It might seem to many who labor in the nonprofit trenches that too many decisions are made with money rather than mission, or employees, or anything else, in mind.
During the recent AICPA Not-For-Profit Executive Forum, executives Lori Fogarty, Emily Hall and Enrico Hernandez, in a session moderated by Hilda Polanco, said that the financial voice is not the only or even the first heard in nonprofit discussions. Fogarty is executive director of the Oakland Museum of California. Emily Hall is president and chief executive officer of Olive Grove, Belmont, Calif. Hernandez is director of the institutional support center of the Oakland Museum of California and Polanco is founder and managing director, Fiscal Management Associates in New York City.
They said that it is necessary and possible to elevate the financial voice in nonprofit strategy development. To do that, they suggested the following:
- Identify key strategic questions to answer in the planning process, and elevate the questions around financial drivers up front.
- Continually position the financial model and balance sheet as enablers of the mission components.
- Identify multiple lenses or filters for vetting priorities/ideas, including annual financials and balance sheet filters. Others should include: mission alignment, changing needs or gaps in the community, staff capabilities, systems capacity, facilities needs, potential partners.
- Engage multiple perspectives and take the time to learn what the people with those perspectives care about. Position financial conversations in a way that will specifically resonate with people. Ensure that influential decision-makers with analytical, data-driven thinking styles are included in the planning team.