Sheryl Madden, CPA, CGMA

Deputy CFO and controller at The Kresge Foundation in Troy, Mich.

Sheryl Madden, CPA, CGMA, deputy CFO and controller at The Kresge Foundation in Troy, Mich.
Photo by Bryan Mitchell/AP Images

'Effective leaders are focused on serving others ...'

Promoting human progress: The Kresge Foundation works to expand opportunities for people with low incomes in America's cities through grant-making and social investing in arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services, and community development. Our overall mission is to promote human progress. As deputy CFO and controller at Kresge, I support developing and managing financial policies and organizationwide systems to help accomplish the mission while fostering stewardship, collaboration, and teamwork.

Using her CPA skills to make a positive impact: I am responsible for providing strategic leadership and direction to ensure alignment with mission, core values, and strategies while maintaining an effective system of internal controls related to the accounting, tax, and financial reporting functions. My experiences in public accounting enabled me to assist with the expansion of our giving capacity through the implementation of internal controls, practices, and policies as well as the development of reporting tools that allow the foundation to support complex and innovative impact investing.

Avoiding fraud: We as CPAs often have to be on alert for fraudulent activity, whether email phishing, false solicitation of sensitive data, or fraudulent checks being cut against our organizations. Having departments that communicate the occurrence immediately and know how to react is incredibly important. Whenever a risk is identified, the foundation works to communicate it internally as well as externally so that the impact can be minimized. Our communications, IT, and finance teams, as well as internal and external legal counsel are all involved. As part of mitigation we rely on having staff equipped with the knowledge to identify phishing schemes; active cybersecurity firewalls in place; positive pay banking procedures; and helpful grantee partners to aid us in protecting the foundation, our grantees, and potential grantees. It's very much a group effort.

Being a leader means focusing on serving others: Research shows that effective leaders are focused on serving others. This philosophy allows for a mindset that recognizes the needs of others and encourages them to act toward accomplishing their goals in order to bring about positive change. My years of accounting, auditing, and supervisory experience in public accounting as a CPA is what enables me to perform this type of leadership role at Kresge.

— As told to Lea Hart, a freelance writer based in North Carolina. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac, the JofA's editorial director, at

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