The Changing Role of the Financial Professional Part III: Critical Skills for Accounting Leaders

Welcome back to our three-part series on the Changing Role of the Financial Professional. In Part I, we looked at what’s driving changes. In Part II, we looked at just one of those changes, automation, and how it can be used to your advantage. In Part III, we’ll look at how the evolving role of technology is changing the critical skills needed for accountants and what skills organizations look for among its finance and accounting leadership.

Automation Changes Everything

As we’ve seen in Parts I and II, automation changes everything in both the for-profit and not for profit world. Automation enables organizations to save time, streamline processes, and access real-time data. Cloud-based finance and accounting systems, fundraising and donor management systems, and new grant management software enable organizations to simplify and automate many processes.

Organizations that once tracked grant applications using cumbersome spreadsheets, for example, can now use grant management systems to monitor applications, resources shared across grant applications, deadlines, and status of grants. What was once a complicated process that involved plenty of cross-referencing links in multiple documents can now be accomplished easily through one central database.

The same goes for accounting and financial management software for nonprofits, such as Abila MIP Fund Accounting, which can track revenue, expenses, and margin to ensure that funding meets demand for program services. With such automation at your fingertips, you can spend the time you used to take to manually update systems to work with program directors and others on their budget needs as well as other projects.

The Skills You Need to Succeed in Today’s Nonprofit Accounting World

Given that automation takes over many of the tasks accounting and financial professionals once performed in the nonprofit workplace, what skills are now in high demand?

  • Data analysis: The ability to analyze data and offer insights offers many opportunities for accounting professionals to lead in the context of nonprofit decision making. Not everyone can review financial data and understand the ramifications of specific decisions, for example. An accounting and financial professional can offer invaluable advice and insight into data found in the financial systems and guide others based on that information.
  • Communications: It’s not just the ability to review and interpret crucial financial information. Accounting leaders must articulate their findings to non-financial professionals, especially in the context of nonprofit leadership. Board meetings, constituent meetings, internal staff meetings and other places where financial information comes under scrutiny require an accounting and finance professional who can explain to the average person exactly what the data means and its impact upon the organization.
  • People skills: “People skills” are often thought of as secondary ‘soft skills’ in the accounting and finance world. But emotional intelligence, cultural intelligence, and other people skills set leaders apart from the rest. They help professionals lead with compassion and empathy, and motivate and inspire others to achieve their best. Today’s nonprofit accounting and financial leaders must have strong people skills to achieve success with their teams.
  • Technical abilities: You may work for a large organization with a dedicated IT department or a small nonprofit where you are the IT department. In both cases, you’ll still need technical abilities to navigate new software, assist with software selection, and utilize your current systems to their fullest capacity. Nonprofit accounting and finance leaders must have at least passing familiarity with the current slate of software available to help manage all aspects of finance and accounting, including membership, donations, grants, and more.

The nonprofit world’s technology evolves alongside that of its for-profit business counterparts. With the ever-expanding array of technology available to nonprofit accounting and finance leaders, all skills – quantitative, qualitative, and management skills – will be needed to help organizations remain cutting-edge and relevant for years to come.

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Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.