“I’m very pleased that I’m able to call an RSM partner about an accounting or tax issue and have a discussion that leads to a solution.”
— Donna Lee Diane, Chief Financial Officer, American Near East Refugee Aid
American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) is a leading international development organization working to improve the lives of Palestinian refugees and families in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon. “We reach the region’s most vulnerable people with our health, education and economic development programs,” explains Donna Lee Diane, ANERA’s chief financial officer. “We provide humanitarian and emergency relief in times of crisis.”
As an internationally known non-governmental organization working in war-torn areas, the challenges can be unique and daunting. But because of ANERA’s decades-long humanitarian experience and in-depth understanding of local government processes, the organization is able to provide medical aid and educational support that people need. In RSM, ANERA found an audit and tax team that brought that same critical knowledge of local issues to the services it provides.
“The team is knowledgeable about the conditions in the Middle East where we work. All of the partners, managers and staff who work with us have extensive knowledge about the regulatory environment—and the sometimes dangerous situations that we work in overseas—and they help us navigate the process. It’s wonderful to have that kind of resource available to us.”
Thinking globally, acting locally
“Since 2010, RSM has been great in working through audit and tax issues with us, particularly in Gaza last year when the war slowed down the process,” said Diane. “They understood that the situation with security was bad. RSM’s network of firms on the ground helped the audit go as smoothly as possible through the war. And we still got the audit done on time.”
“Working with RSM’s global network has simplified the annual audit process for ANERA tremendously,” says Diane. “With our prior auditors, coordination between the firm in-country and our U.S. auditor did not work well at all. Our staff was spending an enormous amount of time answering the same questions and providing the same documents for two sets of auditors. Working with RSM network of firms has removed this duplication of effort and released our staff to better serve humanitarian needs.”
Recently RSM added an engagement manager to the team serving ANERA who is fluent in Arabic “This has been a tremendous asset,” said Diane. “This year was the first year ANERA has received an Arabic-translated version of its audited financial statements. A financial statement in the local language will go a long way towards communicating to potential donors what ANERA is doing in the Middle East.”
A strong relationship at all levels
“From our accounting staff to ANERA’s president and the members of our board of directors who serve on our audit committee, ANERA’s relationship with RSM is excellent at all levels of the organization,” states Diane.
“I often need a sounding board for the changing accounting world we live in and the first call I place is my RSM audit partner in the United States. There’s an understanding that we can pick up the phone if we have a question on a difficult accounting issue or want to know what’s going on in the industry. It’s very helpful.
“We take part in the firm’s round table conversations and conferences, which are very useful to us,” Diane continues. “Recently, RSM was able to connect me with a vendor that provided an excellent opportunity to solve a problem we had.”
“We receive exceptional technical advice and customer service from RSM firms. But one of the most significant benefits that we receive from working with RSM is the network’s international name recognition,” Diane admits. “In today’s world, you need an auditor with name recognition when you’re putting your audit report out to potential donors.
“From our perspective, if there is one thing that sets RSM apart,” notes Diane, “it’s the technical knowledge of compliance both in the United States and internationally, and the experience in the nonprofit industry that the team brings.” Combined with a clear understanding of ANERA’s mission and the circumstances surrounding the organization’s operations—as well as support from RSM’s international network of firms—RSM’s services to ANERA have been, as Diane asserts, “outstanding.”
“If someone came to me for advice on audit and tax service,” says Diane, “I’d highly recommend RSM.”