Interview with Anna DeJesus
Following is the transcript of a CFO Studio interview with financial executive, Anna DeJesus, Director of Finance for Family & Children’s Service of Monmouth County.
Visit www.CFOstudio.com to read about this interview and to watch the entire on-camera interview.
Finance in the Non-Profit Sector
Host: Welcome to CFO Studio. I am your host David Danick. Today we are joined by Anna DeJesus, Director of Finance for Family & Children’s Service of Monmouth County. Anna has a bachelor of science degree and accounting from St. Peter’s College with a concentration in non-profit Grant Accounting. Family & Children’s Service is the oldest non-profit social service agency in Monmouth County caring for 18,000 individuals, underserved individuals I should say, and families annually from children to seniors. Today we will be talking about finance in the non-profit sector. Anna, thanks for joining us, I appreciate you coming by.
DeJesus: Hey David, thank you.
Host: So, for those of our viewers that don’t know what your organization does, can you give us an overview of what they do and who they are.
DeJesus: Sure. We are the oldest non-profit social service agency in Monmouth County. We have several different departments. We have a home health care department that provides home health aids to seniors who can no longer take care of themselves. An adult protective service department, the only one in Monmouth County that helps seniors that are vulnerable who maybe in a bit of a situation where they could be abused in some ways. A repaid program which we utilize SSI moneys to put individual, our clients, might not be able to handle their own budgets, so we do that for them.
Host: That’s great.
Host: I know you have some interesting names for some of your programs. Operation Sleighbells, Reading Buddies, tell me about some of those.
DeJesus: Sure, Operation Sleighbells is actually going on now. It’s a great program, it provides toys, clothing, we even provide some gift cards for the parents of children. That is going on as we speak. Obviously, during the Christmas Season.
DeJesus: Kids Core, is another part of what we call the rsvp department, and that basically offers opportunities for young, usually teenagers, for volunteer situations that we can place them in. And Reading Buddies is also another program where seniors go into slightly under privileged schools and actually read to children and spread literacy amongst young students.
Host: So you really are running the whole gamut from young children to seniors.
DeJesus: We are.
Host: Fantastic. So obviously you have some unique names for your programs. What do you think is the most unique feature of the organization and its mission.
DeJesus: Sure. I think that we are in most incidences, the sole agency that provides a lot of our programs in Monmouth County. Without us, our clients would have no where else to turn to. So it’s extremely unique because there are not any other agencies in Monmouth County that provides some of the services that we do.
Host: So there is absolutely no duplication of services.
DeJesus: There is not.
Host: That’s interesting.
DeJesus: There is no duplication of services.
DeJesus: Not in Monmouth County.
Host: Interesting. How do you think the role of CFO differs in the not for profit world versus the for profit.
DeJesus: In many ways it’s similar, on the level of reporting finances. As my role to be sure that the agency is fiscally sound. Management of revenue and expenses, that’s all very similar to what a CFO does in for profit.
Host: But your not just a rear view compliance officer.
DeJesus: No. I am not. I like to say that I’m “in the trenches” so to speak, in the non-profit world. My goal is to keep this agency fiscally sound so we could continue to serve our clients. I don’t have to worry about the bottom line so to speak for making sure our stock holders get a dividend at the end of the year.
Host: Where everyone is getting giant bonuses?
DeJesus: Correct. That’s not something that is one of my goals. I have to be sure that this agency stays in a position where we could continue to operate. Absolutely.
Host: What do you think the steps are, or the most important steps, I guess, that a CFO can take to have the greatest positive influence within their non-profit organization? I’m sure there is a bunch, but pick your top ones.
DeJesus: There are. When I first came to the agency, I came in 2011, there was very little if any, communication between the CFO and the department managers and directors. There were no reports. I think that’s extremely important. A lot of our managers and directors of our departments are nurses, social workers. They are not business people. So it’s important for me, as the head of the finances, is to explain to them, how their departments are not only doing but also how to keep everyone solvent. So that’s a big important factor.
Host: So you really took everyone out of their individual bubble and said “hey we are going to work cohesively, collectively as a team“?
Host: So the overall goals of the organization can be realized.
DeJesus: That’s correct.
Host: This might be a little bit of a difficult question, I’m not sure because I’m sure there are many purposes of the organization but what do you think is the ultimate purpose of your organization?
DeJesus: I think it is to provide the best service possible to our clients. And for me personally, to keep the agency fiscally sound so that it could keep on operating.
Host: Right, I know when we spoke briefly before there was a story about a gentleman, would you mind telling that story?
DeJesus: Sure. He is actually one of our repayee clients.
Host: And if you could, not to interrupt but explain repayee again.
DeJesus: Sure, repayee is a program where SSI dollars, SSI being social security dollars, are managed by our agency. Our client does not even receive the funding it comes directly to our agency, where the director of that department, she budgets that money so that their rent is paid, their utilities all of their bills are paid in a timely fashion.
DeJesus: Then at the end of the day, they do get some spending money and there is one particular client who repayee, I believe he was referred to our agency. He had really hit rock bottom. He had been evicted from his apartment, had lost his family, his car and within a short while he was obviously put back on track with this program, his landlord was assured that he would be paying his rent and all of his bills. Within a period of time, he was actually saving some of his repayee dollars.
Host: Maybe you should work with the rest of us in the country to help us save.
Host: No but the fact really is amazing that not only were able to act as an advocate for him, with his landlord, let’s say, and help pay all his bills, but actually have some left over, even after he had a little fun maybe with some spending money, to save is fantastic.
DeJesus: It is. And I think it just makes these clients feel so much better about themselves with our help. And this particular program Repayee is growing.
Host: That’s fantastic. That sounds great.
DeJesus: Yeah, it is. It’s growing.
Host: Cool. How would you characterize, you seem like a very friendly person, would you characterize your management style as aggressive, tough. You explain it.
DeJesus: Sure. I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. I try to be fair and honest. I can be direct. I like to get to the point, especially with finances. What I strive to do is show a path. When I came to Family and Children Services we clearly needed to get from point A to point B. It’s a strategic plan. I think by showing that path, to management, CEO, the board, that is a way that I think is extremely important to just survive.
Host: Having that strategic plan is obviously is important, being fiscally responsible is important, so you can again realize the organization’s goals. Every now and again I am sure you get thrown a curve ball out of left field. How do you handle something like that?
DeJesus: We just actually experienced such a curve ball in the recent disaster. We have a thrift store, it’s not in the same location as the agency, it’s in Long Branch. We actually had lost everything in the thrift store due to the recent disaster. The building itself, we leased the building, wound up with over 5 feet of water. So that’s the kind of thing that can certainly throw a curve ball.
Host: So how did you account for, I am guessing there was some lost revenue. Obviously you had to put the store physically back together. How are you able to do that?
DeJesus: That process is actually going on right now. Certainly the avenue is to go through the insurance, and we certainly had insurance. Also, due to the lost revenue, we were able to possibly say to ourselves, okay we could recoup some of that through the insurance and going forward we said we are not going to pay the rent, we were able to hold back on some of our expenses. Unfortunately, we had to loose one of our employees, but in the meantime, our goal is to open back up, as soon as possible.
Host: Rehire that person.
DeJesus: Correct, that’s our main goal and then to come back. And it’s a good thing that there is a strategic plan in place, because things like this can happen. And, not that we have a lot of extra revenue, but certainly enough to get us through without the thrift store.
Host: You sound like your are very positive thinking numbers person. So in other words, some people could say, the thrift store is down, too bad let’s close it for a while, but your goal was, no, we have to get this back open.
DeJesus: Absolutely, and we will.
Host: What do you enjoy most about your role as Director of Finance? And what lead you to this role within this particular organization?
DeJesus: Within family and children.
DeJesus: It was a very, not a strange situation, a unique situation, where, I was at a point in my life, where my children were grown and certainly I have a great career, but I wanted to give back to the community in some way. So I was just in the process of actually reaching out to a few, non-profit organizations, to see if there were any opportunities for me to volunteer on some level, either offer my business sense or even, I was actually reaching out for children and young mothers and I got a call at this time from one of the directors at Family and Children Services who I had worked with previously and she said to me “would you consider coming to Family and Children and being possibly the Director of Finance?” So it all kind of meshed where I feel that I am servicing the community in an even bigger way. I mean to over 18,000 clients. It was a great opportunity and that’s how my path came here.
Host: That’s fantastic. I’m sure that doing all this good, obviously it feels good and it’s good for you and it feels good for the organization and the people you serve, but it’s got to take a lot out of you. At the end of the day, you go home, do you have a nice relaxing glass of wine, how do you relax at the end of the day.
DeJesus: I do have a glass of wine.
Host: It does take a lot out of you.
DeJesus: It is.
Host: And to be able to do it like you said, day in and day out.
DeJesus: It’s challenging, but it’s a good challenge. I go home at the end of the day, my children are grown, so it’s kind of an empty nest, my husband and I tend to have dinner together. I love to cook, if I don’t get home too late, at night I will cook, if not I do a lot of that on the weekend. I try to relax, just unwind, have a nice dinner. I love old movies, watch a movie on tv, and then try to keep my eyes open.
Host: And get your head clear. And go back and do it again the next day.
DeJesus: And go back and do it again, correct.
Host: You do fantastic work and it’s a pleasure to see and talk to a CFO that not only counts numbers, but is very forward thinking, positive, thinks out of the box, and comes up with positive solutions to keep everyone as happy as you can keep them. Hey, I really appreciate you coming by. Thank you so much.
DeJesus: Thank you, my pleasure.
Host: Hope to see you again.
DeJesus: I would love to. Thanks David.
Host: Your welcome. This is David Danick with Anna DeJesus. Thanks for watching CFO Studio. See you again soon.