Financing a non-profit in the startup world

Financing a non-profit in the startup world

Author: Jesse Klein
Read time:  4 minutes
Published date:  August 10, 2017
Latoya Botteron sits down with Carta to talk about her role as nonprofit CFO and how it differs from the for profit world.

Latoya Botteron is the CFO of the nonprofit, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP). The organization brings together chief executives on Indiana’s most prominent corporations, foundations and universities to ensure growth and prosperity for the state.

Carta: What was your journey in finance and becoming the CFO of a non-profit.

Latoya Botteron: My background is in public accounting. I am a certified public accountant and did audits mostly for financial institutions, distribution companies, manufacturing, and insurance companies. I audited CICP and as I was evaluating them as a client I thought “I really like what this organization does. I could work here.”

So two or three years later when the CFO was leaving she asked me if I would be interested in taking over the role. I came in through the transition as a VP of finance and then moved into the CFO role when she retired a year later.

Carta: What does a typical day look like for you?

Botteron: The majority of my day is spent in meetings, strategy planning. As a public accountant, I had a lot of tasks and deliverables get done each day. I don’t spend as much of my time on tasks anymore. I spend more time thinking through big picture things. It’s a lot of fun but it also creates a lot more work. Now I’m building towards a vision. How does the finance component support the long term and short term strategies?

Finance weighs in on all department meetings to figure out what will make this project doable. Whenever I go into a meeting and hear the projects being discussed, I try to answer the question “How can finance enable the goal?” It’s easy to identify problems and poke holes but I approach it by identifying the pitfalls and then create realignment that makes the project work.

Carta: How have the challenges changed?

Botteron: When you first walk into a company you identify what needs to change to help the company in the long term and in the short term. I have found that change management throughout an organization is very difficult.

Anytime you make a change you can just try to drive it through and believe constituents will catch up. Initially, for a few changes, I took that route and just pushed things through. But I learned that buy in is important and that I need to be more mindful and deliberate about changes I am implementing.

Carta: How is finance connected to the rest of your business?

Botteron: Finance is essential. Without the financial component, everything is an idea. You have to figure out how to financially support and sustain any of the ideas that are generated throughout the organization. For me, the financial component is the driver and enabler of everything that we do.

Carta: How do you think about growing your finance team?

Botteron: The regulatory world is changing. We need to be very attentive and respond to that. The team has transitioned from two to six and the focus, while broader, still remains on fiduciary responsibility. At one point, we really needed a strong understanding of compliance. The legal structure is very complex. But as CICP has grown we need someone who had more of an understanding of financial operations and the business mindset that looks at the organization as a whole and projects out into the future. We still need the compliance side that the team was built on, but with a long term, forward thinking mindset. Both are really valuable, with different approaches. I look for the ability to play on, listen to, and understand the analysis on both sides. We need diversity in strengths.

Carta: Is there a difference between a non-profit CFO and a for-profit one?

Botteron: Our stakeholders are our primary focus. The most important thing for us is cost management. To make sure we are spending our grant dollars in the most fiscally responsible way and still delivering the more qualitative outcomes that our funders are looking for. We are not focused on generating a profit but we are focused creating broader community impact. This makes it easier for us to go back for more funding. In a traditional corporation, the driver is the bottom line, to some extent, it is for us as well but for us, the driver is less quantitative. I want to be able to go back to a funder and tell them that I have touched X number of people, we have seen these impressions and we are making an impact in Indiana so trust us with more money so we can go out and do more work.

Carta: How would describe a CFO to a child?

Botteron:  The CFO role is the centralized location where you ensure the money matches the idea. What do you want to do? and how can you afford it?

Carta: Any advice for incoming CFO?

Botteron: Start early to be a partner with your leadership group. The role can easily become the place where the rules happen. But if you build those relationships and become project partners with the executives, they understand that you are a resource and a strategic partner.

Author: Jesse Klein
Jesse was born and raised in the Bay Area. She crossed the country to go to the University of Michigan before heading back to her roots in San Francisco at Carta.