The transition into a CFO role within a Not-For-Profit/For Purpose (NFP) from a commercial organisation can be a challenging one.

It’s important to be able to find the right balance between commercial and purpose (the “head and the heart.”). The most successful CFOs in this space are those that will go in with their eyes open and actively listen. They are flexible, adaptable, and take everyone along on the journey with them. Those were some of the key insights shared at one of our recent events for CFOs in the Not-for-Profit space.

So, what are some of the key attributes’ CFOs in the Not-for-Profit space should have in order to make a real impact?

  • Effective communication: Get to know and understand every aspect of the business. Listen, learn and ask lots of questions. Be highly visible within the business, and take everyone along on the journey with you. Story-telling is important.
  • Business partnering: Building relationships is key. Establishing trust with the leadership team and the board will help you to influence effectively and drive positive change.
  • Be an influencer: There is often a broader dynamic operating within a Not-for-Profit, due to the range of both commercial and ‘for-purpose’ backgrounds in this space. It’s important to always be people-focused.
  • “Upward referral” can often happen in NFPs. Empower and educate your team to solve issues themselves.
  • Accountability: Deliver on what you say. Be honest, open and transparent.
  • Operate with integrity and humility: Remember it is other people’s money that you are the custodian of – do what is right by them. Be mindful of how you approach people and the mission. Keep the values of the organisation in the back of your mind with every decision you make.

How can CFOs work effectively with CEOs to drive positive growth?

  • Be a partner first and foremost. The relationship will work best if you balance and complement each other’s strengths.
  • Get to know your CEO. Be open and transparent, this allows for the free-flowing of ideas and the opportunity to have meaningful conversations. Meet regularly.
  • Courage is important. Respectfully challenge the CEO when needed, keep your integrity and offer honest advice.

How can not-for-profits embrace the new digital future?

  • Put in place good systems, processes and procedures to transform and move forward. Get rid of chunky, old ‘legacy’ systems, and encourage long-term staff to embrace change and step out of their comfort zone.
  • Recruit really good people to embrace and grow the digital future. New blood will drive change. Culture and people should be the top priority in any successful company.
  • Leadership is key. People need guidance. The leadership team needs to grow and change and set the tone for employees in order for the business and its people to move forward.

What has been your experience? Do you have any tips to share that have resonated with you over the years?

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