal with grants a lot. Feel free to memail me if you have any other questions.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:02 PM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Try the Minnesota Society of CPAs. They may be able to direct you to local CPA firms that could help your organization.
posted by stowaway at 1:24 PM on October 25, 2012

If you were to get a grant, would the grant's indirect funds be adequate to fund the required audit, and you could just eat the actual indirect expenses?

Perhaps you could calculate a number for a grant (including indirect funds amount) for which this is possible, and only seek audit-dependent grants based on that number.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:55 PM on October 25, 2012

To clarify, I am on the board and we have already discussed this - no one has any connections... otherwise I wouldn't be asking!

Thanks for the answers so far. And BTW we are not located in Minnesota. We are an international nonprofit with no office in the USA.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 1:57 PM on October 25, 2012

We are a 501c3 and incorporated in Washington state.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 1:58 PM on October 25, 2012

You could try the local branch of one of the big accounting firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, or KPMG as they often do pro-bono work. Depending on how big their local office is, ask to speak to their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) manager or the local manager. I would try to get a referral first - ask your NGO peers who they use for their audit and if they can give you a referral.

Get all your paperwork and accounting files together before you call so you can deliver as soon as they seem interested in donating the audit. We're arranging one now, and have done them in another country as well. Referrals from other NGOs is how we found our accountants. They wanted to see our financial spreadsheets and get a rough idea of the paperwork involved before giving us an estimate so they could calculate how many hours the audit would take.

Also, think about approaching a key donor to underwrite the cost of an audit. We've had some of our assessments and accounting costs donated by long-term donors who supported our professional development. If you have banking/accountant donors, they will understand how useful audits are and see it as a smart donation. You might get a good deal as a non-profit client, and if you're paying for an audit rather than pro-bono, you're likely to get the audit done faster. Donated professional services in my experience are often a low priority after the enthusiasm wears off.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:36 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would look through the discussions at Blue Avocado (ie. this article "Seven Ways to Reduce Your Audit Costs"). They usually have good practical advice about such things, and will likely have people you could contact directly to source an affordable audit (or alternate financial review).
posted by judith at 8:59 PM on October 25, 2012

I'd still contact the association in the state you are incorporated in, namely Washington Nonprofits. You must have some sort of reason to be incorporated there, even without an office.
posted by postel's law at 12:47 PM on October 26, 2012

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