Accounting Students Volunteer Their Expertise to Habitat for Humanity

By Samuel Fisher, director of career services

At Globe University-Eau Claire, there are two fundamental practices at the core of the university’s ideology.

1. Provide hands-on real world training to students to prepare them for their career.

2. Give back to the local community through service learning and volunteerism.

Recently, Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity and Globe University-Eau Claire’s accounting program partnered together to put both of these principles into practice.

The partnership between these two organizations was designed to utilize the knowledge and expertise of Globe University accounting students and to help Habitat accurately organize and forecast building costs.

Globe University students and Habitat for Humanity members pose for a post-project success photo. From Left: Lorna Nelson (accounting student), Kristine Basom (accounting student), Eli Walberg (Habitat), Mary Felton-Kolstad (Habitat), Kevin Higgin (accounting student), Salvador Fuentes (accounting student).

The Governmental and Not-For-Profit Accounting course, which looks at accounting and reporting requirements for nonprofit entities and governmental agencies, was a perfect fit for the organization’s need.

Angela Ruppe, dean of education for Globe University-Eau Claire and board member for Habitat for Humanity, helped coordinate the project that resulted in great success.

Globe University Accounting Program Chair Dan Shuda worked closely with the students during the creation of the forecasting model. Dan described the project in detail.

“The Habitat for Humanity project was designed to take existing information of construction costs and produce a model for estimating future costs. The model keeps track of both monetary expenditures and the donations received to determine the total cost of the project.”

Shuda went on to explain that the students used Microsoft Excel to create the model and applied accounting principles, such as expense recognition, in its creation.

One of the students involved in the project, Kevin Higgin, was excited with what the class was able to accomplish. Kevin recapped on all the model could do.

  • Estimate the total cost of construction projects including land costs, permits and fees
  • Organize contractor bids
  • Track expenses and payouts during construction
  • Calculate projected cost overruns and miscellaneous expenses
  • Provide a detailed summary sheet with totals and percentages of completion for each construction phase
  • Calculate total cost for the new home owner and their projected mortgage payment

Kristine Basom, accounting student, reflected on the project afterwards and mentioned that it related very well to the objectives of the course. Overall, she thought it was great experience. Kristine was excited that the spreadsheet will make things much easier for the accountants at Habitat for Humanity.

Angela also commented on what a positive impact a forecasting model like this will have on the organization. She noted that Habit for Humanity is largely run by volunteers, so anything that can streamline the accounting process allows volunteers to spend more time focusing on helping individuals in need.