Transcript Episode 135 – Creating a Strong Organizational Culture with Alissa Novoselick on The Prosperous Nonprofit
Stephanie Skryzowski: [00:00:00] Welcome to the prosperous nonprofit, the podcast for leaders who are building financially sustainable and impactful nonprofits and changing the world. I’m Stephanie Skrzewski, a chief financial officer and founder and CEO of 100 degrees consulting. My personal mission is to empower leaders. To better understand their numbers, to grow their impact and their income.
On this show, we talk to people who are leading the nonprofit sector in new, innovative, disruptive, and entrepreneurial ways, creating organizations that fuel their lives, their hearts, and their communities. Let’s dive in.
Hello, welcome back to the prosperous nonprofit. I’m Stephanie. And today we are talking about all things finance, all things culture, organizational culture. And I’m talking to Alyssa Novoselic. Now [00:01:00] Alyssa and I found each other a few years ago. And we have worked together with the organization that she works for, Empowerment Plan, and then she also does similar work to us at her business, Greater Impact.
So Alyssa and I spend a lot of time today talking about culture, organizational culture, and some of the most important pieces of building a culture where people really want to be and want to work at is this idea of co creation. And collaboration as well as transparency when it comes to the numbers. I love that so much.
She talks about how they really take time to celebrate their wins at their organization and how their budget reflects their values and that they value the strong organizational culture and therefore they intentionally plan to do it. She dropped this amazing gem and we were talking about the budget and she said, Can we afford [00:02:00] not to do this?
That’s the question that she asks when it comes to things like, especially like building team culture. Can we afford not to do this? If the answer is no, then this is a valuable expense. So there’s so much more that we go into today and Alyssa really kicks us off by telling her whole story of how she began her journey as a teacher, as a high school teacher.
And how that really shaped her interest in using the numbers, using her skill set in that space to really create an impact. So I’m not going to go through her whole story because it is better told from her perspective. So without further ado, let’s dive into our conversation with Alyssa.
Hey everybody, welcome back to the Prosperous Nonprofit. I am really excited to be here today with Alyssa Novoselic. Alyssa, welcome.
Alissa Novoselick: Thank you so much [00:03:00] for having me.
Stephanie Skryzowski: Yeah. So like we do with all of our guests, I would love to start with just hearing a little bit about your journey. I was just telling you before we got started, I was reading your bio and I’m like, wow, I did not know that you did all these things.
I did not know you were a teacher. So tell us a little bit about the journey and the different stops along the way that led you to what you’re doing now.
Alissa Novoselick: Absolutely again. Thank you so much for having me. I’m a huge fan of 100 degrees and all the work that you are doing out in the world. Uh, my journey is, I think, very similar in many ways to yours and a lot of the people that you have employed at 100 degrees.
Uh, really looking for a chance to have impact in the work that we’re doing is the big overarching theme of my career. So for the last 20 years, I started out as a Teacher and educator, um, was, uh, trained here in Michigan at the University of Michigan and then left to teach, um, uh, in [00:04:00] Arizona. I taught in a rural school setting called Camp Verde, um, where we were adjacent to the Yavapai Apache Reservation out there and learned just wonderful lessons of, uh, different ways of being, uh, than the Midwest.
So I was very lucky to teach young people out there. I was curious. After that experience, the differences that existed between what I saw in schools in the Metro Detroit area and Arizona. So, as I was looking at how school buildings were funded, what educational, um, opportunities there were for young people, I was noticing different decisions by, uh, decision makers around how they were allocating money.
And my formal training hadn’t included any of that thus far. So my wonderful principal there encouraged me to further my education in the financial space. I ended up going to get an [00:05:00] MBA, uh, in New Hampshire, and I focused my study and my points of inquiry on non profit. public school, government, finance, because I saw a lot of equity issues in how money was allocated for better or for worse there.
So, through my MBA, I was able to see how different schools, organizations, Government entities were structured, um, and how financial, you know, systems really had, uh, a direct correlation to how folks were able to access resources and gain further education in their lives. I wound up my first, I guess you’d say real job was in West Virginia.
Uh, I worked for a small nonprofit, um, kind of doing a, uh, a lot of different things. So jumped into the accounting, jumped into the grant writing. So many people, you know, starting in a really small nonprofit, um, [00:06:00] have to be a master of, of all things. And I was really lucky to be able to see. The development side, the programmatic side, and the finance side all at one.
I then moved into a director of development role in arts and culture in West Virginia. So I got to really hone my skill on the fundraising side and then became an executive director of the Statewide Arts Foundation there. Um, that was a great leadership path for me. And then, uh, ended up, uh, being an executive director again, coming back home in 2016 to lead an arts and culture organization on the Southwest side of Detroit during the pandemic, lots of things shifted and I was really called.
Upon by many community business leaders, notably women in the city of Detroit to help them think through their financial processes, procedures on things of [00:07:00] that sort. So my consulting practice came out of. Just an organic need from a lot of my friends who own restaurants, were artists, ran organizations that said, we really need some help.
This is a really trying time for us. Can you assist? So I spun off my consulting practice, um, to do that, uh, full time. And where I am now at the empowerment plan, where we’re one of my clients, so they, I got to see firsthand the wonderful impact that this organization has on the city of Detroit, particularly the east side of the city.
Obviously, Veronica as CEO has created over the last 10 years, a wonderful. Culture and the organization. And I fell in love with the work as a consultant. Um, and I was invited to join the staff about two and a half years ago as the VP of finance and
Stephanie Skryzowski: operations. Amazing. I don’t know if I [00:08:00] knew that you were in fundraising and the executive director of a couple different organizations, because I think that brings kind of an interesting perspective to your work now really focusing on finance.
And so you’re right. Um, our journeys are definitely very similar, like wearing all the hats and a couple of a fundraiser. I just see the numbers on the other side when they come in or, or when they don’t come in. So how has being a fundraiser and really like living in those shoes as well as being an executive director, how has that shaped the way that you approach the finance side of things?
Alissa Novoselick: Yeah, so I think it has created a finance department that is very participatory and very much about bringing the full team along. So we, for example, our budgeting process is a three month long budgeting process. It involves the full team. Um, everyone has a role in [00:09:00] it and we really come together to have really meaningful discussions.
It’s not just me in my office, you know, creating a budget and saying, do I have your approval? So I think that is something that I probably would have done if I was a newer, um, finance professional, uh, not wanting to bother the team that, you know, wanting, wanting them to let, let them do their other things.
But what I’ve found is just, there’s so much value in the co creation of financial documents, instruments, things of that sort that. You know, to create a financially savvy culture, but also to move forward some bigger strategic initiatives. And so I think I bring that lens of, uh, you know, development of my team, um, getting their input on the financial side of things and, and really being a transparent leader about, uh, where some of our roadblocks could be, you know, as we move into new fiscal years.
Another example of that is I meet monthly with each director [00:10:00] level position. We have a phenomenal chief development officer here, Erica George, who has been with the organization almost the entire duration, and she and I are in constant communication about, you know, the status of the organization and opportunities.
So I think those are two just things that I think about, but also from a fundraising side, what I’d like to lead with our full team, which is a team of about 60 people. Is that, you know, we are all stewards of this mission and this organization, no matter where we sit in, you know, in the org chart, and, um, I really take that to heart and in the conversations I’m, I’m having with you right now and, um, out in, in the broader Detroit community.
Stephanie Skryzowski: Oh, I love that so much. Not only the sort of the co creation and collaboration piece, but also that transparency and really, you know, I always talk about transparency really leading to greater engagement. And I think that’s just what you [00:11:00] said, you know, you are, you’re transparent about the numbers and then the whole team, we are all stewards of these resources together.
So everybody is more engaged, um, when they know what’s going on. Versus, you know, being sort of hidden behind some wall or some barrier. So yeah, I, I love that. So I want to take like a little bit of a diversion because you mentioned something about the culture at Empowerment Plan and that being something that really drew you in.
And I think that there’s, you know, There’s lots of talk about culture for sure, but in the nonprofit sector, I’m just seeing so many organizations and so many leaders just like working so hard towards the mission that we’re forgetting this piece of building a really strong internal culture. So I would love to hear a little bit more about what the.
Culture. It’s like an empowerment plan. What wasn’t that, um, that drew you in and how are you as leaders of the organization building, you know, [00:12:00] really intentionally building a culture of an organization that people want to be
Alissa Novoselick: at? Yeah, that’s an excellent question. And I do think it is a differentiator. It is what keeps me here.
It would, it’s what keeps me motivated. And I think that I have learned so much, uh, from Veronica, notably the CEO. Uh, Coy Mosley is our HR director who leads a lot of this work, but also from our broader team. So. First and foremost, the thing that I think is most important is the CEO certainly sets the tone for culture.
So, uh, the way in which Veronica encourages us to have, you know, I think self care is the buzzword, but really focus on the personal as much as the professional is felt, I feel like in this entire building. So that comes from the people who are walking in the door, the first week of employment here at Empowerment Plan, oftentimes coming from.
You know, a shelter and [00:13:00] and facing a really large transition. So we really focus on our colleagues that are coming in that perspective and thinking about what they need in order to be successful. So when we focus on that, it bleeds into the rest of the org chart in how we function with each other because we know if we’re not okay as individuals, there’s no way we’re going to do our job well.
So that really is the through line. You know, we lead, uh, from some of our values of, uh, having fun, but working really hard, um, taking care of one another and, you know, we really hold each other accountable to that. So some of like the, the tactical things that have come through that is this past year, we’ve, uh, Coy has our HR director has led a three 60 review process, much more focused on our values than our work outputs.
Uh, we. Take time to celebrate our wins. We have monthly team meetings where we come [00:14:00] together and share a meal and we do what’s called spin the wheel where we celebrate people’s accomplishments and they get a variety of things, gift cards and swag and whatnot. Um, and we cheer people on and their successes.
We take time to think strategically and not just tactically. So, um, many of us get lost in the minutiae that as a small to midsize, you know, organization, but making sure that we have time to process things, um, It is very important. So I think it is, you know, Veronica setting a tone of a culture of inclusion with a team that holds each other accountable to these values and making sure that we are carving out the necessary moments to do so from a financial side of things, it’s incredibly important to focus on culture.
And I think that has been something that I have learned the last you. You [00:15:00] know, 15 to 20 years that I’ve been growing as a professional, but really, uh, the last 5 to 10 years, uh, just seeing organizations as I’ve been able to consult with them, lead them, be part of them, uh, the ones that really keep good people motivated and going and have greater impact are the ones that do focus on that culture and not just, you know, the bottom line.
Stephanie Skryzowski: Yeah, that’s such a good point too, because as we all know, it is so expensive to have to replace someone. And so, um, if you’ve got constant turnover in your organization, you are going to see that, that is going to impact your bottom line. And so if you can have this intentionality around building culture, um, you’re going to save money.
Like, honestly, you’re going to save money. And one thing that I want to think about, a lot of organizations right now, um, we’re recording this in [00:16:00] September. I think this is going to go live in October, but many organizations are building their budgets for next year right now. And so really thinking about how your budget reflects your values is a conversation that I have a lot.
It’s like, okay, we value culture, but if we. If we have no money to spend on something like, you know, gift cards for our staff or team lunches or anything like that, if we’re not willing to spend that money, and it doesn’t have to be a lot, then our budget is really not reflecting our values and we’re not really as committed to culture as we say we are.
So I would just encourage anyone listening to really think about that. If you are building your budget for next year, thinking about, okay, what is the impact that we want to have not only in our programs, but with our staff and what resources do we need to make that happen and. You know, sort of thinking about the other side of things.
If we’re not investing in our team and investing in our culture, we’re going to lose people. And that is way more expensive than, you know, having some really, um, meaningful team lunches and, you know, [00:17:00] celebrating our wins and things like that. So. Yeah, that’s huge.
Alissa Novoselick: Yeah, definitely. And oftentimes I say, I think I’m a very non traditional VP of finance because I say, can we afford not to do this?
Right. And I think that that is the lens that I have kind of grown into in, you know, this, this role, because in many ways, like what you’re talking about, you cannot, you can’t afford not to do the things that really keep and Motivate people and that that isn’t to say that all of this needs to be expensive.
Um, We have a morale committee. Um, that’s another thing that I could mention that’s made up of um, You know eight to ten folks across the organization that meets and talks about How are we keeping up morale and sometimes it’s just we have you know, one on one Coffee dates. We talk about, you know, things outside of work.
It doesn’t have to be this really expensive bonus structure and all the other things that are important to think [00:18:00] about. But culture is created through relationships. And if you are a leader of an organization in any capacity, you have the power to influence your team in that way and be having those conversations.
Um, and some of the bigger things, like I said, Okay. When you’re asking yourself, can we afford not to do this thing for our people, um, having a longer lens on how this is going to have impact internally in your own organization is something that’s very important. I mean, Stephanie, I see you do this, you know, even from afar, I don’t know your internal operations, but the way that you’re focused on having conversations and building a team that’s reflective of your values.
Um, taking retreats, doing all of that. These are really important things to do to, uh, keep people engaged in the work and, and remind them that we are humans. All of us are humans here, uh, with a lot of things, uh, nuances to, to our lives and, and putting that [00:19:00] first is, it’s very important.
Stephanie Skryzowski: I totally agree.
And you know, our team retreats, they’re not like, you know, we’re not, it’s not like the lap of luxury, but it’s like, I do want to treat our employees to a nice time and four days together. And that experience for 10 or 15 people is not, it’s not cheap. It’s a major budget line item, but it is so important to us.
That, yeah, that, that we do it every single year. And so really thinking about the values of your organization and aligning that as you’re preparing your budget, I think is huge. So thank you so much for sharing all that about culture. That was definitely a deviation from a little bit from the finance piece, but I think so, so important to really be intentional about that.
So I’m going to shift us back to talking a little bit about this sort of like. CFO type role. I know you’re the the VP of finance, which is basically the same thing, right? I mean, you’re the senior finance person at the organization. Tell me about the [00:20:00] sort of CEO CFO relationship, because I know that You know, oftentimes, you know, one might think of the CEO as like the visionary.
And then the CFO is here to come in and like sprinkle a dose of reality on the vision. And we are often think thought of as like, Oh, the CFO, that’s the naysayer. That’s the one to shoot down all the big ideas. Cause we don’t have enough money or whatever, but I have seen many, many examples of how that’s not the case and how.
The CFO, you know, really supports the CEO’s vision in different ways. So tell me about the CEO, CFO relationship that either you’ve been a part of or you’ve seen in different organizations and maybe, you know, what works really well? How do you compliment one another and maybe, you know, in what sort of instances do you butt heads and kind of how you move past that and, and move together to make progress in the
Alissa Novoselick: organization?
Thank you. Yeah, that’s a great question. And as you probably can tell from what I’ve said before, I have a really wonderful relationship with [00:21:00] Veronica Scott, who’s the CEO of Empowerment Plan. She founded this organization. Um, it was a spin off of her college project when she was an undergrad. And so she’s really grown from a young, you know, adolescent really to fantastic leader being nationally, you know, globally recognized.
So first of all, I just have The utmost respect for her journey and the way in which I see her continually be reflective of how she takes up space as a leader, who she is, you know, growing into and, and all of the leadership traits that, that she naturally has. So one of the things that’s very important to me with her, with, uh, other clients that I have, in addition to empowerment plan, my side hustle is a greater impact, which I mentioned earlier, I work with about.
Uh, 10 organizations and businesses, mostly in the city of Detroit. Uh, and so I work with the leaders there. So I see a lot of different CEOs on a [00:22:00] daily basis. Uh, with Veronica in particular, we are very collaborative. Um, Veronica is definitely Uh, creative visionary. Um, and she started Empowerment Plan in art school.
So I think my background in, uh, working in arts and education in particular has led me to, uh, be a really strong CFO for creative CEOs. So coming into and understanding how artists creatives brains work and putting the You know, the spreadsheets and the minutiae and the strategy together behind that is a very natural place for me to be a good partner to that type of CEO.
Veronica loves to have working sessions, so we do that a lot. We meet often at her house, um, at, you know, coffee shops outside of the office to, uh, work together collaboratively. I’ve noticed that’s [00:23:00] very important to her, so that’s one of the things that we do. And she also leans on me for a lot of strategy work, right?
I think that’s also something that, like you said, the picture of a CFO in people’s mind is the naysayers, the no person. And I mean, that really can’t be further than the truth. Certainly half of, you know, a lot of my job is about. Maintaining controls in the organization and providing the highest level and rigorous level of ethical financial stewardship and standards 100%.
But it is definitely, I’m definitely not the no person on the team and where I think Veronica and I shine is when we’re able to co create something together. So whether that’s the organizational budget, whether that’s thinking through how we’re bringing in a consultant to lead us. Through whatever we’re, you know, point of inquiry where we’re talking about, uh, lobbying, uh, for state dollars, um, at the state [00:24:00] Capitol.
Uh, all of those things, we’re really, really true,
Stephanie Skryzowski: true partners there. I love that you’ve got those sort of complimentary skills. So, you know, she’s got this big creative vision and you can help put some strategy and some numbers behind it. And I think, you know, One thing that really sort of stood out to me that you said was how you really understand how her brain works, and I think there’s, you know, an understanding that it’s possibly different than the way your brain works and being able to really Um, understand her and work in a way that works for both of you, I think is huge.
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Have y’all either with Veronica or with other CEOs, or if you’ve seen any other sort of CEO, CFO partnerships, are there any like tools that you’ve used or assessments that you’ve taken to really help understand each other on a deeper level or, or
Alissa Novoselick: no. I mean, I think that as a leader, I dive into those sort of discussions naturally.
So it’s not just about the, the numbers at hand, right? It is very much about what they’re, what they’re thinking about, what is challenging for them, how they’re processing this. So kind of like what we were talking about with culture, like, where is your head at about this information is very important before getting into the minutia.
So I think [00:26:00] just as a, As a leader, as an executive, as, you know, the owner of my own company, like, that, that is just important in the work that we do as consultants and CFO type folks to really distill what the issue is. Um, I think that… Certainly, we’ve done all the things before, you know, like strength based assessments, um, Enneagrams, the disc, um, all of those things have been very important to my learning, uh, as a leader and how I relate to people.
About two weeks ago, as a team, we went through a disk assessment with a, you know, outside facilitator and were able to see how we plot as a leadership team out with one another. And it was very important You know, eye opening and, and made me understand my team even more. Nothing was surprising with what anyone was, you know, coming out and saying, um, particularly, you know, Veronica, [00:27:00] I can’t even remember which quadrant she was in, but we had complimentary quadrants, which, which also made sense to me.
So I think all of those sorts of things, I’m a big believer in, in, uh, doing those things, obviously not taking them. Like to the bank of this is who I am, because we’re all complex individuals, but they’re very good points of, um, discussion about how you work and what you do. I think as it relates to what we do here and one of the other pieces of culture that really shines through of empowerment plan is we really believe in strength based, um, Working like I really respect my colleagues and the fact that their skill set is moving forward a piece of the organization in a way that mine might not be able to do so, and I feel that from them, they really rely on me to make sure that our, you know, we do have proper financial controls that we’re projecting out to the future.
Um, and I feel very [00:28:00] supported in my role of that. I think that’s also a myth. Thank you. That the traditional CEO that you’re talking about before, um, being the bad guy, I actually feel totally the opposite. I am very much relied upon for my perspective and expertise in the furtherance of whatever project that.
Stephanie Skryzowski: are talking about. Yeah, that’s so good. I love everything you said. I think the fact that you’re kind of willing to have these conversations and just be like really make the effort to understand how other people work and like you were saying, respect people for what they are bringing to the table I think is Is so huge because, um, you know, it’s real easy to just make assumptions, but if you’re willing to come to the table and have conversations, I think that’s going to further your work so much more.
And about the, like the disc and the Enneagram and all the things, I totally agree. I love those so much because If you take every piece of that to heart, like, [00:29:00] yes, you will be painted into a box. And so we don’t need to take it, like, to the absolute letter of what these things say that, like, we are. But I do think it gives us common language to understand, like, Oh, the reason that you react this way when I asked you to do that is because this is kind of generally how you see the world.
Okay. That makes so much more sense now. So I agree. We’ve done strength finders with our team that I really liked. And as you were talking, I’m like, Oh, we got to do this with our new people and like map it out. Like you were talking about with disc. So that’s fantastic. I want to talk a little bit about the role of.
The modern CFO and what are you seeing? Like, what are some trends that you’re seeing in this sector that, you know, a CFO needs to deal with? Um, what are you seeing some challenges that a CFO needs to overcome at this point? Kind of, what are you seeing broadly in the [00:30:00] sector as a nonprofit CFO? Yeah.
Alissa Novoselick: You know, I think that obviously I really love being a modern CFO.
I think that there is… Such a great place for people who are maybe coming out of business school and accounting As younger professionals, there is definitely a place for you in the non profit scene and that is something that I am Have been saying through and through for whatever reason the social impact space has not In my opinion, really caught up to that sort of training, informal business schools and whatnot, when you’re talking about social impact in business schools, I’ll just use that as example, you’re usually talking about product development.
Or some sort of other spin off of like investing or whatnot from, from the social space, but from a, just the pure CFO standpoint, this is not a career path that was [00:31:00] ever presented as something that I could do, um, even with my formal education. So that’s number one, there’s space for you. If this is your career path, there’s, there’s plenty of opportunity.
Um, I think the flip of that, it’s a very misunderstood segment of American finance in general. You know, there’s certainly from an audit level. Lots of firms that specialize in non profit compliance, um, from an accounting standpoint, but when you really get down to the brass tacks, and I’m talking about that first organization I worked with, the budget was probably 400, 000, maybe even less, the things that we had to figure out how to do on our own, you know, how to be in compliance with grants, how to use QuickBooks, you know, I learned that I was a self taught QuickBooks person.
There’s a huge gap there between, you know, [00:32:00] the high level accounting firms and what this practice looks like on the ground. And so it is my hope. And obviously why I’m a huge a hundred degree span is that we can continue to educate and bring along, you know, these very capable professionals to get into these roles, because there just isn’t a ton of.
Resources out there for nonprofit CFOs. My peers are few and far between in the city of Detroit. I can tell you when I was an executive director, I had. There certainly are not even enough networks for executive directors, but I had a much bigger network, much bigger opportunity to, um, co convene with, with executive directors across the city.
I don’t have that as a CFO, um, of non profit, um, there’s been a couple groups that I’ve been a part of. One I’m really excited to join that just started, um, through REDF, which is a workforce development organization. That’s focusing on [00:33:00] this sort of thing. Um, but that’s also something I would like to see is more connectedness between those of us doing this work.
And. I think one of the things that I really appreciated about meeting you and I gosh, that was probably three, three or so years ago was like, I started greater impact and I thought there was no one else in the space doing this work and just the enormous need for it. And so I’m just so, I was so excited to meet you and see that you’re building a team and you’re, you know, from, from everything I can see doing it really responsibly to meet the needs of these small to midsize nonprofits.
Um, Right where they are. Right. Uh, I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but many times as a CFO, you telling people that this is normal. You know, we will work through this. You are definitely not alone with this issue. Um, is probably the thing that clients and, you know, my [00:34:00] colleagues have come back and said, that was the most meaningful thing that you did for me was To lead me, you know, through this, so yeah, we’re in spreadsheets and we’re numbers people, but it is so important to think about as this whole theme of this conversation, where that person is on the other side of it and how to get them through because, you know, those of us in the impact space, we really, we just want to, we want to see that we want, we want to see a, a better world for whatever, you know, industry that, that we’re working
Stephanie Skryzowski: in.
Oh my gosh, I have so many ideas that like tackle everything that you talked about and sometimes my ideas are so big that they feel very scary and um, I’m like, how am I even going to like accomplish any of this? And so A couple things that you mentioned, so the career path thing and not knowing this was a career path.
I didn’t either. And I have my master’s in public administration with focus on nonprofit management. [00:35:00] And I was at NYU and did my degree there. And I look back to that now at this point, it was, um, oh my gosh, 15 years ago, I started that degree. Um, that was a long time ago. I did not realize that number got so big, but.
Sort of the goal was like to get into a big nonprofit organization and that almost has like a corporate structure to it. And I think about what I learned in my master’s program and I’m like, I use basically nothing that I learned there because when you’re working in an organization whose budget is a million dollars or even less than a million dollars, or even up to like 10 million.
You are wearing all the hats. You are doing all the things. And my master’s degree virtually did no preparation whatsoever for that type of work and definitely didn’t talk about, okay, um, what is it like to be the CFO of a 5 million organization? Like we were not having those conversations [00:36:00] and talking about the things that Now, I’ve learned after working with, at this point, probably hundreds of organizations that it’s just like there, there is no clear career path.
So I think that’s a huge observation that you had. And the other day I was, um, I was actually at a retreat with other business owners and we were kind of dreaming up like, what are like the biggest ideas that you can think of in your business? And I was like, I want to build a master’s degree level curriculum for like, for nonprofit leaders.
What it’s actually like to work in a nonprofit like the master’s program I had just like did not hit that mark at all. And I’m like, Oh, that’s a big project. I don’t know if I’m ready to quite take that on, but I think that’s huge. And I think it, you know, it just goes along with what you were saying as well.
Like your MBA just didn’t prepare you for working in the sector in the way that you are.
Alissa Novoselick: So. Sign me up to be part of that. Um, I, on the side, also teach at Wayne State University here in Detroit, uh, a class to their arts administrators on [00:37:00] financial accounting. And so I’m very excited when Wayne State decided to do that because it’s like a lot of these arts administrators are going on into, you know, really important.
institutions from a cultural standpoint in the city of Detroit and didn’t know how to read a profit and loss statement and know what a balance sheet was. And so I took it as a great opportunity to, to teach just what I do every day. There’ll be people who were like, I didn’t think this was for me at all.
All and now I feel really empowered to like go and ask these questions when I’m on interviews and all these things. And so that has been a spark for me to see just what we what I would love to see that whole curriculum path and development. Um, I’m I’m all on board. to be your partner in that.
Stephanie Skryzowski: Oh my gosh.
Okay. We’re going to stop the record button in a couple minutes. And I’m like, we need to keep talking about this. Sounds good. And the other, the other piece about there not really being a space for [00:38:00] nonprofit finance leaders. I haven’t found anything either. I feel like I built my team. So now I kind of have one, but I had to make it myself.
And, um, you know, at the beginning of my business, I sort of had the choice of like, okay, Am I going to turn away clients and just handle the work that I can do myself, or am I going to find other people that can do this with me? And I chose the latter because, I don’t know, because I wanted to, and I wanted to be able to help more organizations.
So I’ve kind of created this little, like this little network of the 15 of us together, but there is a much larger need, um, you’re right, for nonprofit finance professionals to get together. So maybe we can talk offline about what we. Well, we can create for those people as well. So many ideas. Okay. The last thing that I want to talk about before we hop off, I know we just have a few more minutes left.
So what is the role of technology and data look like in, [00:39:00] in your work as a nonprofit CFO? Like, how are you jumping on new technology or maybe not, and using data to really drive your
Alissa Novoselick: work? That’s, that’s a great question. I think this is such a hard thing for small to mid sized non profits to tackle because there’s so much out there, they’re so expensive in many ways, and you have to figure out how to intertwine them so that you are really, uh, functioning well from a, you know, monthly closed process, so If you’re in finance, you know, the monthly closed processes, uh, guide all of the work, um, toward the end of getting the good data.
So an empowerment plan, um, we have different data systems for each, a part of our organization. And one of the things that makes us unique at empowerment plan is we produce a sleeping bag coat that gets distributed all across the globe to thousands upon thousands of individuals who are experiencing homelessness.
So 22, 000 square foot [00:40:00] manufacturing facility. On the east side of Detroit where our employees come and they learn the skills to make the coat and get wraparound services. They’re generally here for about two years. So we have a lot of really interesting things from a financial standpoint that relate to our inventory, shipping, delivery that many non profits might not have.
So we have a specific inventory software that we work with. Um, For the manufacturing side of our house. We have a development software where we manage our donors. We have a bill pay software. We use, you know, QuickBooks is the hub of everything that I do. Certainly, we’re, a lot of things are still in spreadsheets that I would love to get out of there.
And so there’s just a many, many different things that we do to be able to get to that month end. I am no, by no stretch of the imagination, uh, technologically sappy. I like what it can do for me. Like I said, I learned QuickBooks on my own. I’m self taught. It [00:41:00] comes to me naturally when I can, you know, watch videos about it or whatever.
And I love that they have continued education around it. But. I feel as though a big gap that I’ve seen with organizations I work with small to midsize are, uh, the almost like the requirements of these huge, robust information technology platforms without really anyone to run it. So a lot of the conversations that I’ve been in with other organizations relating to data is like, how do we manage this in a really smart way?
So one of the first things that I did when I got to empowerment plan, it’s still on my whiteboard. I have a giant whiteboard in my office and I mapped out all of the systems and where they went just on my whiteboard said, All right, if we’re talking about. Our in kind process. When someone donates something to Empowerment Plant, how is that in kind process moving through the system of data [00:42:00] that we have?
So my suggestion to anyone who’s like, I don’t even know what we have, how we use it. First step is just to map it out on your whiteboard. And then what we did was we, one by one, uh, went through every single financial Thing like in kind, like inventory, like revenue recognition, and we wrote out all of our steps and what we did because you can’t make change without understanding where you are, right?
It’s like benchmarking 101. So. As it relates to technology, that’s where we were able to see gaps to see things that were being duplicated. Oh, our administrative, um, financial support, a colleague is keeping track of that in this spreadsheet. But, you know, the development teams also keeping track that there we don’t need to duplicate that work.
So, yeah, I mean, and I think it’s taken us. Almost two years to get to a point where we’re like everything is running really well. And our data is clean from a [00:43:00] reconciliation process. So I guess my advice is start with the whiteboard and and write everything down. Um, but there’s definitely not one magic, you know, uh, it fix for, um, a complex
Stephanie Skryzowski: organization.
Yeah, that’s such a good point. I feel like Empowerment Plan is potentially more complex than a lot of organizations. Um, but I love that idea of like mapping out your data. Like what is the journey that our data takes through this whole process? And I think that would really help find gaps in technology and help you be able to identify that.
So I think that’s a great idea and something that I personally haven’t done with. Data. I feel like half the data in our, like in our organization, we’ve gotten so much better, but like in our organization, it’d be like, okay, well it goes from here to a spreadsheet and then it stops. Like we’ll probably need to extend that a little bit, but, um, that’s a, that’s a fantastic [00:44:00] idea and one that I have not done before.
My last question for you is what does a prosperous nonprofit look like to you?
Alissa Novoselick: Wow. Good question. Um, Okay. I think, you know, building on our conversation very much is focused on the people that are working in the organization and the people whom the organization serve. We’re here to, to help individuals and that must be the focus of everything that we do.
So, whether, you know, whether that’s building culture, um, having good recruitment, uh, making sure your donors are values aligned and understand what’s happening, um, that goes across the board in my opinion of, Bringing the right people to the table and doing it, you know, with with those values at the center of what you do from an operational side of [00:45:00] things.
It is really paying attention, uh, and getting out of messy mode. I would say, you know, making sure that you’re you are focused on. How your processes are working, making sure that you have a feedback loop to get input on the processes that you have writing it all down right now where we are working on SOP standard operating procedures for the entire organization, which is very important to me to see.
That it’s an extension of even my whiteboard start, right? Like, how are we acting and then how do we keep this going? So I think from a structural standpoint, marrying that sophistication with that culture is the key to. Um, having a, uh, a prosperous nonprofit.
Stephanie Skryzowski: Mm hmm. Oh, I love that. So good. So good. [00:46:00] I, I completely agree with you.
And I just love, I say this on every episode, I think, but I just love that every single person that I’ve asked this question has a completely different answer. So Alyssa, this has been such a pleasure. I’m so glad we got the chance to talk. Um, if our listeners are interested in learning more about your organization, both greater impact and empowerment plan, where can they find you?
And of course we’ll put the, we’ll put the links in the show notes, but once you tell us where we can find you.
Alissa Novoselick: Great. Well, empowerment Plan is um, at www.empowermentplan.org, and Greater Impact is at www.greaterimpactllc.com. Please go follow empowerment Plan socials. We have just. Such compelling content, uh, the people I work with are amazing.
They share their stories frequently. And so, uh, those are on all the social channels, Facebook, um, Instagram, LinkedIn, and yeah, friend me on LinkedIn. Uh, [00:47:00] you can find me there.
Stephanie Skryzowski: Awesome, Alyssa. Thank you so much. This was a great conversation.
Alissa Novoselick: I appreciate you. Appreciate you.
Stephanie Skryzowski: Hey, everybody. Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode sponsored by Blackbaud.
As always, you can get all of our show notes, all of the links we mentioned over at 100degreesconsulting. com. And I want to mention something extra special. Over there, you will find the link to our brand new white paper, The Guide to Hiring a Modern CFO for Your Nonprofit. So this is a white paper that I wrote in partnership with BlackBaud, and you will learn what it means to be a CFO who can help drive a nonprofit in today’s climate.
What you should consider when hiring a modern CFO and red flags to look for when evaluating your next CFO. So head on over to 100degreesconsulting. com. Grab the show notes for this episode, and we will point you in the direction of this brand new white paper, your guide to [00:48:00] hiring a modern CFO for your nonprofit.
Thanks as always for listening, my friends, and we will see you next time.