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Not for profit?

UHY LLP in Albany, New York, provides services to a range of not-for-profit organizations, from colleges and museums to healthcare and social assistance organizations. The needs of these organizations are diverse, and Marilyn Pendergast says they often go way beyond traditional accountancy services: "Chartered and certified public accountants can provide value to their clients in many ways in addition to the traditional audit and taxation functions."

She continues: "For colleges, for example, changes in demographics of students and the lack of significant endowment funds can create budgeting challenges. That is where we can be helpful in the evaluation of expenditure, helping management and the board to develop a plan for future continuance and growth."

Museums may face the need to upgrade facilities, requiring long-term financial planning. Healthcare charities need help navigating a changing regulatory landscape. Valuation and business planning services can be valuable for many not-for-profit organizations.

There are also very sound business reasons for developing a not-for-profit focus, says Subarna Banerjee at UHY Hacker Young in the UK. The success of campaigns like The Giving Pledge, which encourages wealthy people to give significant amounts of their wealth to philanthropic causes, have helped to spark a new philanthropy movement. UHY member firms may be more regularly asked about the tax or inheritance implications of charity donations and endowments, by individuals and businesses.

"It is also true that the charity sector is immune to some extent from the economic cycle," he adds. "Not-for-profits, especially those who receive funding from the government and endowments, can be relatively financially secure, even in difficult times for the wider economy. For professional services providers it is possible to forge very beneficial long-term relationships, if you are prepared to stay on top of regulation, offer good advice when required and keep them compliant in the face of tougher regulation."

The message is clear. As rules get stricter and public skepticism grows, not-for-profits need good partners – and the authority, expertise and accountability they bring – more than ever.