Understanding Zoom’s Updated Terms on AI & Customer Data

Understanding Zoom's Updated Terms on AI & Customer Data

Nowadays, with data privacy and security being more and more top of mind,  changes in terms of service by major platforms can raise eyebrows. 

Recently, Zoom revised its terms, and while most glossed over the fine print, the nonprofit sector, especially sensitive to AI privacy issues, took note.

What changed?

In early August, Zoom introduced clauses in its terms of service that seemed to give the platform broad latitude to use customer generated data (e.g. meeting recordings, transcripts, screen shares, chats, etc.)  for almost any purpose, including machine learning and artificial intelligence. This caused something of an outcry across the more privacy-minded customers of Zoom and especially in the nonprofit sector. 

Following the concerns voiced by various stakeholders, Zoom made another update on August 11, 2023. The updated terms clarify the platform’s stance on using customer data, especially in the context of AI. The updated terms Zoom published on August 11th states the following, in bold:

“Zoom does not use any of your audio, video, chat, screen sharing, attachments or other communications-like Customer Content (such as poll results, whiteboard and reactions) to train Zoom or third-party artificial intelligence models.”

If you wish to read this for yourself, please refer directly to Zoom’s updated terms. In addition, Zoom provided an explanation of the changes in a recent blog post.

Key Takeaways for Nonprofits:

  • Data Usage for AI: While Zoom maintains rights to service-generated data, they have stated they will “not use any of your audio, video, chat, screen sharing, attachments or other communications-like Customer Content (such as poll results, whiteboard and reactions) to train Zoom or third-party artificial intelligence models.”
  • Extra Caution: If nonprofits wish to be extra cautious, administrators should ensure that features like Zoom IQ Meeting Summary and Zoom IQ Team Chat Compose are disabled. These features can potentially use AI-driven insights derived from meeting and chat content. Instructions here, screenshot below.

In Conclusion

While the updated terms offer clearer boundaries on data usage, we ALWAYS appreciate organizations being proactive about understanding and navigating changes to terms of service with providers. Knowledge truly is power and staying informed is the first step to ensuring the privacy and security of the information you care about.

Google Ad Grant Guide 2023

Geode Marketing has created a guide on the Google Grant Program, a Google Ads program for registered 501c3 nonprofit organizations, from how to qualify to ad guidelines for 2022.

What Is The Google Ad Grant?

The Google Ad Grants Program is an amazing opportunity for all nonprofits, as it requires very little to acquire and qualify for the grant. This program gives qualified organizations $10,000 per month in in-kind credit within Google Ads to be used to promote their vision and mission within the Google search engine.

To qualify, companies must go through the application process and maintain grant requirements to avoid termination of the grant. The qualifications are:

  1. Hold current and valid charity status (for example, in the US you must have a current 501(c)(3) status). If you’re not in the US, you still qualify! Check your country’s definition of charity status.
  2. Acknowledge and agree to Google Grant’s required terms regarding how to receive and use donations obtained from the grant.
  3. Have a secure website (https) that is both functioning and provides adequate detail on your nonprofit.

The following organizations are not eligible for Google Ad Grants:

  • Governmental entities and organizations
  • Hospitals and medical groups
  • Schools, childcare centers, academic institutions, and universities

How to Maintain Your Google Ad Grant

Once you’ve scored a Google grant, the tricky part is maintaining it. Below are some of the basic requirements to maintain eligibility.

  • Maintain a 5% account CTR.
  • Keyword quality scores cannot be below 3.
  • There must be at least 2 active ad groups per campaign.
  • There must be at least 2 sitelink ad extensions.
  • Account must have specific geo-targeting.
  • No using single-word keywords, except for those on this list, and no using overly generic words.
  • Automated bidding strategies can break the $2.00 bid maximum.
  • An account must be logged in at least monthly and have one or more changes implemented every 90 days. If you don’t display active management, Google will suspend your account and you’ll have to request to be reinstated.

All the ads in your account must link to the nonprofit URL that was approved in your application process. Geode Marketing can also help you get websites approved that aid your nonprofit’s mission. These are domains that are different from the approved URL in your application. This could be a website for an annual conference, a fundraiser, or even a project!

The key to Google Ads management is making sure you don’t fall out of compliance. Logging in to the account weekly and checking all of these requirements is recommended. If a nonprofit advertiser does not log into their Google Ads account for an extended period of time, the account may be terminated without notice.

The ads you are promoting must reflect the mission of your nonprofit. You can advertise to sell products as long as 100% of the proceeds are going to support your program. The ads you create cannot point to pages that are used to primarily send visitors to other websites.

Your ads cannot offer financial products, such as mortgages or credit cards. Your ads also cannot be asking for donations in the form of large goods such as cars, boats or property donations. Keywords related to this activity are also not allowed.
Your website cannot display ads from Google AdSense or other affiliate advertising links while participating in Google Grants.

Google states that any violation of these guidelines is subject to removal from the program. They also reserve the right to supplement or amend these eligibility guidelines at any time.

Google Grant Maintenance

To keep the Ad Grant requirements met, daily budget will need to be set at $329 ($10,000 per month) and you cannot have keywords with a Max CPC of over $2.00. This is not the case if you are using a smart bidding strategy such as Max Conversions, tCPA, or Max Clicks. Your ads can also only appear on Google search results page – you cannot enable Search Partners and unfortunately, you are not eligible for the Display Network either. The Google Ad Grant only works with search text ads.

With the basics out of the way, we have included 5 key components to Google Ad Grant management.

1. Conversions Are Key

Google Ads has evolved to focus on higher conversion rates rather than focusing on how much an advertiser is bidding on a given keyword. Whatever your CTA (Call to Action) is – donation, newsletter sign up, volunteer application – Google will push you towards smart bidding strategies like Target CPA, Maximize Conversions, and Maximize Conversions with a tCPA to see what keywords are

Together with your team, Geode Marketing can help pin down which actions you want to see made on your site and what keywords will help get them there!

The next step is to set up conversion tracking. You’ll be able to see and measure the visitor’s journey from the moment they click on your ad to when they convert! This can be done through tags on your website, Google Analytics conversions, or Google Tag Manager which Geode Marketing can implement from start to finish.

2. Careful Keyword Selection

Keyword research is the foundation to a strong Google Ad account. When crafting your keywords by ad group, you want to make sure to use high volume keywords with lower competition. Start by looking at the terms you use on your site in SEO pages, and use an SEM keyword research tool like Google’s Keyword Planner to find the volume of each keyword. You can also use tools like SEM Rush, Keyword Tool, etc. There is no use creating ad groups for keywords with zero search volume per month, and while it may be relevant to your nonprofit, you have to verify it’s what the public is searching for!

Broad keywords like “donation to nonprofit” “nonprofits near me” or “events in my area” are not going to be effective ways to get conversions. If you use keywords like this, it’s likely that your ad won’t be shown and your CTR may drop below 5%!

Because so much of the Quality Score and CTR is determined by the relationship between keywords, ads themselves and the content on the landing page, it’s essential that you create highly specific campaigns that utilize long-tail keywords with a clear landing page in mind.

3. Landing Pages From Google’s Perspective

Sending your ads to a landing page that matches the keyword and ad copy you create is essential. In other words: it must accurately reflect what is promised in your ad. Sending your ads to your homepage is not effective, as you need the keywords you’re serving to be on the page multiple times. Ensure your landing pages are fast, functional, and relevant. Test ad copy to improve your expected click-through rates and aim for Excellent Responsive Search ads when crafting your campaigns. These steps will ensure your keywords have a Quality Score of 2 or better.

Using a landing page with only a video, calendar, PDF file link or embedded widget on it is also not effective. Google has to crawl your site to ensure relevancy to the keywords being served. This is done only through reading the copy that is on that page. If you don’t have writing with that keyword on the page, Google cannot watch a video to see that it is related!

A good rule of thumb is to have these elements:

  • Have one strong call to action with the button or form to fill out.
  • Have no links or buttons to other pages.
  • Have a clear and compelling title and your logo.
  • Include images or videos
  • Use the keyword and variations on that keyword 3-5 times

4. Organize Campaigns and Ad Groups

Campaigns are the top level of organization of your ads. Under campaigns you have ad groups which house keywords and ads. A rule to follow is that all of the ad groups within a campaign should lead to the same landing page. Ad groups should also only have a maximum of a dozen keywords in them. Any more, and you likely can split these out into separate ad groups with greater focus!

For regional focused nonprofits, creating a campaign with geo-targeting around that region is key! Your overall budget, bidding strategy, geotargeting, and start and end dates are all set at the campaign level, not the ad group level.

The final thing to avoid is overlapping keywords. You don’t want the same keywords in different campaigns or ad groups. Having duplicates confuses Google and hurts your overall account performance.

5. Measure Google Ad Success and Grow

Great campaigns are built on analyzing data and making changes over time. Link your Google Ads account to Google Analytics so you can analyze which campaigns and keywords are performing the best.

Pause keywords with low conversion rates and high spend. Look at Search Terms and add relevant or high-performers queries (high CTR or conversions) as keywords. Build landing pages around these search terms that may be missing from your website!

Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your campaigns and find the time to update your site. If you follow these steps you will be spending your maximum $10,000 in no time and seeing your conversions grow!

Questions about any of these steps? Contact Geode Marketing today!3

Google Search Ads Vs. Display Ads: What’s The Difference?

As a business owner, you’re always looking for new ways to reach your target audience and promote your product or service. And with the vast array of digital marketing options available today, it can be tough to know which one is right for you.

Two of the most popular choices are Google Search Ads and Google Display Ads. But what’s the difference between the two? And which one is right for your business?

Google Search Ads are the text-based ads that appear at the top of the search results page when you search for a specific keyword on Google.com. These ads are triggered by the keywords that you bid on in your Google Ads account.

Google Display Ads are the image-based ads that appear on websites in the Google. Display ads are shown on the articles, videos, or websites that consumers browse. With Google Ads, you may serve your ads on the Google Display Network, a collection of over two million websites that reach over 90% of Internet users across the globe.

How do you know when to use search or display ads?

If you consider your business an “urgent” service, it’s probably a good idea to start with search ads. This includes companpies like locksmiths, tow trucks, 24-hour veterinarian, and dentists. Display ads wouldn’t be helpful in this situation as people won’t save your information for later if they come across your Display ads.

Performance Max Beginners Guide

Performance max campaigns are a powerful way to reach potential customers across a variety of channels and formats, all within a single Google Ads campaign. They offer advertisers the ability to create highly targeted campaigns that can drive meaningful results for their business. In this blog post, we’ll take a deep dive into performance max campaigns and how they can help you achieve your marketing goals.

What are Performance Max Campaigns?

Performance max campaigns are a type of Google Ads campaign that allows advertisers to reach potential customers across a variety of Google-owned properties, including YouTube, Google Search, Google Discover, and the Google Display Network. We only recommend using Performance Max if you are an ecommerce based business. This means you have a product feed and Google Merchant Center account. If you are a business focused on lead generation, we recommend sticking to Google Search and other campaign types.

The goal of a performance max campaign is to deliver your message to potential customers across multiple channels and formats, based on their behaviors, interests, and demographics.

Performance max campaigns can include a variety of ad formats, including video ads, display ads, and responsive search ads, the majority of the time the ads that will be served are shopping or search ads. These ads are served to potential customers based on their browsing history, search queries, and other signals that indicate their interests and intent. By targeting users based on their behaviors, performance max campaigns can help drive higher conversion rates and return on investment (ROI).

Benefits of Performance Max Campaigns

Performance max campaigns offer a number of benefits for advertisers, including:

  1. Cross-channel advertising: Performance max campaigns allow you to reach potential customers across multiple channels and formats, including YouTube, Google Search, Google Discover, and the Google Display Network. This can help increase your brand awareness and drive more conversions.
  2. Machine learning optimization: Performance max campaigns use machine learning to optimize for conversions, allowing you to focus on your business goals while the campaign automatically adjusts bids and targeting to maximize performance.
  3. Easy campaign setup: Setting up a performance max campaign is easy, as you only need to create a single campaign that includes all the channels and formats you want to target.
  4. Higher conversion rates: By targeting users based on their behaviors and intent, performance max campaigns can help drive higher conversion rates and ROI.
  5. Enhanced targeting: Performance max campaigns offer enhanced targeting capabilities, allowing you to reach potential customers based on their demographics, behaviors, interests, and more.

How to set up a performance max campaign

Setting up a performance max campaign is easy, and can be done in just a few steps:

  1. Create a new campaign: To create a performance max campaign, log in to your Google Ads account and click on the “Campaigns” tab. Click the blue “+” button to create a new campaign.
  2. Choose your campaign type: Select “Performance Max” as your campaign type.
  3. Set your campaign goals: Choose the goals you want your campaign to achieve, such as driving sales.
  4. Select your targeting options: Add audience target, such as customer match, affinity, or custom segment audiences to help Google know where to send your ads.
  5. Set your budget: Set your daily budget for the campaign.
  6. Create your ads: Add the images and headlines and descriptions you want for your ads.
  7. Launch your campaign: Once you’ve created your campaign and ads, you can launch your performance max campaign and start reaching potential customers!

Best practices:

To get the most out of your performance max campaign, there are a few best practices to keep in mind:

  1. Use high-quality creative: Performance max campaigns rely on high-quality creative, including video ads, display ads, and responsive search ads. Make sure your creative is engaging, visually appealing, and relevant to your target audience.
  2. Customer Match Lists: To decrease the time the campaign needs to learn, add customer match lists based on your companies previous client lists.

By Geode Marketing: Read here https://www.geodemarketing.com/performance-max-beginners-guide/

Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERC) Updates

Enacted as part of the CARES Act in April 2020 and expanded as part of the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act, American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERC or ERTC) has been a valuable and necessary lifeline for many businesses and non-profit organizations.  While the credit did not have much traction at the onset (given the limitation of either doing a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan or the ERC) the expansion in December 2020 and subsequent has led to many employers claiming the credit in 2021, 2022, and even 2023.

Despite being a nearly 3-year-old program, there are still employers who have yet to determine if they are eligible for this credit, the IRS continues to distribute additional news and guidance regarding the credit, and there is still confusion surrounding the program.

Deadline for Amended Returns

Most employers and taxpayers are aware that the deadline for filing an amended return is 3 years from the date the return is due.  In the case of Form 941-X for ERC Claims, this would make the deadline for amending 2nd Q 2020 (originally due July 31, 2020) July 31, 2023.  However, in the case of payroll returns, the Form 941 for a calendar year is considered to be filed on April 15 of the succeeding year – meaning that for 2nd Q 2020, 3rd Q 2020 and 4th Q 2020 the deadline for amending these returns is April 15, 2024.  While that may sound far away, its closer than you may think, especially considering that many tax professionals have tax season to contend with during the 1st Q 2024.

IRS Legal Advice Memorandum

On July 20, 2023, the IRS released a legal advice memorandum which specifically discusses shutdowns related to supply chain disruptions.  The memo lists 5 scenarios regarding supply chains and if the impact as described in the scenario would qualify as a disruption as a result of a government order and therefore make the employer eligible for the ERC.

Scenario 1­ – an employer that was otherwise not subject to any government orders experienced delays in receiving critical goods in 2020 and 2021 but had a surplus of goods.  The employer inquired and received a vague response the delay was COVID-19 related, but the supplier did not provide a government order.

The memo states this employer does NOT qualify under a supply chain disruption because it cannot provide a government order.  Further, the surplus of goods would have made it so the employer could continue, and therefore, even if there was an order, the specific employer was not suspended.

Scenario 2 – an employer that was otherwise not subject to any government orders had critical goods stuck in a port.  The employer cannot identify any specific government order that caused the bottleneck and the employer had information that stated it was due to COVID-19, increases in consumer spending, aging infrastructure, and lack of drivers.

The memo states that this employer does NOT qualify under a supply chain disruption because it cannot identify a relevant government order.  While COVID-19 may be a contributing factor, there was no government order applicable to the bottleneck and it is incumbent on the employer to demonstrate that a government order lead to the bottleneck.

Scenario 3 – an employer and supplier were both suspended in April 2020 by government orders which were lifted in May 2020.  There is a delay of critical goods throughout 2020 and 2021 assumed to be as a result of the order in April 2020.

The memo states that this employer is eligible for the 2nd Q 2020 because it was fully or partially suspended for that quarter but only for wages paid during that suspension period.  The residual delays as a result of the order do NOT qualify as a government order once it has been lifted.

Scenario 4 – an employer was not subject to any government orders and couldn’t obtain critical goods from a certain supplier but was able to obtain these goods from a different supplier at a higher cost and lower profit to the employer.

The memo states that this employer does NOT qualify under a supply chain disruption because the employer could continue its operations, albeit at a higher cost.

Scenario 5 – an employer (large retail business) was not subject to any government orders, but experienced supply chain disruptions leaving them unable to stock a limited number of products and requiring them to raise prices on others; however at no time did it prevent the employer from fully operating as a retail business.

The memo states that this employer does NOT qualify under a supply chain disruption because the employer could continue its operations and cannot demonstrate a government order that prevented the employer from obtaining critical goods and the limited stock on a few items did not rise to the level of a partial suspension of operations.

Taken as a whole, the memo demonstrates a “narrow” interpretation by the IRS of the supply chain disruption as a qualification to be an eligible employer.  The guidance clarifies that in order for there to be a qualified disruption, it needs to be a direct result of a government order related to COVID-19, not just because of COVID-19 itself.


During the initial stages of the CARES Act and ERC in order to get information to taxpayers rapidly the IRS issued FAQs related to the ERC.  These FAQs do not hold the same weight of law as notices or regulations (although the original FAQs became, in practice at least, Notice 2021-20), however, they do provide taxpayers with guidance.  The IRS has issued a new FAQ in July 2023.  The FAQ is somewhat targeted at employers and promoters who are making “weaker” ERC claims and provides a great summary of the program and limitations.  The FAQ does not provide much in terms of new guidance, but does highlight:

  • Not all employers will qualify and there are specific eligibility criteria.
  • A government order must be an order; a recommendation or statement encouraging actions will not qualify.
  • Just being subject to an order is not sufficient; you must demonstrate the order has impacted your operations.
  • A supply chain issue alone will not make an employer eligible.
  • A summary of the gross receipts decline testing.
  • Confirmation the deadline is April 15, 2024 for 2020 year claims.
  • A statement that for improper claims the IRS will be providing more information.
    • For any claims to be repaid we advise to amend the 941-x as to limit interest and return the funds
  • For businesses, the ERC must be claimed as a reduction of wages in the year the wages are paid, not when the funds are received.
  • Information related to “ERC Scams”:
    • Unsolicited calls with an “easy application process”
    • The promoter can determine eligibility within minutes.
    • Large upfront fees
    • Fees based on a percentage of the credit.
    • Preparers that won’t sign the amended 941-X.
    • Aggressive claims from the promoter stating the entity qualifies before any discussion of the tax situation.
    • Marketing claiming the employer has “nothing to lose” when submitting the claim.
  • The IRS Suggests for any employer claiming a credit, they should:
    • Work with a trusted tax professional.
    • Request a detailed worksheet explaining the eligibility and computations of the credit.
    • Don’t accept a generic document about government orders; ask for a copy of the government order.
    • Don’t apply unless you believe you qualify.

The FAQ also provides a great listing of documentation to support eligibility, including records to show:

  • The business operations were suspended, including the specific government order
  • The decline in gross receipts
  • Which employees received wages and in what amounts
  • If a large employer, you paid wages to employees not providing services.
  • Allocation, if any, of qualified health plan expenses
  • Relationship to other businesses, if any
  • Copies of returns and Form 7200, if any

IRS Statement at special roundtable of tax professionals

IRS commissioner Danny Werful spoke on Tuesday, July 25th at a special roundtable of tax professionals.  Highlights from this included:

  • The IRS claims to have cleared the backlog of valid ERC claims.
    • For the IRS, this increase in claims and other COVID-19 related impacts lead to delays in processing claims, some up to 18 months in our experience.
  • With the backlog cleared, the IRS will be shifting to increased scrutiny on dubious submissions and aggressive marketing from ERC providers.
  • The IRS will be intensifying compliance and looking to put in place additional procedures to deal with fraud in the program.
  • As the pandemic gets further away, the IRS believes that there are less “legitimate” claims coming in and more questionable claims due to the onslaught of marketing from ERC providers.
  • The IRS wants to work with congress to explore legislative solutions, including potentially increased oversight of preparers and putting an earlier ending date on claims.
  • The IRS is very concerned with scams and potential fraud given the increase in “false and misleading” public advertising and scams taking advantage of taxpayers.

Congressional Hearings with Tax Professionals

On Friday, July 28th, the House Ways and Means Committee had a hearing with tax professionals to discuss the IRS’ handling of the ERC and the issues they are experiencing.  The tax professionals and other witnesses highlighted the following:

  • Growing concern of ERC Mills (providers with aggressive marketing and claims) and potential for fraud.
    • The advertisements which state that tax professionals may not know about this or what they are doing in regard to this undercut the confidence of businesses and organizations of their preparers.
    • The IRS lack of enforcement to date on these providers has made more appear.
  • The lack of guidance from the IRS and that a separate ERC implementation team should have been formed from the start to provide guidance and education
  • The requirement to file amended returns on paper, rather than electronic, which lead to the backlog.
  • The witnesses questioned the IRS Claim (above) that 99% of claims are less than 3 months old.

After nearly 2 years of aggressive providers making claims, the IRS and congress finally appear to be turning their attention toward these so-called ERC Mills and to providing clear guidance that many of the claims of these providers, which were dubious to begin with, are in fact not allowed under the ERC Program.  The most recent guidance shows a narrow interpretation of any supply chain related disruptions and further shows that employers must have a government order that directly impacts them and suspended their operations – it is likely that over the next few weeks the IRS will provide more guidance related to government orders which have been a form of shutdown used by ERC Mills for potentially dubious claims.

For any employer (either business or tax-exempt organization) that has not yet looked, it is still possible to claim these credits if you are in fact eligible – either under a decline in gross receipts or under restrictions from a government order.  For any employer that may have claimed these credits incorrectly, the IRS stated they will be putting more information out about returning these credits, but for now, it is advisable to file Form 941-X for any quarters and return the funds as soon as possible.

If you have any questions about the ERC, please feel free to reach out.

Edward McWilliams, CPA

Edward McWilliams, CPA


Ed is a Partner in the firm’s tax and business advisory practice focusing on providing services to middle market private companies across different industries as well as to early stage startups. Ed has over a decade of experience providing tax and business consulting services to these companies of different sizes and across different industries, bringing a broad and diverse knowledge base and strategic solutions to the many complex issues that businesses face.

New York State Forward Loan Fund 2

In an effort to support the economic recovery and revitalization of businesses in New York State, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the launch of the New York Forward Loan Fund 2. This program allocates $150 million to provide flexible loans to eligible businesses for general working capital needs.

The New York Forward Loan Fund 2 is a follow-up initiative to the successful New York Forward Loan Fund, which had previously provided much-needed financial assistance to businesses across the state. Building on the success of the previous program, the New York Forward Loan Fund 2 seeks to continue supporting businesses during the post-pandemic recovery phase.

One of the key highlights of the program is its flexibility. The loans are designed to cater to the diverse needs of different businesses, ranging from small enterprises to medium-sized companies. Businesses from various sectors, including nonprofits, restaurants, retail stores, service providers, and more, are eligible to apply for these loans, provided they meet the specified criteria. Businesses must be registered in New York State, operate for one year, have 100 or fewer full-time employees, and generate less than $5 million in gross annual revenue.

The loans offered through the New York Forward Loan Fund 2 are structured to be affordable and sustainable for businesses. Interest rates are set at competitive levels, between 9.25% and 12.25%, and favorable repayment terms are provided (between 36 and 72 months), ensuring that businesses can access the necessary funds without being burdened by excessive debt obligations.

In addition to financial support, the program also aims to provide technical assistance and guidance to businesses. Access to business advisors, mentors, and other resources will be offered to help businesses navigate the challenges of the current economic environment successfully. This additional support is intended to enhance the chances of business survival and promote long-term growth and stability.

The application process for the New York Forward Loan Fund 2 is streamlined to ensure businesses can access the funds promptly. Applicants will be required to submit documentation detailing the impact of the pandemic on their operations and the outlined recovery plans. The evaluation process is designed to be transparent and efficient, with timely communication of loan decisions to successful applicants.

By providing a new injection of funds into the business community, the New York Forward Loan Fund 2 is poised to play a crucial role in supporting economic revitalization. Empowered businesses can retain and create jobs, contribute to local economies, and foster a sense of stability in the business community as New York State aims to recover from the pandemic’s fallout.

Governor Hochul’s announcement of the New York Forward Loan Fund 2 demonstrates the state’s commitment to the well-being and success of its business community. As the program begins to disburse funds to eligible businesses, it is expected to serve as a lifeline for many, propelling them towards a brighter and more prosperous future in the post-pandemic era.

Please note that the details provided in this summary are based on the information available at the time of the announcement, and the program’s specific details and requirements may be subject to change or updates. For the most current information, potential loan recipients are advised to refer to official sources and the New York State government’s official website.

Matthew Burke, CPA, CFE

Matthew Burke, CPA, CFE


Matt specializes in providing Cerini and Associates’ diverse array of midsized business clientele and nonprofit organizations with valuable consulting and assurance services. He prides himself on value-added, responsive, and innovative service to his clients; with a focus on forward-thinking and creative solutions. Matt joined the firm in 2002 and has years of experience with many types of complex accounting, auditing, compliance, and general business matters that impact entrepreneurial, established, and nonprofit businesses.

Benefits of an Automated AP Workflow – Nonprofits

As the government has officially announced the end of the COVID pandemic, the return to “normal,” or whatever the post-COVID era will look like, has shifted the focus of nonprofit organizations from the crisis of the Pandemic to beginning to analyze what policies, systems, and procedures are here to stay and where organizations can improve the efficiency of their workflow. During the Pandemic, new software seemed to be developed or adapted by organizations overnight to help solve the everyday problems of working in a remote environment, such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Bill.com, and Certify.com, to name a few. Some of these software and SaaS products were already around before the Pandemic, but they were rarely implemented or fully utilized by small to mid-sized organizations… then Covid came around and thrust the whole world into a new era of technology, forcing the implementation of these types of solutions as part of the everyday business function. One area where we continue to hear is a major pain point for organizations is the AP process workflow, where employees continue to have to dedicate a lot of time to managing, entering, getting the proper approvals, and ultimately paying vendors.

Any size nonprofit can benefit from adopting and implementing an efficient workflow through AP automation utilizing a number of SaaS providers such as Bill.com, Certify, Stampli, or Tipalti. Plus, the benefits of utilizing a centralized system can also help reduce stress on the employees managing the AP process by creating quicker AP turnaround times for vendor payment, a more systematic approval chain, data insights, and improved cash flow management. Furthermore, one major area of concern in organizations has always been the detection and prevention of fraud-related issues, which the powerful AI built into many of these software solutions can help identify.

Most software solutions provide you with a dedicated AP email address where vendors can submit invoices ensuring all invoices are captured and allowing for a more centralized process. When vendors send their invoices to the dedicated email address, the powerful AI data recognition will begin the process of identifying the information on the invoice such as date, invoice number, line items, amounts, and most importantly vendor name. Typically, these invoices will ping an employee that an invoice has been imported into the system and is ready to review. The AP clerk can go into the software, perform a review and properly assign a general ledger code to the invoice. Once the invoice is reviewed, it can be submitted to the next reviewer or approver within the organization’s control process. With each step, an audit log of the workflow is logged in the background so that if it is ever needed for review purposes, it can be easily retrieved. Many of these applications will begin to learn how you are coding invoices and will begin to automatically predict where to code the various expense line items, in turn, this begins to make the process more efficient and reduces clerical errors. Lastly, for many of these applications, once the invoice makes its way through the approval process, you can pay the invoice directly through the application. This is a major benefit because you no longer need to separately log into the bank, write checks, or log into a vendor’s portal, it can all be done through a single system. Once again this helps to reduce the time it takes to move through the process.

Now with the increased efficiency and transparency of the AP process in a single electronic system, what additional benefits are there? Since AP is being entered in near real-time, the data analytics of the total amount of AP due, payment terms, etc. can be visually displayed in an easy-to-digest way. No longer is an organization limited by the time their AP clerk takes to enter an invoice into the system, generate the AP aging, and provide it to management. The powerful AI takes care of that and typically at any given point in time, an organization can have a real picture of their AP, this in turn helps plan cash flow and gives management a heads up if terms need to be renegotiated or, when cash is plentiful, take advantage of early pay discounts.

Lastly, there are the benefits of data integrity and an effective audit trail. Most organizations that have gone through either their annual financial statement audit or a government audit, understand the painstaking task of pulling documentation when the auditors make their selections. Well now at least from an AP perspective, your entire AP process is in a single, easy-to-access place where documentation supporting the entire AP chain can be pulled and provided with a time-stamped audit trail. This will help to reduce the time and effort needed by staff to accomplish this task. Further, many of these AP automation providers will include with their subscription, a digital file vault where vendor W-9s and other pertinent information can be securely stored. One thing to consider with any automated solution you may be looking to implement is to always ask if they undergo any sort of independent compliance audit which will result in a SOC-1 report… similar to what you can obtain from your payroll company regarding internal controls surrounding their processes and procedures.

Automating any major business function can seem daunting, however, it doesn’t need to be. Contacting a professional that specializes in implementing these systems can make the process as painless as possible and help guide you to make those apprehensive feelings go away, making it a positive experience. In the end, it is important to find the right solution for your organization as not all solutions are created equally, so a proper vetting process to find the “Goldilocks” solution for your organization is imperative. If the Pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the need to implement automated solutions as part of your business model is imperative.


Albert Borghese, CPA

Albert Borghese, CPA


Albert is a member of Cerini & Associates’ audit and consulting practice where he focuses on serving the firm’s special education and nonprofit clients. Albert is also involved in the marketing and development of the firm, and frequently participates in recruiting efforts, and research.

Current Expected Credit Loss (CECL)

Is anyone else tired of the accounting regulations constantly changing? In the past few years, nonprofits have had to deal with an overhaul of revenue recognition rules, “clarifying” (confusing) contributions pronouncements, enhanced disclosure requirements for donations in-kind, and significant new ways to account for operating leases. Of course there were some minor updates as well that had less far-reaching impacts. And now here comes CECL. CECL stands for Current Expected Credit Loss, which is an accounting standard introduced by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in the United States. CECL was implemented to provide guidance on how companies should estimate and report credit losses on financial assets. CECL is effective for most entities for years beginning after December 15, 2022, which, for most of you, means calendar 2023 or fiscal 2024.

The main objective of CECL is to require earlier recognition of credit losses, especially impactful for (but not limited to) loans and other financial instruments held by companies. It moves away from the previous standard, known as the incurred loss model, which recognized losses only when they were probable or had already occurred. CECL, on the other hand, requires entities to recognize expected credit losses over the entire life of a financial asset, even if the losses have not yet materialized.

Under the CECL model, companies are expected to consider historical information, current market conditions, and reasonable and supportable forecasts when estimating credit losses. They must also take into account relevant qualitative factors, such as creditworthiness, financial health, and macroeconomic factors that could affect the collectability of the assets.

CECL primarily applies to financial institutions and is not specifically designed for non-profit organizations. However, non-profit organizations that hold financial assets, such as trade receivables, investments, or loans, may be indirectly affected by CECL in a few ways:


Non-profit organizations often have investment portfolios that may include debt securities, equities, or other financial instruments. If these investments are subject to CECL reporting requirements, the organizations may see changes in the valuation, impairment assessment, and reporting practices for those assets.


Non-profit organizations that provide loans or engage in lending activities may need to consider the principles of CECL when estimating credit losses on their loan portfolios. Many low-and-moderate income housing organizations will feel some pain in this area. They will be required to adopt a forward-looking approach and consider relevant information to estimate expected credit losses on their loans, similar to financial institutions.


Non-profit organizations receiving grants, program fees, dues, or other forms of funding may need to evaluate the potential credit risk associated with those receivables. While CECL’s provisions may appear to not directly apply to these receivables, organizations should still incorporate forward-looking assessment techniques and credit risk management practices, similar to the principles outlined in CECL, to estimate any potential future losses.


While non-profit organizations may not be subject to the same reporting requirements as financial institutions under CECL, they may need to provide additional disclosures about credit risk management, expected credit losses, and other relevant information if they hold financial assets that fall within the scope of CECL.

Practically speaking, CECL will require non-profit organizations to spend more time analyzing and considering the potential for future uncollectable values in its various categories of receivables. Virtually all organizations are owed at least something at different points in time, be it from donors, grantors, government agencies, members, program participants, parents, or others. Whereas in the past bad debts could be recognized when they became apparent, now non-profit organizations will have to invest time in reviewing past write-offs, past bad debts, credit worthiness, etc. to calculate a reasonable and fair estimate for future bad debts. A common approach is to review aging categories, or how “old” receivables may be. These aging categories can be ascribed certain reserve percentages based on delinquency and past experience, knowledge of who owes the organization money, etc. Those values would aggregate into the organization’s allowance or reserve for bad debts.

Auditors will be reviewing this closely as CECL is implemented, as accounting estimates by their very nature are considered “risky” from an audit perspective. Organizations have motivations to keep reserves understated, as doing so keeps asset values higher and expenses lower, both of which improve overall financial conditions and operations.

Non-profit organizations should consult with accounting professionals or seek guidance from industry experts to understand how the principles and concepts introduced by CECL may affect their financial reporting practices and ensure compliance with applicable accounting standards. CECL may be daunting, but with proper attention and effort, you can be prepared for this new standard and its impacts on your organization’s financial statements. As always, we’re here to help in any way necessary.


Matthew Burke, CPA, CFE

Matthew Burke, CPA, CFE


Matt specializes in providing Cerini and Associates’ diverse array of midsized business clientele and nonprofit organizations with valuable consulting and assurance services. He prides himself on value-added, responsive, and innovative service to his clients; with a focus on forward-thinking and creative solutions. Matt joined the firm in 2002 and has years of experience with many types of complex accounting, auditing, compliance, and general business matters that impact entrepreneurial, established, and nonprofit businesses.

Is it time for your organization to have an AI Acceptable Use Policy?

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to dominate the tech news, many individuals and organizations are utilizing AI systems to create content, automate processes, and increase their productivity. However, few (if any!) organizations have bothered to establish guidelines to ensure the responsible and ethical use of AI technology. I will argue that nonprofits are making a double mistake here:

  • Missing out on opportunities for successful AI adoption
  • Inadvertently courting significant risks by not having an AI policy in place.

AI has the potential to bring unimaginable benefits, but also comes with inherent risks. AI-generated outputs may be subject to bias, inaccuracies, and misuse, both intentional and unintentional. Therefore, it is crucial for organizations to establish clear policies for AI usage to address these concerns and ensure alignment with their mission, values, and objectives.

By providing guidelines for ethical and mission-aligned use, data protection and privacy, as well as promoting transparency and accountability, an AI Acceptable Use Policy helps to build trust among staff, volunteers, contractors, and external stakeholders. Furthermore, it encourages the development of training and awareness programs to ensure that all individuals who use AI systems on behalf of the organization are well-equipped to do so responsibly and ethically.

Risks of Not Implementing an AI Acceptable Use Policy

In the absence of a clear AI Acceptable Use Policy, organizations may face significant risks, including legal, financial, and reputational consequences. For instance, unintentional misuse of AI tools could result in the exposure of sensitive information or the dissemination of misleading or even offensive content.

Here are some potential risks associated with not having an AI Acceptable Use Policy:

1.) Data Mishandling and Privacy Concerns

Nonprofits often deal with sensitive data concerning their donors, beneficiaries, and stakeholders. AI systems rely on vast datasets to learn and improve, making them more susceptible to potential data breaches or misuse. Without a clear AI Acceptable Use Policy, employees may inadvertently mishandle data or use AI algorithms without proper understanding, leading to data leaks and privacy violations.

One recent example of this happened at Samsung. Such incidents can not only damage the reputation of the nonprofit but also result in legal consequences and loss of trust from donors and stakeholders.

2.) Bias and Discrimination

AI algorithms are only as unbiased as the data they are trained on. If the training data contains inherent biases, the AI system will perpetuate them, potentially leading to discriminatory practices. For example, an AI-driven recruitment tool could unknowingly favor certain demographic groups, leading to an unfair and non-inclusive hiring process. An AI Acceptable Use Policy helps nonprofits ensure that the AI systems are designed and used in a way that mitigates bias and promotes diversity and inclusion.

3.) Unintended Consequences

AI is a powerful tool, but it is not without limitations. Relying blindly on AI-generated insights without human oversight can lead to unintended consequences. Nonprofits must carefully consider the context of AI recommendations and decisions before implementing them. An AI Acceptable Use Policy can mandate human review and intervention before making critical decisions, ensuring that the technology remains a supportive tool rather than a substitute for human judgment.

4.) Financial and Resource Mismanagement

Implementing AI systems can be a significant investment for nonprofit organizations. Without an AI Acceptable Use Policy in place, there is a risk of misallocation of resources or overspending on AI initiatives that may not align with the organization’s mission. A clear policy ensures that AI projects are evaluated against strategic objectives, maximizing the impact of the organization’s budget and efforts.

5.) Lack of Transparency and Accountability

AI algorithms can be complex, and their inner workings are often difficult to understand, even for experts. Nonprofit organizations must ensure transparency in their AI systems to maintain trust with their stakeholders. An AI Acceptable Use Policy should outline the responsibilities and accountability of employees and the organization when using AI. This includes regular audits and reporting on the performance and impact of AI systems.

So what now?

The adoption of AI technology is happening NOW and organizations can no longer afford to ignore the opportunities and risks associated with this rapidly advancing technology. An AI Acceptable Use Policy is a vital tool for organizations to ensure the responsible and ethical use of AI systems while minimizing potential harm.

I feel so strongly about the importance of this that I have taken the time to draft (with the help of AI, of course) a sample AI Acceptable Use Policy that I am making available here.