We hire interns in the spring and fall to help us upload information into our software systems and give them experience in our auditing world. But because our interns are limited to part-time hours, they rarely get to experience the real-world work of visiting clients on the audit trail.
This spring, however, our intern chose a schedule that allowed David to invite her to join him and Latesha at one of our more unique not-for-profit clients.
Though her primary job was to observe and learn about the audit process, she quickly discovered more about the inner workings of not-for-profit organizations than she expected. For example, this particular service provider reported huge profit margins, which gave her a counter-intuitive perspective into a specific accounting principle. Basically, not-for-profits make money to spend money in the name of their mission. As long as they spend their revenue in relevant service, they maintain their not-for-profit status.
The auditor’s job at a not-for-profit is to help them correctly account for profits and losses to help them fulfill their mission. Our intern noticed that to do this, auditors look at more than just balance sheets and ledgers. They pull in tax forms, legal agreements, and business operating knowledge to make sure the financial statements tell the right story.
The auditing color palette
As an accounting major at a local university, our intern has surveyed many different financial systems but only recently began learning the skills needed to perform audits. She described accounting as a kind of gateway to learn about all kinds of jobs, organizations, and people.
Her insight reminded us how privileged we are to work not only with mission-driven organizations, but people who care about what they do. Their methods, passion, and personalities contribute to the color palette we work with every day. To serve them well, we have to immerse ourselves in their environment, not just looking at their balance sheets, but looking at their places of business — their customers, residents, and community — and the tools they use to accomplish their mission.
That day, our intern gained a small taste of why we care about being relational auditors. More importantly, however, she gained appreciation of a new color of accounting, which we hope she takes with her wherever she goes.