Deep Dive Series: Strategic Financial Management for Non-profit Organizations

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Non-profit organizations, or NPOs, make up a large sector of the economy that is not focused on providing goods and services to make a profit for shareholders. Instead, these critical organizations serve a diverse group of stakeholders who can be either people or groups who stand to benefit directly from the work of the organization, or society as a whole. In general, the NPO sector is overwhelmingly oriented towards doing important and critical work in the service of socially valuable outcomes.

We’re proud of our work with NPOs like CAWST, the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology, whose vision is a world where people have the opportunity to succeed because their basic water and sanitation needs have been met. Or the Rick Hansen Institute, a Canadian NPO focused on accelerating the translation of discoveries and best practices into improved treatments for people with spinal cord injuries. Or our newest NPO client, Tides Canada, who connects donors and doers to fund important work that helps Canadian people and the environment.

Although most NPOs have a traditional corporate operating structure, their financial management and measurement needs are vastly different. Excess of revenue over expenditures, for example – is not considered to be net income but rather is transformed into operating revenue. NPOs have to be able to measure their effectiveness in accomplishing their goals – they need to determine the ways and means to identify performance and results – and this cannot be accomplished simply by checking the bottom line on the income statement!

In this blog series, we pull together an expert panel of guest bloggers to address some of the strategic financial management challenges we see in our consulting and support work with NPOs, and talk about strategies and approaches for reducing the pain of running these essential organizations.

Let's introduce the NPO bloggers:

  • Denise Henshaw – Denise has always have been interested and involved in the services provided by NPOs.  She has served as a volunteer Director on many NPO Boards, served in Controller and CFO roles, and currently assists NPOs as a consultant/implementer of ERP systems, Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Serenic Navigator.
  • David Maddox - David is a principal with RPM Associates, a consultancy addressing the resource management and strategic planning needs of higher education, cultural institutions, and non-profit organizations. He is the author of the book Budgeting for Not-for-Profit Organizations (Wiley) and teaches financial management in the program on Nonprofit Leadership at Belmont University in Nashville, TN.
  • Elain Evans – Elain is the Director of the University of British Columbia Annual Fund and almost two decades of experience in fundraising and donor relations. Elain shares her passion and philosophy for fundraising in this short interview.
  • Rob Fontaine – Rob Fontaine is a Finance Consultant on Dynamics NAV, where he helps clients maximize their investment by providing effective training, timely support, and by highlighting potential development opportunities to extract more value from their system. Rob’s career has blended roles in finance/accounting, operations/supply chain, and information systems, all with a focus on leveraging technology to improve business processes, data quality, and management reporting.


We’re proud to be able to engage such a distinguished group. Over the next 6 to 8 weeks we will feature blog posts on a range of topics related to financial management in NPOs. Our bloggers will highlight strategies and tools NPOs can use to make significant improvements in the way their organizations run.

Our blog series will cover the following topics:

  • Measuring performance and results – when financial profit is not the goal, fulfillment of organization’s mission is the main measure of success. How does this impact financial processes?
  • Managing overheads — doing more with less is critical. Moving away from painful, manual tracking and analysis tasks using offline tools and error-prone spreadsheets are effective strategies for every NPO.
  • Budgets, planning and cost allocation – balanced budgets are a fact of life in NPOs. Guest blogger David Maddox will share his experiences working with NPOs and discuss the budget process, layers of budgeting, software and tools, and reporting.
  • Financial reporting – transparency and accountability are vital to any NPO and access to timely and accurate financial and operational data is essential. What types of reporting are most beneficial to NPOs and what strategies can they use to make reporting easier?
  • Fundraising – Most NPOs rely heavily or exclusively on fundraising and access to grants. Elain Evans from the University of British Columbia will discuss the additional challenges faced by NPOs in managing compliance and reporting, including new Imagine Canada standards, and what she calls “Good to Great and the Culture of Poverty in NPOs”.
  • Emerging trends – We will explore and discuss some of the most interesting trends in the strategic financial management of NPOs. We will include perspectives from sector experts, NPO financial officers, consultants and other experts.


Perhaps along the way you will be inspired to share some of your ideas, challenges and solutions in this forum.

by Catapult, Canadian Microsoft Dynamics ERP Partner



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