Livin’ the dream as a nonprofit CFO

When I was a child I played Office. I had an old monitor, a keyboard, a rotary desk phone and reams upon reams of paper. I could hole myself up in my room for hours, typing away, jotting notes on paper and creating complex alphabetized filing systems. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up but I knew I wanted to work in an office.

Well? I’m living the dream! Whenever there’s a particularly stressful day or my Excel budget template is giving me a hard time, I jokingly say to my husband, Yup, just livin’ the dream but in many ways, I do have my dream job as a nonprofit CFO. Mission connection. I get to care deeply about my organization. I’m not slaving away, crunching numbers in a back office so Joe CEO can sell more products and enjoy his four mansions; I’m slaving away, crunching numbers so that girls can go to school in Nepal. Big difference.That little spot in the middle of a Venn diagram. I enjoy numbers (I create spreadsheets for fun – I’m serious) and I’m good at it. Financial analysis comes natural to me and I find nothing more satisfying than solving a financial puzzle. My program staff and right-brained friends are confused and cringing right now, but I truly have a purpose-driven career.

Freedom & creativity. Many nonprofits operate with a start-up mentality which can mean that not all systems are in place yet and you have the freedom and flexibility to create your own. You often escape that awful repressive mentality that we do it this way because that’s how we’ve always done it and instead are constantly seeking efficiencies to better utilize our resources. If your Strengths Finder strengths are Focus and Maximizer like me, you will love developing structure, systems and efficiencies. Commonalities with coworkers. I know we’ve all said it before: we’re not here for the money. We’re thrown together because we all love serving children or homeless or the environment, and it is incredibly energizing to be in a room full of people as excited about that as you. Sure, not every single person will be pumped about the new dashboard report you just created, but our core purpose is similar.

Constant learning opportunities. No, we might not have an endless professional development budget (or have one at all!) but if you don’t know how to do something, most likely you’ll have to learn how to do it yourself. In previous roles, I had relied upon the auditors to complete the 990 but one day I found myself leading an organization who always prepared it internally. I didn’t have the option to hand it off so I dove in and learned that form inside and out. Was it challenging? Yes, for sure. Am I glad I know how to prepare it myself? Definitely!

What’s your dream job? Do you have a purpose-driven career or are you still trying to figure out what that is?