This extraordinary letter to the editor in the Napa Valley Register/St. Helena Star, from one of the participants in a cohort-based capacity-building training we’ve been delivering, gets our name slightly wrong, opting for our tagline–“Fiscal Strength for Nonprofits”–instead. We couldn’t be prouder of the work we’re doing in Napa, helping organizations understand what it takes to achieve Operational Excellence, and when your students can teach your lessons back to you like this, whether they get your name right or not is beside the point!
It’s not (just) about the money
Sure, every nonprofit needs money to operate. Fundraising is an ongoing, ever-present and sometimes challenging endeavor for nonprofit organizations. And just as important as bringing in the dollars is how well that money is managed in achieving the organization’s mission – a responsibility that the staff and board of the UpValley Family Centers take very seriously.
Recently, UVFC was chosen to participate in a Financial Management training program presented by Fiscal Strength for Nonprofits. This incredible program is sponsored by the Napa Valley Community Foundation and funded by the Napa Valley Vintners, the Napa Valley Community Foundation, and the Jones Family Foundation. Over a period of five months, Executive Director Jenny Ocón, two staff members, and a director of the board of UVFC, will join a select group from other Napa County nonprofits in a series of workshops and coaching sessions, learning best practices in financial management and strategies for long-term sustainability. The goal of the program is to help organizations achieve long-term sustainability and create a culture of operational excellence.
How is a culture of operational excellence created? It starts with the board, which, in addition to setting strategic direction, is responsible for ensuring regulatory compliance, managing risk, and ensuring financial health of the organization. Regulatory compliance and risk management includes understanding and following all of the applicable laws, conducting a regular audit, and establishing internal controls and policies for long-term investment – all of which UVFC has in place. To achieve financial health, the board and staff of UVFC must have a complete understanding of the costs of each and every program it runs, as well as understanding the agency overhead. They must plan for capital needs, create operational reserves, and continually monitor financial performance. Since the Calistoga Family Center and St. Helena Family Center merged over a year ago, the new organization’s financial picture has continued to strengthen and expand, which, in turn, has attracted more donors, funders and partners.
It’s important to know that every member of a nonprofit board is a fiduciary and is charged with meeting the public’s expectation of trust. A nonprofit’s board is the central decision-making body for the organization. It has ultimate responsibility and accountability for the organization’s actions. In other words, the buck stops with the board.
Why should community members care if UVFC has sound financial management and operational excellence? One needs only to ask one of the more than 3,500 clients we served last year, or one of the hundreds of donors or volunteers who contribute numerous dollars and hours to the organization. It matters because without sound financial management and operational excellence, UVFC probably wouldn’t exist to fulfill its mission to ensure that all community members have the resources they need to have healthy, happy families, achieve self-sufficiency, and participate fully in the community.
Lisa Toller is a marketing consultant and an UpValley Family Centers board member.
This letter to the editor originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register/St. Helena Star. UpValley Family Centers works to ensure that community members have the resources to create healthy, happy lives for their families, to achieve self-sufficiency, and to develop the skills they need to participate fully in the community.
Andrew Schwalm is Manager of Marketing and Communications for FMA…and Fiscal Strength for Nonprofits.