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For nonprofit organizations, the practical process of helping others begins with donor funds.
The Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO) sends 96 cents of every donated dollar to support the intended beneficiary – a person in need somewhere in the world. And for money that comes through the organization from the Salvation Army’s U.S. Territories, the number goes up to 100%.
“We adhere to generally accepted accounting principles and audit standards to ensure everything balances,” said Ellen Farnham, SAWSO Controller. “And we always take the question ‘Is this the right way to spend money?’ as our starting point.”
In 2015, the SAWSO finance team applied a combined 140 years of experience to oversee a $19 million budget and 125 active projects – and for their efforts, earned a low-risk auditee status by external auditors.
They accomplished this through daily diligence – working closely with program staff to provide advice and updates on project funds; conducting field visits to remote and often dangerous project sites; reconciling financial, bank and credit card statements; insisting on receipts for all transactions to heighten accountability to stakeholders; receiving multiple bids for vendors; and by participating in annual audits.
“Our external auditors perform field visits to ensure that the work we are doing and the money we are spending is exactly what we say it is, that we are complying with contract and government regulations, and that our reports of percentage of completion are accurate,” Farnham said.
SAWSO also receives an audit every three years from The Salvation Army International headquarters audit team.
SAWSO supports projects worldwide, and because of volume, is able to negotiate competitive exchange rates for foreign currencies to maximize the impact of each U.S. dollar received. This means more dollars are available to directly assist the end beneficiary.
“I personally feel blessed,” Farnham said. “We are changing lives and making a world of difference.”