While many aspects of for-profit and nonprofit accounting work is similar, the mission-driven focus of nonprofit organizations is an added benefit that is appealing to many. If you have a dream to help change the world, working for a nonprofit can be fulfilling on many levels. One of the challenges of being an accountant in a nonprofit is understanding the rules regarding the classification of donations and cost allocation of contributions toward administration and programs, which ultimately may affect contributions and support.
A growth hacking accountant in a nonprofit organization should be:
Creative: Many nonprofits are “resource challenged” and are consistently looking for ways to fulfill their mission with leaner budgets and fewer employees than typical for-profit companies have at their disposal. As an accountant in a nonprofit, you’ll need to look for creative ways to save money, from defraying expenses with in-kind (donated) products and services to coaching team members on performance.
Collaborative: You’ll work with the nonprofit’s leadership to set goals, manage expenses and make projections that will help teams and departments to allocate resources and gain financial support. Within any given week, you may meet with direct reports, IT and office managers and executives to keep the organization on track to deliver programs and services while staying within budgets.
Flexible: Every day in a nonprofit organization can be different and challenging – but mostly in a good way. You may take on a wider range of tasks than your peers in for-profit companies but as Dan Ryerson, CFO for the Oregon Food Bank notes, “Our CEO is really passionate about eliminating hunger in her lifetime, so we get to try a lot of things to figure out the financials to support her goals. The work is really varied and satisfying.”
Focused: Along with flexibility, focus is critical in a nonprofit. It’s easy to be drawn into special projects and activities that are not directly related to the sustainability of the organization.
Prepared: Nonprofits need strong oversight and planning to avoid risk, anticipate obstacles and take advantage of partnerships and opportunities. Your role as an accountant and financial advisor may involve understanding tax and judicial practices, governance and accountability trends, and more.
While you may not get rich working for a nonprofit, you’ll probably enjoy a flexible work schedule, more vacation days, a relaxed dress code and other non-monetary benefits…and make the world a better place!