Welcome, Liz! QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor

Liz Arp

Meet Liz, our newest Clarity team member, and QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor. Liz has worked in the finance field for the last ten years, handling bookkeeping for a wide variety of clients large and small.  She enjoys dealing with the nitty gritty details of financial transactions in order to provide business owners with tangible data to use in their decision making. 

Liz says, "I feel that the greatest advantage to QuickBooks Online is being able to collaborate with clients in real time. I am committed to supporting my clients with training and advice, because just having the technology is not enough--being able to implement and use it appropriately and effectively is imperative to making the most of the program. 

"QuickBooks Online can be set up to sync with other apps as well, reducing data entry and providing greater transaction detail in QBO.  In addition to being able to assist with setting up syncs to 3rd party apps, I can also help users set up processes to ensure accurate entry of financial information, which may include tasks such as invoicing, receiving deposits, and bill paying.  I can also assist in setting up and generating customized financial reports as well as providing basic navigation tips and advice."

Liz is excited about the opportunity to work with the businesses and nonprofits who engage Clarity’s services and is happy to embrace the holistic team approach that the staff at Clarity provide. We are thrilled to have her join our team!

10 Tips to Help You Stay on Top of Your Books

Whether you are outsourcing your bookkeeping or doing your own books in-house, as the leader in your organization you need to know your financial information is reliable.  Understanding "best practices" and incorporating them into your own business processes will help you get data you can trust, so you can make the decisions that are best for your business. 

Here are some tips to help you stay on top of the books:

1.     Get or stay involved!  Knowing what the system is and how it works helps keep you, the director of this show, in the know. A broad understanding of the way the books work will help you to make informed decisions regarding processes, and to understand the capabilities and limitations of the data. If you need education ask questions, do some research, or take a class.  Finances are not everyone’s favorite topic – but it is vital to the success of your organization!  And in particular, if you are a board member for a non-profit, it is part of your fiduciary responsibility to each donor.

2.     Make the most of the data.  The information that is being entered into your bookkeeping system is used fulfill state and federal requirements (taxes,) but what else are you using the data for?  Make the data work for you. Set up reports to help you zero in on areas that help you manage your organization.

3.     Have your processes documented.  Focus on the how as well as the what. We know that processes are often undergoing change as the way we do business changes, but it is important to document this as a protection for your organization. Updating this periodically is an opportunity to review and make adjustments as circumstances change.

4.     Never have your bookkeeper as a signer on your account.  Naturally, access to accounts is helpful, but there must be checks and balances and this is a big one. Have your bookkeeper manage the entry and classification of transactions, but allow for having another person to authorize the bill payments or payroll deposits. 

5.     Make sure you see the bank statement each month.  Are you familiar with all the activity you see?  All deposits, transfers and checks written?

6.     Check in with your tax professional mid-year or 3rd quarter in addition to tax time.  Your tax professional needs to know what is going on with your business so that if you need it, you have time to implement their recommendations to save tax dollars.

7.     Cross-train your staff. Plan for the unexpected! It is not unheard of to find yourself in a compromised position due to illness or sudden changes. Remember, this is a team – make sure you have some backup.

8.     Set a regular time to meet and review your financials.  Reviewing sales, projecting cash flow, estimating upcoming expenses and liability payments are some of the things you should be reviewing on a regular basis. This could be weekly, monthly, or something else, depending on your organization’s need. If it is a date with yourself, your in-house support or if you outsource the work, consistency creates a window of time where you know these items will be addressed and allows you to get on with your other tasks.

9.     Create systems to help your organization’s efficiency.  Something as simple as coding your transactions when they are approved relieves so much verbal communication – sometimes words can be misinterpreted, but a number is definitive.  Any effort made to streamline this work makes it more reliable and lets you get to other parts of business that need your attention.

10.  Provide your staff and yourself with support.  Invest in the time to explore how this part of your business can provide valuable information. Invest in documentation and processes to support and assist your mission. Invest in your staff to provide training to help them do the best job they can. 

Happy Spring!

Bring growth and vitality to your business with an infusion of energy, fresh ideas, and new knowledge--take a class, attend a workshop, and participate in a networking event. Perhaps you're ready to hire new staff, or even shift gears in your professional life. Piggyback on the natural energy boost that comes with lengthening days and warmer weather to spring into a new chapter of success with your business, nonprofit, or career. See a list of opportunities below!

Ready to Hire?

Already growing this spring? Clarity can help you recruit and hire new employees! We offer a full suite of Human Resources solutions; in addition to coordinating hiring activities, we can also help you develop new employee benefits programs, create employee handbooks, and protect you from liability. If you'd like to have a conversation about your human resource needs, contact us at (360) 385-9963, or hr@clarityei.com

Ready for a New Adventure?

Clarity is seeking a resourceful, experienced Finance Director/Consultant to work with a variety of non-profit and small business clients. Flexible schedule; we welcome applicants seeking part-time of full-time work. Accounting degree and senior financial management experience required; CPA qualifications and consulting experience a plus. Based in Port Townsend. Please send resume and cover letter including desired salary to hr@clarityei.com.

Upcoming Events

April 15thFree public screening and networking event featuring the film "Tomorrow," 1-5:30 pm at Chimacum HS Auditorium & Commons, 91 West Valley Rd, Chimacum. Conversation topics covered will include local food, energy, transportation, waste, education, health and wellness, affordable housing, emergency preparedness, environment/climate change and the local economy. For a taste of this inspiring movie, check out the trailer

Event sponsors include: Local 20/20, Chimacum School District, Port Townsend Film Festival, Rose Theatre and Students for Sustainability. 

April 17th: Jefferson County Chamber Lunch Meeting with Lorna Mann, Director of the Port Townsend Visitor Information Center. 12- 1 pm, Fort Worden Commons. "Tales from the VIC: Find out how a presence in the Visitor Information Center can help your business and hear some of the weird and wacky questions that the VIC fields 7 days a week."

April 18th & 19thStarting a Business & Business Planning, with Tina Flores-McCleese. 9:30 - 1:30, Elwha Heritage Center, 401 E 1st, Port Angeles. Part of the "Small Business Series" hosted by the Elwha Klallam Tribe. $25, or $75 for the whole series. Call 360-417-8545 x 2909 for more information or to reserve a seat.

Earth Day! Saturday, April 22, 2017. Consider rounding up your employees and commit to a few volunteer hours to support and build community. Volunteers are invited to help on several downtown Port Townsend cleanup/weeding and painting projects from 9 am to 12 noon. Contact the Port Townsend Main Street office at 360 385-7911 or email admin@ptmainstreet.org if you would like to volunteer for the Earth Day Spring Clean-Up activities – or organize something of your own nearer to home! 

April 24th: Marketing & Social Media for Your Business, with Courtney Nestler of Bright Light Solutions. 9:30 - 1:30, Elwha Heritage Center, 401 E 1st, Port Angeles. Part of the "Small Business Series" hosted by the Elwha Klallam Tribe. $25, or $75 for the whole series. Call 360-417-8545 x 2909 for more information or to reserve a seat.

May 1stJefferson County Chamber Lunch Meeting with Earll Murman & Jay Bakst. 12-1 pm, Port Townsend Elks Lodge. Learn about LEAN thinking, and the work that Earll and Jay have been doing to help grow a LEAN community in Jefferson County. 

May 8th: HR Basics: Managing the Human Side of Business, with Candace Monroe of Clarity Enterprises. 9:30 - 1:30, Elwha Heritage Center, 401 E 1st, Port Angeles. Part of the "Small Business Series" hosted by the Elwha Klallam Tribe. $25, or $75 for the whole series. Call 360-417-8545 x 2909 for more information or to reserve a seat.

May 9th: Jefferson County Chamber After Hours Mixer at the Port Townsend Library. 5:30 - 7:00 pm, PT Public Library. Come for networking, food, drinks, and fun!

May 15th: Advanced: Marketing & Social Media for your Business, with Courtney Nestler of Bright Light Solutions. 9:30 - 1:30, Elwha Heritage Center, 401 E 1st, Port Angeles. Part of the "Small Business Series" hosted by the Elwha Klallam Tribe. $25, or $75 for the whole series. Call 360-417-8545 x 2909 for more information or to reserve a seat.

May 17th2017 Washington State Nonprofit Conference, Bellevue Meydenbauer Center. Gather with over 700 nonprofit leaders from our state, and learn about increasing equity, staying current, and going green. To learn more and register, follow the link above.

May 30th: Advanced HR Solutions: Flexible & Creative Strategies to Manage Your People, with Candace Monroe of Clarity Enterprises. 9:30 - 1:30, Elwha Heritage Center, 401 E 1st, Port Angeles. Part of the "Small Business Series" hosted by the Elwha Klallam Tribe. $25, or $75 for the whole series. Call 360-417-8545 x 2909 for more information or to reserve a seat.

Launch Into 2017 With A Burst of Fresh Inspiration

Happy New Year! January is a time to gather fresh energy for the year ahead, focus on goal setting, and make sure your existing systems are serving you well.

Here are a couple of articles from around the web to help you set your intentions and get inspired:

6 Key Resolutions For Your Small Business, Rhonda Abrams, Special for USA TODAY

5 News Years Resolutions for Busy Entrepreneurs in 2017, Jayson Demers for Entrepreneur

How To Use Brain Science To Be Your Best Self in 2017, Lydia Dishman for Fast Company

5 TED Talks That Will Inspire You To Be A Better Entrepreneur, Thomas Smale for Entrepreneur

Plus a couple of great podcasts for entrepreneurs:

Entrepreneurs on Fire

The School of Greatness with Lewis Homes

As always, if you’d like a partner in brainstorming ideas and setting goals, Clarity is glad to be of service. Contact Us to schedule a meeting.

We wish you well in 2017!

Year End Housekeeping

As 2016 comes to a close, it’s helpful to look ahead to the year-end financial tasks that January brings. If Clarity supports you with financial services, it is likely your representative has been gathering and entering this information into your system throughout the year. If, however, you have been in charge of your data, then this list should be a helpful guide for you to check your current information:

  • W2’s – Employee Information
    • Current Employee Addresses
    • All Employee Social Security #’s
  • 1099’s – All vendors who are not incorporated and who you have paid out $600.00 or more total for the year.
    • Current Vendor Addresses
    • All Vendor Tax ID#s
  • Begin reviewing your financial statements for year-end
  • Create a draft budget for 2017. If you don’t have a budget process in place Clarity would be happy to help you get squared away! Contact us for more information.

Critical Update! Last Minute Block to FLSA Overtime Rules Changes

A federal district court Judge has granted a Nationwide preliminary injunctionagainst the much-discussed new FLSA overtime rules, just eight days before they were scheduled to come into effect.

Many employers have already raised salaries or informed exempt employees that they would receive a pay increase to more than $47,476, effective December 1. Other employers have informed exempt employees whose salaries are under the threshold that they will now be considered hourly employees and eligible for overtime.

For the time being, employers no longer have an obligation under the FLSA to make such changes to pay practices. However, from an employee morale perspective, it could be very difficult for employers that have announced a raise to renege on that promise. Employers who have informed employees of changes and now plan to rescind those changes as a result of the preliminary injunction should seek legal advice.

For 'Up to the Minute' HR news on this issue over the coming days and weeks, visit The Society for Human Resource Management.

Human Resources Health - New Overtime Rules

In May 2016, the Department of Labor released its final ruling on a monumental revision to the Overtime Exemption Regulations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA.) These rules come into effect on December 1, 2016. This article has been created to provide a quick reference to the rules and terms, a summary of the changes, and a resource for employers to ensure their ongoing compliance. 

Exempt employees, because of the type of work that they do and their rate of pay, are not eligible for overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in one work week. Non-exempt employees must be paid at least time and a half for any hours worked in excess of 40 in a work week. This rule is not new. The changes that have been made are regarding the minimum rate of pay for an exempt employee. 

What ARE the rules? 

In simple terms, the conditions for exempt status, from December 1, is as follows: 

  1. The employee must work in an administrative, executive or professional capacity 
  2. The employee must be paid a salary of at least $47,476 per year (this has increased from $23,660 previously) 

Employees who do not earn at least $47,476 per year (or $913 per week) must be paid overtime, regardless of if they are classified as a manager or professional.  

The salary threshold will be updated every 3 years to keep in line with inflation. The first update will be on January 1, 2020. 

Some frequently asked questions: 

I have employees in this category, what do I do? 

You must either increase this employee’s or these employees’ salary or salaries to meet the new minimum, or pay this employee overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 in one work week. 

What is a “work week”?  

An employer may determine its own standard work week for payroll purposes. The week must be a consist of seven 24-hour days in a row. For example, an employer may select its work week to run Monday through Sunday, or Sunday through Saturday. The employer cannot change this work week once established, and must inform all new employees of the boundaries of the week. 

Can I use bonuses or commissions as a substitute for a base increase to make up the minimum? 

Nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments can be used to satisfy up to 10% of the salary test requirement. Should an employee not earn enough including nondiscretionary bonuses to meet the salary test requirements in any one quarter, a catch-up payment OR overtime pay for the preceding quarter will be required. 

Where do I go to get more information, or to get help? 

The Department of Labor website at dol.gov and the Washington State Department of Labor at dol.wa.gov provide in-depth information and fact sheets on this and other labor topics.  

Clarity can provide a review of your HR files and practices, as part of our HR Services offering. Please contact us to get a quote or discuss how we can help you. 

Candace Monroe, Clarity Enterprises

Clarity offers a full range of HR solutions to suit individual needs and budgets. From assistance with recruitment through a full-service HR department-on-demand, outsourcing your HR function allows you to concentrate internal resources on your core business, and look outward for expertise. 

Eleven Ways to Strengthen Your Year End Appeal

The end of the year is a critical time for most nonprofit organizations; on a national average, 50% of donations are received in the final three months of the year. What’s more, nearly one third of gifts are made in the month of December! Many nonprofits begin planning and executing their year-end campaigns in September, or earlier—but if this isn’t you, don’t despair! There’s still time to create a meaningful final push to help you close your year on budget and start the New Year strong.

Here is a curated compilation of best practices, hints, and reminders, shared by some of the best nonprofit resources around, (links at the end of the article). They will help you pull together a terrific year-end campaign, even if you’re starting late. And remember, Clarity can help you pull together a great fundraising plan for 2017! Contact us to learn more. 

·      Start with a great story

Humans create meaning through story. Donors will respond best to deep, powerful, personal stories that tell the impact of your work. Can you demonstrate a significant accomplishment or highlight a critical program by telling the story of one client or constituent?

·      Make the donor the focus of the letter

It’s easy to fall into the trap of talking about all of the wonderful things your organization has accomplished during the past year, but donors will be more deeply inspired if you frame it in terms of the change they have made through their gifts.  Be sure to include “you” often in the course of your letter. Use merge fields where possible to include the donor’s name/s in the salutation and throughout.

·      Keep it short, simple & sweet

Most people will not take the time to read your letter carefully. Leave lots of white space, break up your paragraphs, highlight key messages with bold text or bullet points, and limit the length to 1-2 pages. In short, make the letter easy to skim.

·      Include a clear call to action

This may seem obvious, but if you want your donors to give, you must ask them! Use phrases like “send your year-end gift in the enclosed, self-addressed envelope,” or, in the case of an email appeal, “click this link to make your gift now.”

·      Ask more than once

Don’t hesitate to ask more than once. In general, it’s best to ask within the first or second paragraph, and again somewhere toward the end of the letter. Be sure to reiterate the ‘ask’ and the action in the P.S.

·      Distill your key message to the P.S.

It sounds crazy, but much research confirms that almost everyone will read the P.S. first; sometimes that’s ALL they will read. Make it concise and compelling, and be sure to include your ‘call to action.’

·      Segment your donor list

Donors like to be treated as individuals. If you have a database that allows you to segment your mailing list, you can break it down into several pieces and speak to those constituencies more directly and personally. You might use different language for donors that have already made a gift this calendar year; you will likely want to address your major donors with a special message.

·      Personalize your top tier donor letters with handwritten messages from board or staff

All donors want to be known, seen for their vision and values, and appreciated for their generosity. A hand-personalized appeal letter is one way to reinforce this special relationship that your major donors have with your organization. It will pay off in stronger loyalty and deeper commitment to your organization.

·      Follow up

Be prepared to follow up your appeal letter in one or several ways. But have a plan in place to remove names of those who have already made their year-end gifts!

o   Email—you can even break this into a mini-campaign with several short emails planned to land in inboxes during the last week of the year.

o   Social Media—if you’re using Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms, be sure to include a couple of well-timed posts inviting your fans and followers to donate to your year-end campaign.

o   Personal phone calls from board & volunteers—you may choose to focus this extra attention on your major donors. Phone calls are a great way to deepen the conversation and the relationship with your core constituents, and they will often yield a higher rate of return. Your volunteers can open the conversation with something along these lines: “I’m calling on behalf of “Fantastic Nonprofit that you Love;” you probably received our year end appeal letter last week, and I wanted to follow up with a phone call to see if I can answer any further questions for you…” Remember to record all the interesting details learned during the course of the conversation!

·      Have a great thank-you letter, and deliver it in a timely way

People want to know that you are using the money they have given you in the way that you said you would. A well-crafted thank-you letter that relates to your year-end appeal will build trust and credibility with your donors. You should have a bomb-proof process in place to send every gift acknowledgement and thank-you letter within a few days of gift receipt, perhaps a week at the longest. No excuses!

·      Plan an impact postcard for six months out

Once you’ve had a chance to use the money raised during your year-end appeal to do good work in the world, take the time to reach out to all of the folks who donated with stories of progress. After all, they are the ones who’ve made it possible!

Here is a list of sources and resources; some have been used to inspire this article, and some are just great all-around nonprofit resources. 


Fired Up Fundraising with Gail Perry


Mobile Cause

Network for Good

Nonprofit Hub

Pamela Grow

Standford Social Innovation Revie


Clarity Celebrates 10 years!


Clarity is celebrating our 10th Anniversary this year! 

Some of you we had the privilege of seeing in person at our Birthday Celebration / Chamber Mixer on October 11--thank you so much for attending. It was a joy to have you. We hope you enjoyed visiting the new office location, and getting a chance to connect with our other fabulous clients and community members. If you weren't able to attend, please stop in and say 'hi' sometime soon!

As I pause to reflect on our ten years in business and look toward the future, I’d like to take a moment to reiterate a couple of thoughts.

I so appreciate our staff--they are stellar group of professionals who put our clients first.  It has been an honor to collaborate with this growing team of people who bring great skills, thoughtful analysis, creative ideas, and vibrant personalities to our work. I especially want to thank Pam Nebel, who’s been with me every step of the way.

I also want to thank our clients.  Of course, you are the reason we do this work, and the reason we get to do this work.  We have had the privilege of serving some of you for a decade now, and many more of you we've have been in partnership with for years. We've had the pleasure of watching you meet your goals, grow, and thrive.   Thank you for the work you do in our community – thank you for driving the local economy, providing great jobs, and delivering great products, programs, and services. Your success makes this community healthy, resilient, and vital.

Clarity is your partner in financial health; we very much look forward to helping you grow and flourish over the next ten years.



Clarity Staff at our 10 Year Anniversary Celebration

It's budget time!

Plan for budgets now!

As this year comes to a close I remember that endings always make me think about beginnings. They give me an opportunity to re-evaluate and to re-assess. I usually take this time of year to re-commit or newly commit the use of two of my available resources: time and money. I think about balance, I think about what I love and what I am missing. Then, I plan.

The process of planning always opens up a whole new world to me.


Everything is a possibility and there are endless paths to take. Where do I want to travel? How much time do I want to take off?   How much time will I devote to piano lessons? Will I be able to increase the charitable donations I make? Do my kids really need the latest/greatest tablet? (Year two on list to Santa...)

Sometimes taking that first step feels overwhelming... But, I do love the idea of spending the month of December in Mexico. (I could play piano there, seek out a children's center to support... )

Welcome to the world of budgeting! You have possibilities, you have priorities and you have resources to spend to get where you are going. While you may feel at a loss to figure out where to start or how to find joy and possibility in the process - it all begins with the first step and re-framing any past perceptions of the task.

Really taking on budgeting for your organization can be more than rinse and repeat. It's your opportunity to put your plans for the upcoming year into action. It is the time to take a good hard look at what is working and what isn't, whether there is balance and whether you are heading down the path you really want to go. Your data already tells that story (or it should, anyway). Building your budget is the process of creating the story you are planning to tell.

So, let's get started!

Step 1: Dedicate the time

  • Make an appointment (or several) with yourself on your calendar to work on creating budget
  • Give yourself a treat, a special blend of tea, conducive music (something to make you look forward to the time)

Step 2: Create or use a template

  • Your system may allow exporting of your data in the desired format
  • You can use paper or excel spreadsheets that can be edited for your business
  • Computer programs like Excel can give you the added benefit of tying variable amounts to assumptions to calculate 'what if' scenarios more easily
  • Your budget should cover 12 to 24 months of business operation

Step 3: Start where you are, with what you know (Income, expenses, loan payments)      

  • Pull together historical info about each category by month
  • Review the comparison of budget versus actual. Make changes in your new budget document as needed

Step 4: Add what you are planning (changes known or predicted)

  • Do you need new categories?
  • Are there uses of cash to consider (asset purchases, loan repayments, etc)

Step 5: Ask yourself some questions:

  • Are you in alignment with your organization goals?
  • Does this budget reflect what you value most?
  • Are there trends (industry or seasonal) you can learn from or incorporate?
  • Are your ratios in line with industry standards?

Step 6: Tweak it until your income and expenses balance (this is the tough one)

  • Revisit and scrutinize all categories (Income and Expenses)
  • Shop your fixed expenses annually to see if you can find a better deal (phone, insurance, leases, etc)
  • If you provide health benefits, consider HSA/HRA's Flexible Spending
  • Work to reduce or eliminate debt to lower interest expense
  • Try to keep enough cash on hand to take advantage of discounts or good deals
  • Build in some cushion

The power of your budget is immense. Your budget causes you to think through how your organization is planning to fulfill the work ahead. It puts those plans and changes into black and white, making them real, actionable. Having numbers attached to your plans helps us put those visions and plans into action by giving us something to measure against as we begin to make progress.

Are you feeling inspired to do it right now? Good for you - go get 'em! If you feel like you need a little more to get going, or some further technical assistance, contact us – clarityei.com.


Tina Flores-McCleese is the owner of Clarity, a firm providing financial consulting, workshops, one on one training, and grant management for non-profits and small businesses. Clarity helps non-profits and small businesses through organizational transitions with an eye towards the future, so your organization can accomplish what you really want to.
You can reach Clarity at 360-385-9963 x1, or www.clarityei.com