The most interesting part of my job at the YWCA is that I get to tap into all parts of me. So I tap into the fact that I’m a CPA, and it definitely helps me, as we constantly assess the financial situation and the financial sustainability of our organization. I can have those sorts of candid discussions with my board and my CFO because I get it. I also love expressing the creative side and being able to think of new ways to provide different services to our members, as well as work with our different strategic partners to help them meet their objectives. I feel like I’m using every iota of my brain, whether it’s the right or the left side.
I see an opportunity for us, the charitable not-for-profits, to reevaluate our strategy as it relates to being able to access funds. That’s part of what we’re doing here at the YWCA. The marketplace has changed. It’s not that the funds are not available, it’s just that not-for-profits have to change the way they go about getting them now, particularly charitable organizations. Because I’m a CPA, my background has prepared me to say, “OK, we need to think about things differently.” This comes from having been in an accounting firm as a partner at Crowe Horwath LLP and having to always be flexible with market conditions in terms of what was important to clients.
You just can’t send letters to people anymore and think they’re going to reply. That’s what we used to do, right? We used to send these heart-wrenching letters, and everybody just sent us money in the mail. It doesn’t work like that. You need to talk about what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, how you’re measuring it, how it’s relevant to what they’re trying to do.
We want to be part of your everyday life. If there are things you care about, then we’re aligned with that. We understand cause marketing and conscious consumerism, and that people do care. From a limited time and resource standpoint, if I can spend a dollar to not only get a product that I want but also save the world, I’m going to buy that product.
For example, we did an event with Jimmy Choo, the shoe and fashion designer, the fashion designer, where we invited our constituency, and our women, primarily, purchased $100,000 worth of merchandise, and we got 10% of that. The loose math was $100,000 in three hours. It was a successful event; it was at Nordstrom. But what we had done for our constituency is respect their time. They love to shop, and they want to do good, so we can do it at the same time. That’s what charities have to do, really understand their value proposition and where people are because I don’t think we compete just for the charitable dollar. We compete across the board for time and treasure, people’s most valued resources.
I’ve been on three different committees and structures of the AICPA, plus I’m on the governing board now. It’s a little CPA girl’s dream come true, absolutely. I’ve wanted to be a CPA since I was 12. I love math. And I did a nonfiction book report about an accountant and I said, “Yes, this is a great way to apply those math skills.”
At the AICPA Women’s Global Leadership Summit [Oct. 23–24 in Washington], I’m talking about leadership of the future. This should be fascinating. There are strong opinions about that. Leadership is going to have to be a lot more personable. It’s going to be about not only leading the organization from a strategic standpoint but really tapping into individuals and what motivates them, and understanding how your organization fulfills their purpose. And that from that purpose, you’re going to get people to do the things you need them to do.
—As told to Sheon Ladson Wilson,
a freelance writer based in Durham, N.C.