As part of our mission to introduce the Adams County Library System to the Gettysburg Connection readers, several staff members—including me—were asked to introduce ourselves and write about our job duties.
Hi, I’m Jeff, I’m the Finance Director at the library (aka the accountant).
Right now, half of the readers’ eyes glaze over as they move on to the next article. That’s OK, I’m not sure I’d be too excited to learn how an accountant spends his day at work either. But it’s an important position, crucial to the continued operation of the library, and it’s worth considering the types of financial issues Adams County nonprofits face.
It would be easy to create a laundry-list of duties, I could cut and paste my job description, but then readers would truly would fall asleep. Plus, the list includes all the things you would probably come up with on your own if you gave it a couple of minutes of thought: Budgeting, banking funds, paying bills, and monthly reports to the Board of Trustees. On the org chart, I’m a shop of one, but I get invaluable support from Vicki Frist, one of our administrative assistants.
The rest of my ‘financial team’ is the organization’s Finance Committee. This includes library senior management and the officers of the Board. I bring all major financial decisions—with backup data—to this group at our once-a-month committee meeting, or via email if a decision is time-sensitive. We discuss and deliberate, and ultimately decide on what we believe is the correct course of action for the organization. Most significant financial decisions go to the Board of Trustees for a vote.
The stereotypical image of a local nonprofit is a cash-strapped organization scraping beneath the car seats looking for enough change to keep the operation afloat. For some nonprofits, things are truly that bad, but for many, the library system included, careful planning and thrifty operations are what’s needed to thrive. This highlights one of my important but unscheduled duties—analysis. Because I’ve been managing finances for small-to-midsized businesses for over twenty years, a filter runs in my brain 24/7. I constantly visit Excel to run spreadsheets to verify or debunk common financial assumptions. This ongoing attention helps us continually nibble away at waste. This includes contracting utility providers, sourcing the best-value health insurance plans, and finding the best auditor or janitorial service for the best price.
Another key aspect of my job is managing our investments—not deciding which securities we purchase, third party brokers do that, but that we use the proceeds correctly. The library system has fourteen different investment accounts, each with a specific purpose. Some provide targeted income to help the company operate, and some fund specific purchases. The most interesting of these is our named endowment fund. That one investment vehicle includes 227 separate named endowments, each with directions specified by the donor on how the income should be used. Many of these funds purchase library materials (e.g. DVDs, or children’s books, or legal thrillers, or dozens of other specific topics), and some of our endowments fund scholarships or author visits, or building expenses or technology. Think of that, hundreds of donors have formed lasting legacy funds to help the library operate.
Another key duty is serving as the treasurer for the Friends of Adams County Library. This is a wholly separate nonprofit with the mission to raise funds for the library. For the Friends, I also track income and expenses, prepare budgets and help out at fundraisers and our annual book sale held every July.
I don’t fool myself. I know my job doesn’t come across as interesting as the guy in the next office. He gets to decide which books and programs the library will provide for you. But it makes me happy that I can support such a great cause while earning my livelihood.