Chief Financial Officer & Finance Job Descriptions

Chief financial officer (CFO) roles—and the organizational structures in which CFOs operate—vary significantly across organizations. Based on Bridgespan's experience and interviews, the organization’s budget size and the complexity of its programs and revenue sources drive how the CFO role is configured—and how the role evolves over time.

For example, consider a small but established nonprofit, where budgets are relatively small and funding sources are limited. Here, the CFO often must take on other functional and even programmatic responsibilities, in addition to finance and reporting. As the organization’s budget and programs grow, more functional and program specialists are added to the staff, and the CFO’s focus has to expand to include team management. Eventually, an increase in programs will boost the volume and complexity of budget management and reporting to the degree that the CFO role will need to be streamlined so the CFO can focus primarily on financial management issues.

Similarly, when funding sources become more complex—for example, when an organization adds government contracts to its funding mix—the CFO will have to focus primarily on reporting to meet the stringent requirements of government contracts (particularly federal contracts), in addition to reporting for private funders.

At large, national organizations with multiple programs and funding sources, CFOs tend to focus on more complex finance and investment activities and generally are not leading functional or program areas.

No matter what an organization’s stage of growth, the CFO usually works closely with the nonprofit’s executive director, making the ability to be a partner critical to the CFO function.

The sample job descriptions posted here show how organizations may configure the CFO role based on budget size and complexity of funding and programming. As reflected in these samples, requirements for CFOs tend to be broad. However, every organization needs to determine which requirements it absolutely must have and which requirements would be nice to have. By setting these hiring goals in advance, your organization can hone in on the applicants with the must-have requirements and can also start thinking about how to compensate for the qualifications that a star candidate may lack.

Each sample job description is based on an actual position specification used during a search by a nonprofit organization. We have removed all information that would identify the hiring organization.

It is important to note that each of our sample organizations has its own set of idiosyncrasies that have affected the configuration of that CFO position. The CFO job description you develop for your organization should be a blend of both the classic CFO responsibilities and the particular needs of your nonprofit.

Each sample job description is intended to be a jumping off point, and likely will need to be tailored to meet the particular needs of your organization. Feel free to use and tailor these descriptions for your needs.

 

Chief Financial Officer Complex Funding

In this sample job description, the nonprofit organization has complex program offerings and diverse financing sources—such as state and federal funding in addition to private funding. There is a heavy emphasis on reporting, requiring the CFO to focus narrowly on the finance function. Knowledge and understanding of Office of Management and Budget requirements for nonprofits is critical.

Chief Financial Officer (Small Organization )

In this sample job description, the nonprofit CFO wears several hats. The budget can’t support specialized staff, so the CFO is responsible for a variety of areas far removed from the finance and administrative functions. These include human resources, information technology, legal, and facilities—and even building relationships with program recipients.

Chief Financial Officer (Large Organization)

In this sample job description for a nonprofit chief financial officer, the organization runs programs nationally and has complex funding sources. The CFO focuses strictly on finance, accounting, and the investment activities of the organization. In this sample, the CFO has a senior, seasoned staff with deep experience in nonprofit finance.

Controller Job Description Sample

This organization has complex program offerings and diverse funding sources, including state, federal, corporate, and foundation funding. There is a heavy emphasis on reporting, requiring this role to focus narrowly on the finance function. Knowledge and understanding of Office of Management and Budget requirements for this role is critical because of federal funding, as is the ability to work closely with program leaders. Strong team management experience is key to being successful in this role.

National Controller Job Description

In this sample job description, the organization runs programs nationally and has relatively uncomplicated funding. The National Controller focuses strictly on finance, accounting, and the investment activities and there is a heavy emphasis on streamlining operations and improving efficiencies.

Director of Finance and Administration Job Description

In this model, the Director of Finance and Administration wears multiple hats. The budget can’t support specialized staff, so this position is responsible for a variety of areas far removed from the finance and administrative functions. These include human resources, information technology, legal, and facilities—and even building relationships with program recipients.