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Our story: Why Head Start and Community Action Agencies rely on Wipfli

Jun 25, 2021

As we approach our 22nd annual Stronger to Serve Wipfli National Training Conference, we’ve been reflecting on the firm’s history of serving Early Head Starts/Head Starts and Community Action Agencies (CAAs). There are good reasons why Wipfli is so well known by these networks — and not just because we’ve been working with Head Starts and CAAs for over 40 years.

Decades ago, you didn’t have to look far to find information on how to create programs and deliver services. Plenty of resources were ready and able to help. What Head Starts and CAAs struggled with was complying with regulations and running their back-offices. Even when the federal government began creating websites for individual departments, those websites didn’t store information on regulations, so it remained difficult to look up the regulations, let alone determine whether you were properly complying with them.

Wipfli filled this need. We quickly became the go-to for Head Starts and CAAs looking to ensure fiscal and regulatory compliance through national training and performing their audit. Our professionals were so knowledgeable and up to date on changing regulations that we started getting recommended by the actual funding sources to audit grant-funded nonprofits. Even national associations started asking our opinion on upcoming legislation and the impact it would have on grant-funded organizations. 

All in all, Head Starts and CAAs knew they could rely on us to provide accurate answers to their questions and guidance to help them stay successful and compliant. Wipfli has been, and continues to be, a valuable resource for finance, accounting and compliance services. In fact, Wipfli currently audits more Head Starts and CAAs than any other firm in the country.

Yet compliance was not all we specialized in. As an accounting and consulting firm, Wipfli delivers a wide range of services to a wide range of clients. We began offering our grant-funded clients technology consulting, strategic planning, talent management, and other critical services focused on strengthening the entire organization. We helped Head Starts and CAAs solidify the foundation they were built on so they could focus on executing their mission within their communities. And we helped them innovate, grow and then scale to continue supporting their success — all because we knew the grant-funded space so well, down to the accounting software that would best meet the needs of organizations with multiple funding sources.

One of the most impactful services we began offering was training. From the Wipfli National Training Conference held annually in Las Vegas, to local in-person trainings, to on-demand training series, we took our expertise and shared it with Head Starts and CAAs. Organizations could ask us questions unique to their own situation, learn best practices and connect with each other. Our annual conference became just as well known for fostering long-lasting relationships as it was for providing critical information and guidance for nonprofits.

The My Wipfli Membership Service developed as a natural extension of our support for grant-funded organizations. We created it as the ultimate resource. Organizations could look up regulations, use our templated policy and procedure documents, ask us questions and access on-demand training. We have organizations that have been members of My Wipfli for 25 years — since the very beginning — because they’ve found it to be such an essential resource to their operations. 

Why Head Start and Community Action Agencies rely on Wipfli

Today, Wipfli continues to provide training on in-kind, ERSEA, Uniform Guidance, HS regs, CSBG org. standards, board governance and more. We help employees new to grant-funded nonprofits get up to speed so they can become strong contributors to the organization. We help boards better understand how the organization can use technology to execute on its mission and serve its communities, as well as measure the impact of its services on those communities. We help organizations improve client experiences so that anyone in their community — no matter if they call in, walk in or use the website — can learn all of what they are eligible for, not just about their current need.

We’ve learned over the years how important it is to listen. It’s not just talking the same language as our clients but truly understanding their challenges, goals and the path from one to the other. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we assembled a team to rapidly adjust the services we provide or even create new ones so we could help Head Starts and CAAs pivot to meet the changing needs of their communities. We distilled information from the federal government into its impact on our clients. We helped them manage change. And we helped them adjust strategy and perform scenario planning so they could handle whatever came next.

We’re proud that we’ve kept so many of the same clients we’ve had for 30 years, while we’ve gained so many new ones. Our focus has always been on building long-term relationships that result in long-term impact. Part of that has been creating teams that are completely dedicated to grant-funded nonprofits, creating trainings completely specific to them, and always looking for new ways to help them continue adapting in an ever-changing world. And part of that has also been making it a priority to stay on top of trends and stay connected with associations so that we can not only see what’s on the horizon but also how organizations can position themselves for change.

Last, but certainly not least, we simply enjoy working with our grant-funded clients. We appreciate the work they do in their communities and are proud that our knowledge and assistance has helped them succeed. We look forward to another 40 years of successfully partnering with Head Starts and Community Action Agencies — and their associations — to meet change head-on and become even stronger to serve.

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Related content:

How to align finance, tech and talent to battle nonprofits’ top challenges
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HHS provides updated COVID-19 recovery guidance for Head Start agencies



Brian R. Gaumont
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