Expertise Beyond the Numbers

Leaders of Non-Profits Learn to Address Challenges from Cyber-Attacks to Rising Interest Rates

Not unlike for-profit organizations, not-for-profit businesses across the Baltimore region contend with a growing number of challenges from heightening geo-political conditions and shifting economic landscapes to potentially crippling cyber-attacks, as well as the perpetual rise of digital communications.

Not-for-profit leaders met May 3, 2017, for SC&H’s biannual summit, called the “Not-for-Profit Summit,” which has been held twice a year for the past six years in partnership with SunTrust as an educational resource for non-profits across the Baltimore and Washington D.C. regions.

To help the non-profits prepare to meet the challenges of 2017, the summit focused on topics such as cyber security, new and upcoming modifications to accounting standards and tax regulations, as well as navigating the 24/7 media. Further sessions covered the current state of the economy, impact on investment strategy, interest rate management, and leveraging treasury management solutions. A full list of speakers and topics can be found at the summit’s announcement.

The day-long summit was kicked off with a discussion on media training and preparedness. Led by Bill Atkinson and Erica Mechlinski of 212 Communications, the pair discussed the role the media can, and should, play for not-for-profits. Atkinson and Mechlinski stressed, “Your words matter. What you say and how you react are important, because you can’t control the reporter, but you can control the message,” as they demonstrated tactics for a good, newsworthy interview.

Fred Walls and Colleen Doremus from SunTrust spoke next on the current state of investing. With the state of geo-political affairs, risks play a big part in any investing strategy, as Doremus stated, “At no point is everything going to be working the way we want it to.” But Doremus and Walls were quick to dispel any doubts, as Walls said, “Near-term risks are not as high as they have been recently. We have seen a rebound in global GDP, and have a low risk of near term recession. Emerging markets are improving and earnings continue to rebound.”

Echoing the statement made by Walls, Brandon Artigue of SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, said “There is a high probability interest rates will be raised by the Fed (Federal Reserve Board of Governors) come year end.” Artigue gave an assessment on risk management and how it pertains to the volatility of interest rates. With major elections occurring around the globe, Artigue believes recent rates are reflecting the major changes happening at the ballot box.

With the hopeful news of rising interest rates, came warnings. Paula Raynor, Tax Manager, at SC&H discussed the political sphere and proposed tax legislation that, “Could potentially discourage charitable giving in the middle [tax] bracket.”

Raynor noted new legislation is being debated that could eliminate many tax incentives for charitable giving, putting not-for-profits in potentially difficult situations.

Mike Kelley and Corbin Hankins, First Vice Presidents of SunTrust, went on to discuss how to best leverage treasury management solutions in regards to working capital management. As a known problem point for not-for-profits, Kelley said, “Trends in non-cash payments (checks) are on the decline. There are significantly improved controls for payment processing and origination,” which led Hankins to suggest offering discounts on early payments can free up great amounts of working capital to be used when needed.

The summit closed with a panel discussion on cyber security headed by: Bobby Turnage, Venable; Terry Katz, HMS Associates; Greg Tselikis, SC&H Group; and Bill Atkinson, 212 Communications.

The panel offered varying areas of expertise on the growing threat of cyber attacks. Terry Katz highlighted the internal threat at place, “Thirteen percent of losses come from rogue employees,” some of who are paid by hackers to initiate attacks. Bobby Turnage urged non-profits to, “Have an instant response plan in place when you have a cyber-attack. The day you start thinking about it shouldn’t be the day you have a problem.”

Bill Atkinson followed up Turnage’s statement with the importance of a media strategy by saying, “Speed is everything. Rehearsing your statement with a sort of fire-drill will help you uncover who you need to inform, and the best way to do it.” Additionally, Greg Tselikis stressed, “Third party vendors are often the weakest link in your security,” and should be held to high standards of security.

SC&H Group and SunTrust will hold the next not-for-profit summit this fall in Washington, D.C. The event will continue to focus on providing lasting impact and education for the region’s vital network of not-for-profits.