If you’ve read the Valley Outreach Annual Impact Report, you know we manage a $3 million budget annually to do the work of our mission. Valley Outreach offers a broad range of support to people in need— food, clothing or help navigating resources. All our services are available free of charge.
Sandra Carlson, Valley Outreach’s Director of Finance & Administration, is responsible for helping Valley Outreach make sound financial decisions. She ensures we can meet rising needs for our services and be a stable place for people to get help.
Questions and Answers with Sandra
There are so many things about working here that I enjoy. The general culture of the staff and volunteers is probably what I most enjoy. The team shows up every day ready to do their jobs with enthusiasm and energy. It’s wonderful to be a part of that.
It’s important for people to know that a nonprofit is a business. We must manage the entirety of our operations – including staff, building maintenance and IT support – to be successful in serving our clients. Here are a couple examples for people to consider:
– Some people think a nonprofit should keep cash balances at a very low level. While nonprofits do not have a goal of making money for stakeholders, they should have reasonable cash balances in the bank to prepare for the unexpected (ahem, a global pandemic, perhaps?) Nonprofits, like Valley Outreach, often have a reserves policy and commit to maintaining cash balances that are usually 3 to 6 months of operating expenses. This allows for future planning and sustainability through unexpected changes in the economy.
– Restricted donations and grants, while helpful, can also create challenges for a growing organization. For example, Valley Outreach is a social services organization and relies on skilled staff for delivery of services. When we receive large restricted grants and donations to purchase food or clothing, the cost of staffing must then come from other sources of funding. General operating financial gifts allow our team to make financial decisions that support our greatest need.
I have been fortunate to be at Valley Outreach during a time of growth, both in programs and in hiring staff to support the programs. So often the finance person is the one left to say, “That’s not in the budget, we can’t do that.” Thanks to the generosity of our donors and funders and wise budgeting decisions, working at Valley Outreach has allowed me to be the finance person who can say, “Well, that’s not in the budget, but here is how we can make it happen anyway.” I am so happy that I have been able to help build the staff team in a way that focuses on the areas of greatest need.
Learn more about Valley Outreach’s finances – including our annual financial audit and IRS 990 – our Annual Reports page.