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Conference Group Discussion

Conference attendees interacted with speakers on a broad range of topics, from audit and tax updates to alternative investment vehicles, IT security, and family foundation dynamics.

Accountability and Transparency Headline 2014 National Foundation Conference

  • 2/28/2014

CLA’s Second Annual National Foundation Conference in Las Vegas brought together more than 60 foundation executives and board members from across the country for lively discussions on accountability, transparency, and other key issues facing philanthropy.

Author and keynote speaker John Tyler, general counsel for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, spoke about potential benefits of deciding to be more open, including enhanced reputation and efficiency. He also noted that such decisions must weigh costs, financial and otherwise, relative to the goals for such openness. Tyler cautioned about the dangers of treating private philanthropy as “public money,” and that additional legal disclosure requirements are not the way to go.

“John’s opening talk set the tone and gave the group something to think about, and we heard it being discussed for the rest of the conference,” says Jennifer Tingley, principal and head of CLA’s foundation industry practice. She says there were also great discussions and practical guidance around the changing landscape in philanthropy and its effects on the communities it serves, and how politics may impact foundation leaders.

Download presentations from CLA’s Second Annual National Foundation Conference.

Best practices for gift acceptance

In a presentation titled When Bad Gifts Happen to Good People, Jean Adams COO/CFO of The Minneapolis Foundation, and Hazen Graves, partner with Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, outlined five best practices for gift acceptance:

  • Know your donor
  • Establish written gift acceptance policies and practices
  • Establish a gift acceptance committee
  • Use legal and financial counsel
  • Practice clear and regular communications with donors

Segregate your duties

Megan Moore, manager with CLA, spoke of the importance of segregation of duties as a strategy for safeguarding assets, producing accurate financial reporting, and reducing the opportunity for fraud and unethical behavior. She talked about manually segregating responsibilities, best practices, and the role of technology in automating separation and making it more efficient and effective. Attendees were then given a roadmap that included steps for evaluating internal controls and implementing segregation of duties in their foundation:

  1. Identify all key processes critical to your foundation
  2. Identify all key activities within key processes utilizing certain criteria (i.e., initiating, approving, recording, reconciling) and determine which employees are performing those key activities
  3. Determine what activities are already segregated and what activities are not
  4. Redesign processes to segregate additional activities that are not currently segregated
  5. Review segregation of duties in the system and make changes to users’ system access to align with the policy segregation
  6. Identify activities that cannot be segregated due to size and/or limited resources and additional controls to be implemented to mitigate the risk.  

Founding values

Will Your Foundation Be Relevant to Your Heirs? was a question posed and answered by Douglas K. Freeman, JD, LLM, senior managing director of First Foundation Advisors. Acknowledging that foundations in the United States have a history of “good, bad, and ugly,” Freeman discussed the many motivations of founders, the importance of having a short-term and long-term vision, and how succeeding generations will view the everyday operations and the mission of the foundation.

Legacy and history

Ben Aase, principal with CLA, moderated a panel discussion on how an organization can reconcile the legacy of its creators with the vision of current leadership. It provided the perspective of two foundations as they evolved from their founding leadership to the organizations that they are today.

The group was also treated to a history lesson on philanthropy in Las Vegas by Elliot Karp, president and CEO of the city’s Jewish Federation.

A broad range of topics

Conference attendees interacted with speakers on a broad range of topics, from audit and tax updates to alternative investment vehicles, IT security, and family foundation dynamics.

Download presentations from CLA’s Second Annual National Foundation Conference.

Third Annual CLA Foundation Conference

The Third Annual CLA National Foundation Conference is planned for February 2015. For more information, contact or call 612-397-3049.