WOMEN AGAINST ABUSE CFO WINS AWARD
“We have a pretty complicated funding stream…”


Chris Stevens
Christine Stevens
Director of Finance

At Your Part-Time Controller, we’re not only proud of the work we do for our nonprofit clients, we’re equally proud of the fine work they do in fulfilling their missions. And when one of our clients is recognized for exceptional performance, we’re doubly proud of someone who is truly giving something back to the community.

So it was when we learned in July, 2013 that Christine Stevens, Director of Finance at Women Against Abuse, had been chosen by the Philadelphia Business Journal as the winner of its prestigious CFO of the Year Award in the nonprofit category. Stevens was recognized for helping the organization double its budget from $4 million in 2008 to $8 million today while reigning in excessive costs, changing the corporate culture regarding finances, and simplifying financial reports so directors could more effectively gauge their expenses.

And not, we might add, without a little help from YPTC.

“I strive to do more than just manage numbers,” Stevens says. “I seek to create a whole culture of fiscal responsibility and accountability within the organization.”

Holding both a master’s degree in accounting and an MBA from Northeastern University, Stevens began her career as an auditor for PriceWaterhouseCoopers and transitioned to the private sector working for entrepreneurial fast growing companies. After a successful career of 20+ years, Stevens yearned to try her hand running her own company. She opened and operated an award-winning retail store but fell victim to the recession, and closed the store in 2008. It was at that point that she took some time to determine what she wanted to do. “I was figuring out what my strengths are and I wanted to give something back for a mission-based organization. This opportunity came up and it was perfect.”

She took her expertise, which she calls the ability to “organize chaos,” to Women Against Abuse in 2008.

At the time, the organization’s finances were, she recalls, “kind of a mess.” There was no CFO and most of the accounting work was outsourced. Reports were not being provided on time, budgets weren’t being done, invoices were often late, and program directors were uninformed about best practices. The organization was operating at a deficit and hadn’t had a clean audit in several years.

Women Against Abuse recognized the deficiencies, upgraded the position to CFO status, initiated a search, and selected Stevens for her management skills to get things organized.

“For a medium-sized agency we have a pretty complicated funding stream,” she explains. “We allocate staff to over 100 cost centers, and our funding changes every month as old grants expire and new ones are received. We have to allocate staff to these grants. And each of our funders has its own set of regulations and requirements.”

In 2010, Stevens reached out to Elizabeth Williams, who had been an auditor on the Women Against Abuse audit team, for assistance. Williams introduced Stevens to Your Part-Time Controller and today serves as YPTC’s Associate who, along with several managers, have assisted the nonprofit over the years.

“We had an Excel system that was not very complex. YPTC basically just exploded it and gave us a much more sophisticated system that gives me the ability to manage grants on a pay-by-pay basis, to do all sorts of what-if scenarios, and to focus on matching budgets to actuals. It’s been a great tool,” Stevens says.

“Elizabeth hit the ground running and I couldn’t be happier.”

The results have been nothing short of remarkable. A faster billing cycle has increased cash flow and cut debt. After operating at a deficit of several hundred thousand dollars a year and failing to receive a clean audit several years running, Women Against Abuse now enjoys a modest net operating surplus and has received clean audits four years in a row. The audits are published in annual reports to ensure fiscal transparency and to inspire donor confidence. Funders have given the organization glowing accolades.

In addition to developing the new tool for tracking and allocating payroll costs, including a 17-page step-by-step guide with screenshots, YPTC helped develop new reports for senior managers that clearly outline their areas of financial responsibility. YPTC also created a Finance 101 curriculum and offsite training in YPTC’s computer lab for all senior managers with financial management tools specific to each manager’s department.

The improved accountability for all grant dollars, staff training and the enhanced capability of the new payroll allocation tool has resulted in more efficient management of payroll costs, better adherence to funders’ requirements, and improved opportunities for new awards and sustainability. Timely access to data is enabling management to manage finances proactively and prepare better forecasts and budgets.

WAA Logo.jpgFounded in 1976 as a part-time hotline run from a women’s center, Women Against Abuse has grown into a full-scale domestic violence services agency and advocacy center seeking to improve outcomes for domestic violence survivors through systems change and strategic initiatives. The organization is experiencing an exponential expansion of its work, including emergency shelter services, education, aftercare programs, and a new behavioral health component. With the addition of a second emergency safe haven slated for the end of the year, the organization is poised to serve more than 15,000 individuals each year.

“Stevens is not only our CFO, but she is a highly valued member of the Executive Management Team and often contributes creative solutions and ideas that are well beyond the realm of financial management,” says Jeannine Lisitski, Executive Director. “Most importantly, she holds high ethical standards, a strong work commitment and a deep passion for and dedication to the mission of Women Against Abuse.”

Stevens is justifiably proud of the recognition – as are we! – but is quick to note that it’s been a team effort. “It was very exciting. I was thrilled to be nominated and very satisfied to have been recognized, but it’s really been the work of the entire staff and Your Part-Time Controller and an attitude that’s been embraced by the entire organization. I can’t do it all myself.”



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