Transcript Episode 121 – The Nonprofit Audit How to Set Yourself Up for Success on The Prosperous Nonprofit
Stephanie Skryzowski: [00:00:00] Hey there. If you’re looking for the 100 degrees of entrepreneurship podcast, you’re in the right place after a hundred amazing episodes, we’re changing things up to serve you the most inspiring content in a fresh new way. Thanks for being here and keep listening.
Welcome to the prosperous nonprofit, the podcast for leaders who are building financially sustainable and impactful nonprofits and changing the world. I’m Stephanie s Kowski, a Chief Financial Officer and founder. Founder and c e O of 100 Degrees Consulting. My personal mission is to empower leaders to better understand their numbers, to grow their impact and their income.
On this show, we talk to people who are leading the nonprofit sector in new, innovative, disruptive, and entrepreneurial ways, creating organizations that fuel their lives, their hearts, and their communities. Let’s dive in.[00:01:00]
Hello. Hello. It’s great to be here with you today. I am recording this episode on the Monday morning following our team retreat. So I just got back from Phoenix and. The retreat is fresh in my mind and I so believe in the importance of retreats, whether it’s a solo retreat or a team retreat, or a whole company-wide retreat, whatever that looks like.
I so strongly believe in how important this is for your personal growth and development Your. Organizational growth and development, and so I just wanted to share my thoughts on our recent team retreat, give you all the insider scoop and details on exactly what we did and why. While it’s fresh in my mind now, you may hear it that my voice is a little bit froggy this morning.
Now listen, I have a little story for you. My body, I think, does not [00:02:00] like team retreats. It does not like it when I have a retreat. So in 2021, I brought eight of our team members to Charleston, to Charleston, South Carolina. So, And I wasn’t really sick leading up to the retreat, and I didn’t feel like I was really that stressed out.
Right. Of course, it’s a stressor, you know, I’m bringing people together, I’m planning everything. There’s expectations. I feel like I need to really be a good hostess and make this amazing for everybody who’s coming, but I didn’t feel like I was, you know, burning the candle at both ends or anything like that.
But, you know, a day or so into the retreat, Um, I lost my voice and I couldn’t speak, and at first I felt fine, other than I literally had no voice. When I would try and speak, it would come out like a whisper, and I had no power and no control to be any louder than a whisper. And so it became, you know, kind of a joke during that retreat, I’d be [00:03:00] talking and everyone would sort of be leaning in, trying to hear what I was saying because I was literally, I just spent the entire time whispering.
And so because of that, we weren’t really able to bring in any of our team members remotely who were not with us in person because I couldn’t talk, I, I could only whisper so they wouldn’t be able to hear me anyway. And so it was like, oh, haha. That’s so funny. You lost your voice. And then I actually did get.
Sick. Like I wasn’t feeling well towards the end. I was really, you know, congested and I had a cold. I just wasn’t feeling well. Anyway, it was fine. So I got home and of course my voice came back a day or two later. Fast forward a year, literally almost a year later, I brought the team together in Nashville, and this time we had a few more team members.
I think there were probably 12 or 13 of us together in Nashville, maybe maybe 10 or 11. And the first day I was feeling fine. I was all good. And then, It happened again. I woke up and I could not [00:04:00] speak more than a whisper, and I was like, okay, is this the universe sending me a message like I just need to shut up and let my team do the talking, and it was.
Funny again because it was like, oh my gosh, what are the chances of this happening two years in a row? And I feel like in Nashville I wasn’t really sick. Like I didn’t really feel sick, I just had no voice. And so now as we’re going into, as we went into this retreat, we’re like, is it gonna happen again?
Like, are you gonna lose your voice? And I kid you not. A couple days before the retreat, I started feeling a scratchy throat. I was like, oh no, this cannot happen again. I can’t lose my voice for the third year in a row. Well, it turns out I didn’t. I did not lose my voice. I stayed more or less healthy through the whole retreat.
But then when I got home, my body just crashed and it was like, okay, you’re done. You need to rest. You need to just sleep. And so I rested a lot this past weekend, but my voice still sounds kind of froggy. [00:05:00] So anyway, I think my body is just, you know, maybe I’m internalizing more stress than I think I am with these retreats, cuz I do really want them to be fantastic.
I want it to be a really good use of our team’s time and of our company resources. And I want everyone to walk away feeling like they learned something and like they had a deeper connection. To each other and to the company. So maybe I do put a lot of pressure on myself to make that happen, and so my body just shuts down anyway.
I’m feeling good, more or less. Um, I’m home. And I just wanted to debrief everything about the retreat because if you’ve been thinking about like, well, could I make this happen for us? The answer is yes. Yes, you can. And we happen to travel mostly because I want to go somewhere warm. As you know, I live in a cold place.
I live in Buffalo, New York, where it’s May when I’m recording this, but it doesn’t feel like summer, that’s for sure. And it’s been pretty chilly [00:06:00] here. And so I wanted to go somewhere warm. So this year we went to the Phoenix, Scottsdale area. So I love to travel, but you don’t have to travel to have a really productive, really incredible team retreat.
So the first thing that I thought about was what is the vibe that we want this retreat to have? Like what is our core purpose for bringing everyone together, for spending the time and money to do this? So for me, I wanted connection, right. We are an entirely remote team, so we’re all over the country.
Last year was the first time that we had all met each other largely so. And so we really want to forge deeper bonds, um, within our team. So that was one of our goals. We also wanted to feel a deeper connection to our mission, to like, what, what is our purpose, right? Our purpose is not to just toil away all day long, every day over some spreadsheets, right?
Like, we want to support and serve nonprofits. So that our [00:07:00] work helps them have a deeper impact. And so we wanted to enhance that and we also wanted to, you know, have some moments of professional and personal growth. It can be really challenging to set aside time for professional development when we’re all also busy, right?
We have a lot of work to do. We all have a really full client. Portfolio that we are supporting and working on. And so it’s hard to make time for that professional development. So we wanted to walk away with, you know, some learnings as well. So that was kind of our goals and the vibe and sort of the theme that I wanted this year was really just like relaxation in the sun.
That’s, that’s what I needed. And I know a lot of our team does come from northern climates as well, so we’re like, We just wanna relax in the sun. And so that’s what we did. That was, um, yeah, that was the goal. That was the theme. So the other thing that I think about when I think about planning and prepping is our accommodations.
Now, if you [00:08:00] are doing a retreat locally, this may be not something that you need to think about, but for me, what was really important is to get accommodations that are going to support the whole vibe that I wanted to give out. Right? One thing that’s really important to me is that everybody have their own room.
Now, we are a team of introverts, and I know that, and I know that myself is an introvert. I need that space away. I really need my own space that I can just go take a minute if I need a minute and really decompress at the end of the day, and I don’t. Personally, as much as I love our team, I really don’t wanna be chatting until I fall asleep, right?
So having our own rooms is really important. So what we’ve done the past three years now is get just a gigantic rental home. Um, so we’ve gone through VR, R B O and just gotten a really big house with enough bedrooms for everyone. This year we had 10 people in attendance, so everybody had their own rooms.
Um, and I think. [00:09:00] Pretty much everybody had their own bathroom as well. Um, so that’s super important to me and you can find that, um, that type of accommodation really, really reasonably. The other thing that’s important in accommodations was our other option was a hotel, right? We could have gotten, we could have gone to a hotel and everybody could have gotten their own rooms, of course, and of their own bathrooms, of course, and we could have met in the conference room, but.
What I really like about a rental home is that we’re all in one space, and so there’s a really natural place for everyone to congregate, right? Like, you know, I. Even during downtime periods, rather than everyone just retreating to their room, we found people in the kitchen or in the living room or sitting outside, and that really led to some beautiful connections and conversations that are not really as likely to happen in a hotel.
Right? Like you’d be in maybe the lobby or at the pool, but there’d be. Everybody else, all the other guests at the hotel would be there. So I really love the vibe of a rental [00:10:00] home and we’ve done that in Charleston and we did it in Nashville and we did it in in Scottsdale as well. And um, I really, really like that a lot.
So the way that we usually kick off our retreat, and I say usually cuz now we’ve done it three years in a row. Which is kind of fun is everybody come in in the afternoon, the day that we can check in. And what we did this year was we actually did our first dinner in, we ate at the house that evening and we hired a private chef to come in and cook for us.
And what this meant was that after a long day of travel, nobody has to feel any pressure to like get showered and change and get ready and get out the door again for dinner. We could all just chill, right? Like everybody, some people took a shower, some people went swimming, and some people just put on their cozy clothes.
And we had a really lovely dinner prepared by this amazing chef, chef Monique, if you are in the Phoenix, Scottsdale area. She was fantastic and she prepared us dinner and we all just got to hang out and so that was a really beautiful way to kick [00:11:00] things off. The other thing that we did at this dinner was I received from my friend Robert Hartwell, this deck of storytelling cards by the Moth.
So if you don’t know what the Moth is, frankly I wasn’t super familiar with it, but it’s a storytelling organization. I believe they have a podcast. I believe they also have a live event in many cities where anybody can just go tell a story. And so there were these cards, this little deck of cards with different prompts to tell a story.
And so I had asked everyone to choose a card. And during dinner that night, we all shared a story. And some of them were funny and some of them were sad, and some of them were really vulnerable and. Because we were at home, it felt like a much more natural place to like tell these stories versus at a restaurant, you know?
And we were able to get really vulnerable with each other. And I learned things about the team that I didn’t know. And it none, nothing was work related. Like nothing we were talking about that night was work related, but [00:12:00] it just really helped to strengthen those bonds. So I. Absolutely loved that deck of cars.
Thank you so much, Robert Hartwell and we’ll recommend those, um, for sure. And we will definitely do them again. And everyone was joking cuz there were like lots of tears that night. Um, and so everyone was joking like, oh, Stephanie’s gonna pull out the moth cards again. It was fun. Um, it was fun and a really great way to get to know our fellow teammates.
So that was the first night. The other thing I loved about hiring a private chef is that you’re supporting a small business. So Chef Monique was amazing. I found her on Instagram by searching the hashtag like Private Chef Scottsdale or private chef Phoenix, something like that. And it was so cool to be able to support another small business.
And this was a women black owned business, so that was really fun.
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And so I decided to bring in two guest speakers rather than the team just hearing from me the entire time. Because number one, that’s exhausting. And number two, you know, we need some fresh perspective, right? This is not the Stephanie show. This doesn’t need to be all about me. I wanted to be able to hear from some, from some other experts and it just so happens I.
I actually have a larger network in [00:14:00] Phoenix than I thought I did. And so when I kept thinking about who do I know in Phoenix, the list just kept growing and growing and growing, which was really, really cool. So the first person we brought in was A C P A. She’s an auditor at an audit firm. That several of our clients use actually.
So we already had a connection with her and she came in and started talking about the audit. You know, as you may or may not know, but most nonprofits have an audit every year, and there’s a lot of rules and regulations and new like compliance issues and things you have to think about. And so it was really cool to hear from an auditor on her side of things when we’re often on the other side.
And so she was like, so incredible, so helpful. So, And I feel like the team got a lot like technically out of what she was telling us. So I feel like that’s huge value add that we get to now bring back to our clients, which was fun. Then the other thing that we did, I was, I brought in another expert named Pam [00:15:00] Slim.
If you have not heard of Pam, she’s amazing. Look her up. Pam slim.com I, I think is her website. Um, but she talked about introverted. Leadership. So we are all introverts on our team. And sometimes it’s a little bit tricky because we do need to be more assertive and we really need to step into our power as experts with our clients.
And so sometimes that can feel sort of out of balance with our introverted. Nature to kind of sit back and think quietly. And, um, it can be tricky sometimes. And so she shared with us some really practical things that we can do to maximize our introverted leadership. And the reason I asked Pam to speak about this, she’s an extrovert, which I loved because she kind of shared some of her perspective.
Contrasting with like her experiences working with, and her whole family is introverts, and so it was kind of fun to hear things from an extrovert’s perspective as well. But she worked with [00:16:00] Susan Kane who wrote the really, really popular book, quiet, if you remember. That book, it was all about introversion and she worked with Susan on developing the, I think it was like the Quiet Leadership Institute or the, something like that.
Um, and so this whole sort of like training and education program on introversion. So I thought Pam would be a fantastic, fantastic session and it really was. She was so good and I’m so glad she got to come. So that was really like the majority of our first full day. That was a Wednesday. And then, My tendency is to cram things in, right?
What I, if I was left to my own devices, what I would’ve done then was basically like cram in a brainstorming session. I brought my big, um, flip charts, I had markers. If it was left up to me, that’s what I would’ve done during that time. But I listened to my team and they really, I didn’t even plan this right, but the feedback from last retreat was like, it was [00:17:00] too much.
And so I listened to their feedback and we planned nothing. So some people went swimming, some people took a nap. Some people called their family, some people had work conversations and chatted about some different problems that needed to be solved. But it was, the point was that it was open free time.
And I think that was a huge, this retreat, cause we had a lot of it, and so it was beautiful to just be able to go sit outside in the sunshine by the pool and chat about work and clients and life with the team with no pressure, right? There’s no pressure to be like, okay, you’ve just learned for four hours, now it’s time to brainstorm.
So put those thinking caps on and let’s go. Right? There was none of that pressure and I think the team really, really appreciated that as well. Then that night we went to dinner. Um, we went out for dinner since we were in the night before, and we just had a lovely timeout at a casual spot that had a really gorgeous sunset view.
Then the next day was really different. This was very [00:18:00] different than anything we’d ever done before, and I loved it so. We have a few clients, nonprofit organizations that work in Phoenix, and what we thought would be really special would be to actually go visit our clients and do some volunteering with them.
I mean, what a connection to our mission. So we work with this organization that works in downtown Phoenix and they’re called Neighborhood Ministries, and they have a. Huge campus where they are providing all kinds of services. They have a food bank, they have a thrift shop, they have like a preschool facility.
They have like teenager, like high school type activities and facilities for that. All kinds of stuff. And so what we did was we got a tour of their facility. And really got to connect with the mission, with exactly what they’re doing and who they’re serving, and really understand on a deeper level, like why do we do what we do?
We do what we do [00:19:00] so they can do what they do and they can serve the community in such a deep and impactful way. And then we got to volunteer. So they had been, I think, donated, um, a bunch of hand sanitizer bottles that looked like water bottles and they wanted to give them out into the community. But they couldn’t do that until they put like a warning label on them.
Like, this is not water, because it really looked like a water bottle. Um, and so our team helped prepare these hand sanitizer bottles to be distributed into the community. And, um, during that time I was actually meeting with the board of the organization, um, to work on the budget, uh, cuz they are my clients.
So that was fun. I. Have never met them in person before. We’ve been working together with this particular client, been working with ’em for almost four years. I’ve never met them in person, and so it was fantastic to have a meeting about the budget where we would normally be doing it over Zoom. It was so cool to be sitting in person in the same room with them.
And so that’s what I was doing while the team [00:20:00] was volunteering. So that was. Just so impactful. Like what a beautiful connection to what we do. And so if you’re thinking about a retreat, uh, for your team, whether you’re traveling somewhere or whether you’re doing it in person, how can you use the location, use the time, use the opportunity to connect in a deeper way to what you do.
So maybe it is, you know, Having a meetup with some of the people that you serve in that area, maybe it is, um, you know, going to visit your clients or whoever it is that you work with, right? What is that mission moment that you can give to your team? Like, I really felt like it was a gift to be able to. To do this, to spend time with one of our clients in this way.
And I think the team really, really enjoyed it. So we had a quick lunch after that. We invited, um, some of our clients, some of the people that worked for our clients. We invited them to come with us. And then the afternoon, [00:21:00] We went back to our Airbnb and we changed, and then we went for a hike. I knew that we could not leave the desert without our team experiencing the desert.
Right? Like if you have been to, uh, to Arizona, you know, like, especially if you’re from. The East coast, it’s so, or the Midwest. It’s so unlike anything you’ve ever seen before that I knew it was so important for us to get out into nature. I know everybody on our team really loves to be outside, loves to be active, and so a hike was an absolute must do.
So I went on all trails. Um, it’s an app that I have, but we’ve done a lot of hiking, my husband and I. And, but usually he’s the one that’s picking the trails. So I went on all trails. I found a trail that was nearby our, um, our rental home and off we went. And it was a beautiful, beautiful loop hike. So we [00:22:00] walked in basically a giant circle for.
About an hour, hour and a half. We covered, um, about three miles. And it was just a beautiful way to connect with nature, connect with each other, move our legs. And you know what, we were there, um, the first week of May, and the weather was absolute perfection. I can’t even tell you how perfect this weather was.
It was like, 75, 80, sunny, obviously of course zero humidity, you’re in the desert. It was not hot at all. It felt like there was just this beautiful, cool breeze. We really could not have asked for a better day. And I think, I mean, I kind of think that was, that day was like a highlight of the experience.
Volunteering in the morning and seeing our client and then being out hiking in the afternoon. It was just incredible. Um, then we got back and. We decided to do another dinner in, it was our last night, you know, when we were planning the retreat, we decided to, um, have our [00:23:00] last night dinner in that way.
After the hike, people could shower, people could go swimming, people could pack. We could all just kind of hang out it really a lot more casually than if we were to, you know, get dressed up and go out to dinner. So that was kind of fun that we had a different chef. Come in again supporting another locally owned women owned small business and we had her come in, I think her name is, uh, chef Janelle Gomez.
And so she cooked this beautiful Cuban meal for us. It was so good. Um, and we all just got to chill, which was great cuz a couple of people had to get a very. Early the next morning to go to the airport. And so again, the whole experience, I really tried to be mindful of like, okay, what do people want? And what is going to be the most, um, like life giving to everybody on the team, right?
Like we could have chosen to go out to dinner that night. But what I think would’ve happened is that, you know, as the clock hit eight o’clock, nine o’clock, I think people [00:24:00] would’ve started getting a little bit stressed out that they had to leave the next day, that we weren’t back yet. And so just being in the comfort of our home, I think felt really, really good for everybody.
And again, I know my crowd, right? I know we are a bunch of introverts and I know that largely like nobody’s really into going out and drinking and staying up late. Like we’re really using the experience as a time to relax. We’re really busy and we work really, really hard for our clients and so most of our team, I think was not really into going out and, you know, really being in, in the scene.
So, I think it was, I think it was fantastic. So anyway, if you are, I hope this was helpful. I like literally went through almost every single detail of our retreat. I always find these kinds of things helpful because it gives me ideas what to do when I hear what other people have done, right? So if you’re thinking about a team retreat, I want you to, um, really think about your people.
What do [00:25:00] they like and what do they need? And we actually do a pre-retreat survey. And so we ask them, um, a lot of different things, but we talk about what are their, uh, like dietary preferences, what’s their favorite dessert? What do they like to drink in the morning so we can make sure we’ve got everything to meet everybody’s needs.
Um, in terms of food. We also ask them what they really want to get out of the retreat, whether it’s personal or professional, or relaxation or fun or whatever it is. And so we can plan our itinerary accordingly. And we also ask them like, what’s really going well in your work and also what is not going so well?
What’s been a challenge for you? And that way we can hopefully tailor some of our learning to help. Support with whatever has been challenging or whatever they, they really want to be working on. And so we ask all of those questions a couple months in advance so that we have that information to be able to plan the retreat accordingly.
Because what I don’t want is like, I don’t wanna plan like [00:26:00] Stephanie’s vacation and then everybody has to kind of get on board with what I wanna do, right? Like, this needs to be for all of us. This needs to, um, meet everybody’s needs as much as possible. And so that was the goal of our. Pre-survey retreat now, now that the retreat is done, I literally got home at one o’clock in the morning on Friday night, and when I’m recording this episode, it’s now Monday morning.
So I have not had literally a minute to do any of this. But what we always do after our retreat is a leadership debrief. And so as a leadership team, we’re gonna just kind of chat through the retreat, what we felt went well, what we felt was not so great, and what we can, you know, improve upon next time.
We will also do a formal post retreat survey to our team to ask them, what was your favorite session? What was your least favorite session? Um, what did you like, what did you dislike, what was missing, et cetera. So that we know for next year. And we will also do a cost analysis now that, you know, we have all of the official costs, we will go back through and analyze.
Exactly what our cost per [00:27:00] person was and our goal, um, we do have a, a number goal that we wanna keep it at roughly cost per person. And that would be including all of our food, all of our transportation, flights, accommodations, activities. We didn’t really do any activities this year that cost money, which was nice.
Um, but all of that, all in what was our cost per person because obviously we, we have a budget. We need to make sure we’re sticking to it. I think we are good, but we’ll find out, um, this week. So we do definitely. This is like a huge investment for our company, right? And if you do a retreat, it’s a huge investment for yours as well.
And so you want to be planning things right, planning things really intentionally, and then doing a debrief so you can really ensure like, Hey, was this a good investment of our time and resources and we wanna do it again? And in our case, like, yes, it’s always a good investment of our time and resources, but maybe there’s things that we can do better or do differently next year to support the team in an even bigger way.
So, So I would just encourage you, I am feeling [00:28:00] so filled up, so full of joy after spending time with everybody. Um, Last week and I’m just like, oh my gosh, I can’t believe I have to wait an entire year for this to happen again. Um, it’s may right now. I think we’re probably gonna do this in March next year.
So I guess I don’t have to wait a whole year. I have to wait about 10 months. Um, but it still feels way too long to be able to see everyone in person again. I would encourage you think it through, um, figure out how you can make this happen because in my experience, this is our fourth retreat that I have hosted.
It is. Always, always, always, just an incredible investment of time and money and resources. So I hope this was helpful, my friends. As always, if you have any questions, you know where to find me. I’m on Instagram over at stephanie dot s k r y. Feel free to drop me a note if you have any questions on hosting your own team retreat.
All right, friends, until next time. Before you go, I just wanna thank you for being here. To access our show notes [00:29:00] and bonus content, visit 100 degrees podcast.com. That’s 100 degrees podcast.com, and I’ll see you next time.