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Challenges Facing CFOs At Nonprofits

Interview with Jennifer Templeman, COO/CFO, Jumpstart for Young Children

2Jun

Jennifer Templeman is COO/CFO at Jumpstart for Young Children. She joined the organization in 2010, bringing 20 years of financial management experience to oversee finance, compliance, risk management, systems, technology, regional operations and talent management. In her role, she focuses on strategy design and implementation, building strong policies and procedures with an emphasis on efficiency, support, and quality.

Prior to Jumpstart, Jennifer worked at agencies in Massachusetts, Georgia, and Ohio. She grew up in North Carolina and received her degree in accounting from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.

In addition to her role at Jumpstart, Jennifer spends time working with young accountants to encourage their consideration of a career in the non-profit sector. Additionally, she often partners with other organizations to help them develop strategies in the ever-changing landscape of non-profit management.

We sat down with her ahead of her presentation at the FP&A Innovation Summit, taking place in Boston this September 8-9.

How did you get started in finance?

I majored in accounting in college because I was good at math, and had worked in retail through school with a boss who encouraged me to go into business. One could say I fell into it from a lack of other options that were appealing. After graduation, I worked for five years as an analyst, and then had the opportunity to be the Director of Finance for a small non-profit. At that point, the things I learned in school, and the experience I’d accumulated in the corporate world melded and I finally felt like this was a career choice instead of something I was good at, but in many ways defaulted into.

What unique challenges have you faced within your industry/in your current role with your current company?

Working in the non-profit field there are the constant challenges of securing sustainable funding, high staff burnout, and trying to balance the extreme need in the communities where we serve with our limited resources. None of these challenges are unique for most non-profit finance leaders. Within Jumpstart, there is a great deal of political interest in pre-K for all children, which is wonderful, however, our organization is trying to make the important point that just sticking kids in a classroom in no way prepares them for kindergarten. The pre-k experience must be high quality in order to be meaningful. Providing a high-quality experience takes a larger investment, so I spend a great deal of time justifying the cost of our services based on the high benefit to the children we serve.

To what extent have you seen the finance function further integrate with other areas of the business in recent years?

Nearly half of the funding at my organization comes from the federal government, which means the finance department is highly integrated into all areas of the business model in order to ensure compliance with the requirements of the government. Additionally, as we’ve tried to improve efficiency in order to serve more children for less cost, finance has been integral in pushing for change both in model, scalability, and innovation. We have become a strategic partner with all the departments and divisions across the network because our input early in a process creation has been proven to add value to produce a higher quality and more certain outcome.

What will you be discussing in your presentation?

I will be discussing, managing a high-functioning team. Many people view their finance staff as task completers, but this limited vision causes high turn-over, low performance, and missed opportunities for collaboration across the organization. Finance should be seen as culture setters, visionaries, and thought-partners. By managing to that expectation, directors can not only see an increase in productivity and the quality of work produced within the finance and analysis functions, but they will find a more fulfilled and effective team that is connected to the whole corporation.

Have you had any challenges automating your FP&A process?

There is resistance to almost any change, however getting the finance team on board to the advantages of automation, allowed for a much smoother transition. There was an initial period in which the transition caused more work for the finance team, which was a difficult sell despite the long-term benefits. However, as we moved into automation, and the team could see how it was streamlining their work, and reducing time on report generation, back and forth with departments across the network, and the ability to produce higher quality projections in real-time, the resistance quickly faded. With a carefully crafted implementation plan, Jumpstart was able to move to an automated process smoothly, despite the initial resistance.

What technology have you implemented to modernize/streamline your daily processes?

Moving from an internally maintained server environment to a web-hosted platform was the first step in automation as it allowed a more reliable connection across the country. Secondly, finding submission tools and interfaces that were user-friendly, yet compliant with government regulations was critical to moving to a fully automated process. Finally, the key to success at Jumpstart was not a new tool, but a firm stand, that finance would no longer support manual requests for reports, but would only utilize the reporting system that all managers had access to. This perceived shift in customer service forced the organization to use the system, despite their reservations and allowed for a faster transition to the platform. While technology is appealing in theory, to get full buy-in to something new that forces staff to change how they function, one must plan for the shift in culture from the beginning.

You can hear more from Jennifer, along with other industry leaders, at the FP&A Innovation Summit. To register your interest, click here.

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