Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There is nothing better than time spent with family, friends, and good food. As we prepare to gather and give thanks, let’s take a minute to be thankful for the rapid evolution of the accounting profession and for those who are leading the charge. We are thankful for the Chief Financial Officers and other financial professionals whose forward thinking benefits their organizations.
We are thankful for CFOs who have successfully positioned themselves as champions of the strategy of their organization. These CFOs are not deleveraged by day-to-day focus on finance and accounting operations. This is a struggle in the nonprofit sector and was a key topic at our recent panel discussion on the role of the CFO. 56% of the CFOs in the room indicated that their day-to-day responsibilities prevented them from focusing on the big picture.
We are thankful for CFOs who recognize that sound financial practices apply to any industry. They think of their organizations as a business first and a nonprofit second. They understand that effective and efficient people, process, and technology are valuable to all businesses.
We are thankful for CFOs that make a critical review of resources used by their own departments. They continually ask themselves whether a better use can be made of every dollar spent in support of their organization’s programs and mission. They work to drive spending and focus from low value work to high value work in the finance department. They work to find opportunities to redirect spending out of finance and into programs and services. They realize that more margin results in more mission.
We are thankful for CFOs who take time to identify these opportunities by making a thorough opportunity assessment of the three key elements of finance operations: people, process, and technology.
These CFOs question whether their staffing is “right”? Do they have the right people with the right skill sets performing the right job duties in the right volume? Can they leverage technology to do finance work out of lower cost locations? They question whether their processes are effective and efficient. They identify unnecessary redundant reviews. They create process maps to uncover opportunities. The picture drawn in a process map is often worth a thousand words.
We are thankful for the use of cloud based and other third party hosted applications. No longer does your finance department have to grapple with the technical knowledge needed to host their own accounting applications. They don’t have to deal with downtime issues, keeping current on versions, or funding the related IT costs. These tools, including online accounts payable bill pay systems such as Bill.com make processes paperless, more efficient, less expensive, and provide for better internal control.
We are thankful for further adoption of e-commerce and continued advances in automated cash posting through lockbox operations. CFOs are seeing increased productivity gains as a result of pushing nonprofit members and customers to embrace e-commerce. As your organization becomes efficient and relies heavily on e-commerce, please do not forget to evaluate your merchant processing fees periodically for savings opportunities. CFOs have seen organizations realize major savings by challenging their existing banking relationships.
We are thankful for CFOs that produce sophisticated and forward looking management reporting. They go beyond the standard monthly actual vs. budget variance reporting. They have keen insight to determine what is important to senior management and the board. They present financial information in the context of the drivers behind the numbers so that key performance indicators leap from the pages. For example, these CFOs set up systems that allow for monitoring the effectiveness of the meetings team through focusing on cost per attendee as opposed to the cost of the meeting in aggregate.
We are thankful for CFOs who automate the production of these reports. They invest upfront in the setup through online dashboard tools that allow them to recoup the return on investment through allocating less labor towards report preparation.
We are thankful for CFOs that have undertaken a risk assessment process and used the results to best determine where to focus the internal control effort. They understand that internal control frameworks were often established many years ago. Therefore, nonprofit organizations have to continually assess business changes and ensure that risk management and internal controls keep pace.
This is an exciting time for CFOs. We have many reasons to give thanks to the women and men in the profession who continue to embrace change and progress to ensure efficiency through process and technology improvements for their organizations. Please let us know what advances you are thankful for. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
David Bohn is a Partner in Tate & Tryon’s Outsourced Services practice.