Becoming a CFO
Whether you are considering becoming a nonprofit chief financial officer (CFO) or are hiring one, the questions in this CFO Fitness Quiz can help inform your decision.
These frequently asked questions will help you understand what the nonprofit chief financial officer (CFO) role is, how to prepare to become a CFO, how to find a CFO position, and how to transition into the nonprofit CFO role.
Because of the variety in role definition across nonprofit chief financial officer positions, finding the right fit can be particularly challenging and important. The key to success in a job search is finding the right fit between your skills, interests, and personality on the one hand, and the characteristics of the potential organization, role, and leadership team on the other.
Communities In Schools hired Janice Bigelow as its first full-time chief financial officer (CFO) in January 2005. Prior to accepting the position, she conducted a thorough assessment of whether the organization was ready to hire a CFO, and whether she was the right fit for the position.
Christy Lueders quickly rose through the ranks as a volunteer fundraiser while working as a commercial lender. When the Seattle Y asked if she would be interested in interviewing for the chief financial officer position, she jumped—and over the past 10 years she has played a key role in growing the organization from $27 million to $57 million in revenues.
Hiring a CFO
The key to finding the right chief financial officer for your nonprofit organization is to consider what qualities, skills, and experience will provide a good fit with the needs of your organization. Through Bridgespan’s research and talent-matching work, we have identified practices that seem to increase the chances of finding the right person.
This FAQ was developed based on in-depth interviews with a diverse set of chief financial officers (CFO), industry experts, and funders in an effort to create a broad overview of the nonprofit CFO role and how to approach hiring for it.
The key to success in any hiring process is finding the candidate with the right qualities, skills, and experience for your organization’s needs, culture, and leadership. The candidate interview is an essential part of this process.
Sample CFO Job Descriptions
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 chief financial officer to focus narrowly on the finance function.
In this sample job description for a nonprofit chief financial officer (CFO), the organization runs programs nationally and has complex funding sources. The CFO focuses strictly on finance, accounting, and the investment activities of the organization, and has a senior, seasoned staff with deep experience in nonprofit finance.
In this sample job description, the nonprofit has fairly simple programs and revenue sources. Reporting requirements are less complicated, enabling the chief financial officer to take responsibility for a broader span of functional areas.
The nonprofit chief financial officer wears several hats in this sample description. She or he is responsible for a variety of areas far removed from the finance and administrative functions.
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 the chief financial officer 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.
In this sample national controller job description, the nonprofit organization runs programs nationally and has relatively uncomplicated funding.