Case Study: Partnering with a Mission-Driven Organization

by | Jun 7, 2023

The mission of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, St. Louis Chapter (AAFA-STL), is about as simple and meaningful as you could come up with. Their tagline states: We help children breathe.

Specifically, the organization has been serving St. Louis for 40 years providing resources, education, and support to serve those affected by asthma and allergies. 

As their website puts it, 

AAFA-STL, a United Way Agency, has been a leading resource for those with asthma and allergies in the St. Louis community for almost 40 years.  AAFA-STL’s medical assistance program, BREATH, provides uninsured and underinsured children with life-saving asthma and allergy medications, equipment, education, and support while our RESCUE program provides equipment and medication to schools. Our educational programs and advocacy also reach families, schools, and nurses all over Missouri and Illinois.

Behind the Scenes at Every Mission

Every mission exists for a specific purpose. AAFA-STL is no different, as their clearly stated tagline points out. However, the reality of building a sustainable non-profit is that much attention is spent on tasks and responsibilities outside of the mission. 

A healthy nonprofit requires leadership, marketing, structure, and of course financial stability to make the impact it sets out to make.

The financial piece of this is the mission of The Charity CFO. 

At the Charity CFO, we have a similarly clear focus, as stated on our website: “You focus on your mission, let us worry about the books. We give you expert bookkeeping and accounting support to help your nonprofit thrive.”

So for AAFA-STL, a partnership with The Charity CFO was a natural step to support their continued growth and dedication to the mission. 

In this case study, you’ll see how The Charity CFO can support a nonprofit, and the specific goals and focus their work unlocks in an organization like AAFA-STL. 

Leading the Mission

Before implementing services as The Charity CFO provides, a nonprofit organization starts with leadership. At AAFA-STL, Chris Martinez serves as the Executive Director and has plenty of responsibilities to keep the mission on track.

Martinez has been in the role of Executive Director since 2019, and said he is at his best when he’s able to, “be an inch deep and a mile wide.” This approach allows Martinez to stay above all aspects of the organization without being bogged down in small details that can be delegated to the team or a partner. 

His focus as the Executive Director breaks down into three critical segments:

  1. Results
  2. Relationships
  3. Resources

Results: Ensuring success and value in programs

First and foremost, a nonprofit is about the mission. To help kids breathe requires specific programs and responsibilities to be carried out. 

For Martinez as the executive director, his goal is to ensure this is happening as it should.

“At the forefront of what I do is really making sure that our programs are impactful for communities and kids,” he said. “So my focus really should be on making sure that the work we’re doing is driving real, sustainable results.”

Relationships: The core to nonprofit success

For the mission to succeed, however, there is more happening than a dedicated focus to programming. For a nonprofit to thrive, there needs to be growth in a network of partners and collaborators.

Martinez sees this as a strength and something he desires to put a lot of energy into.

“It’s always about strengthening existing relationships, building new relationships,” he said. “This is what I am usually trying to focus on, whether it’s a phone call, coffee meeting, or flying across the country.”

There is no replacement for the relationship-building work, but Martinez acknowledges that it takes a lot of time. With his time as an executive director so invested in results and relationships, the need for strong systems to cover the rest is paramount. 

Resources: Why finance is crucial to the mission

Finally, as executive director, Martinez is responsible for making sure all the bills are paid and there is enough donations and cash flow to cover the programming.

“I have to make sure we can resource all that work for building relationships and growing programs,” he said. “So I have to have an understanding of the funds coming in so we can continue to grow what we’re doing.”

Essentially the focus on programs and results is dependent on the financial function. Whether it’s understanding the funds available or simply having the confidence to focus on relationships, finance is the driver.

The Problem

Unfortunately, when the financial system is not built for scale, it pulls the executive director into a position of spending time on financial minutiae. 

The mission thrives when time is spent on programs and relationships. When that time gets shifted into day-to-day tasks or anxiety over funds, the mission suffers.

Martinez recognized this as AAFA-STL, and as the organization started to grow, he knew he needed a financial partner built for scale.

“We were really positioned to grow, and needed additional financial bandwidth,” he said. “What we found with The Charity CFO is a financial partner who understands our industry and provides a scalable structure.”

 

“What we found with The Charity CFO is a financial partner who understands our industry and provides a scalable structure.”

The Importance of a Trusted Financial Partner 

Leadership requires looking forward. If you’re only looking backward, you become reactive and have no ability to drive specific results for an organization. 

But for a leader to have the ability to look forward requires the proper kind of support. There are two specific requirements needed to take a big-picture view and chart a path into the future:

  1. Time and Mental Clarity: If you are drowning in tasks, and struggling to keep your head above water, you’ll never lead. Your time will be spent keeping busy and maintaining the status quo. Leadership requires the ability to see a big-picture view of the organization and the time to think through where things are versus where they should be.
  2. Forecasted Data: It’s one thing to create a vision of the future, but another entirely to bring that future into reality. This requires data to outline what resources are needed to reach the destination. 

The Charity CFO partnership with Chris and AAFA-STL ultimately provides this leadership ability. By handling the finance functions and providing clarity in data, The Charity CFO affords Martinez the ability to look forward instead of backward. 

Stress-free delegation

The time and mental clarity gained by Martinez requires trust in his partners. This is his natural leadership style for employees as well as partners. So the relationship with The Charity CFO is an ideal fit — he allows them to do what they do best and trusts them to provide the financials he needs.

“Having a partner in TCCFO who we can really delegate and throw something to lean on their expertise is critical,” he said. “Because we don’t have the time or bandwidth to get into the weeds, so their knowledge and reliability are paramount to what we’re trying to do.”

The Charity CFO’s knowledge and reliability are paramount to what we’re trying to do.”

Budgeting for multiple scenarios

When you are trying to look forward as a leader, the biggest challenge is the unpredictability of business. You can make all the plans and strategies you want, but in the end, reality may have a different idea. 

The key is being able to make sound decisions when things fail to meet or even exceed your expectations. 

That’s why Martinez worked with The Charity CFO to map out financial budgets for multiple scenarios for the upcoming year based on the potential for expansion. In one scenario where new state contracts are secured, the organization is scaling rapidly, and in another, it’s more incremental.

“We’re about a $1 Million organization that’s getting ready to be a $5-$6 Million organization because of the expansion. And so this year, we essentially had to write two budgets.” Martinez said. “This allows us to communicate with our team and board a framework for our goals based on what it would look like if we needed to prepare for exponential growth.” 

Confidence in reporting data

As a nonprofit executive director, the fundamentals of compliance and reporting are a consistent priority. So the partnership with The Charity CFO starts with a depth of confidence in the reporting for the board, for compliance requirements, and for day-to-day financial visibility.

“The Charity CFO came right in and provided the kind of reporting requested by our board,” Martinez said. “Then they were also able to provide financial metrics and a dashboard with a high-level view of our crucial numbers at any given time. This is very important.”

A Partner for Scaling the Mission

We help children breathe. 

The mission is very clear for AAFA-STL. So the focus now is to keep an eye on the programs and expand the reach so an increasing number of children can be impacted.

With The Charity CFO, Martinez has a financial partner to help him focus on bringing that vision into reality. 

“Having a direct relationship with our team at The Charity CFO is critical,” Martinez said. “As we’re growing, we have people who are trained and understand our goals and business. They are always ready to serve and easy to reach.”

Does your mission need a financial partner?

At The Charity CFO, our goal is to help mission-minded nonprofits do what they do best. We help with accounting, bookkeeping, and CFO-level support to give you the financial tools you need to grow and serve more people. Want to learn more? Contact us here for a consultation.

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