Chief Financial Officer

Chief financial officer (CFO) roles—and the organizational structures in which CFOs operate—vary significantly across organizations. Based on Bridgestar’s experience and interviews, the organization’s budget size and the complexity of its programs and revenue sources drive how the CFO role is configured—and how the role evolves over time.

For example, consider a small but established nonprofit, where budgets are relatively small and funding sources are limited. Here, the CFO often must take on other functional and even programmatic responsibilities, in addition to finance and reporting. As the organization’s budget and programs grow, more functional and program specialists are added to the staff, and the CFO’s focus has to expand to include team management. Eventually, an increase in programs will boost the volume and complexity of budget management and reporting to the degree that the CFO role will need to be streamlined so the CFO can focus primarily on financial management issues.

Similarly, when funding sources become more complex—for example, when an organization adds government contracts to its funding mix—the CFO will have to focus primarily on reporting to meet the stringent requirements of government contracts (particularly federal contracts), in addition to reporting for private funders.

At large, national organizations with multiple programs and funding sources, CFOs tend to focus on more complex finance and investment activities and generally are not leading functional or program areas.

No matter what an organization’s stage of growth, the CFO usually works closely with the nonprofit’s executive director, making the ability to be a partner critical to the CFO function.

The sample job descriptions posted here show how organizations may configure the CFO role based on budget size and complexity of funding and programming. As reflected in these samples, requirements for CFOs tend to be broad. However, every organization needs to determine which requirements it absolutely must have and which requirements would be nice to have. By setting these hiring goals in advance, your organization can hone in on the applicants with the must-have requirements and can also start thinking about how to compensate for the qualifications that a star candidate may lack.

Each sample job description is based on an actual position specification used during a search by a nonprofit organization. We have removed all information that would identify the hiring organization.

It is important to note that each of our sample organizations has its own set of idiosyncrasies that have affected the configuration of that CFO position. The CFO job description you develop for your organization should be a blend of both the classic CFO responsibilities and the particular needs of your nonprofit.

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