Erica Hare, Chief Financial Officer, came to Aspire two years ago because of our mission. “I’ve spent my career focusing on mission-driven non-profits. After I got my MBA, that was a conscious choice. I wanted to be making a difference to an organization that benefits society rather than maximizing profits for an owner…. When I was ready to move on from my last CFO position, I did a slow search for organizations with a mission I can be passionate about.”
Erica has a clear vision for the Finance Team. “We hold up a mirror to the work being done. Are we spending money on our priorities in the areas that best advance our mission?”
Under Erica’s leadership, the Finance department has seen a number of changes. “We’re improving processes in the finance realm: tightening up controls, mitigating risk, closing each month’s books promptly, and simplifying where we can. As a result, our financial data is available more quickly and reliably.”
Closing the books on a month in just a couple of weeks instead of months can seem like a small thing. But Erica points out that it’s an important accomplishment, especially in an organization as big as Aspire. “Just like in your personal life, you can’t make decisions if you don’t know where you are financially. When there are delays you make mistakes, overspend, or fail to invest when you should. Timely financial reporting is making us more responsive and responsible than ever with our funds.”
The Finance mirror doesn’t just reflect what’s happening right now. Finance can show us whether what we are doing is sustainable. The goal is to ensure that Aspire and our mission will be thriving years from now. The organization has just finished an important part of that process: budgeting.
According to Erica, “budgeting is setting an intention for the year, or eventually the next 3, 5, or 10 years. What do we want to accomplish and how are we going to get there? The budget is a manifestation of our values and priorities.”
Erica sees the fun side of Finance in the budgeting project—planning for what we really want and the means to make it happen. She has some advice for ideas that come to employees during the year: “Whenever you have an idea, write it down. When budget time comes, bring up your list.”
The Senior Directors and local Directors of Finance manage budgeting, so employees can contact them about the process in each state or program. Budgeting starts in January and evolves over several months, culminating with approval by the Board of Directors in June to be ready for the start of the new fiscal year each July 1.
Erica notes that “There isn’t anyone who works in finance who is here just as a job. Everybody sees the importance of the work.” Finance shares the values that Erica sees playing out across Aspire. “In every realm of the agency everyone is striving toward making this place better, a better place to work, a better environment in which to support individuals and communities, whether it’s someone in accounts payable or someone working in a group home.”