Friends of the Wissahickon
“Much more clarity plus a partner who’s dedicated to our mission….”
Friends of the Wissahickon has been in existence for almost 75 years to conserve the natural beauty and wildness of the 1,800-acre Wissahickon Valley and to stimulate public interest in preserving the natural beauty of this urban treasure. The nonprofit works to restore historical park structures, eliminate invasive plant species, monitor watershed management issues, and restore trails through the park.
But it has only been in the last dozen years or so that FOW has had a professional staff. During this period, it has grown from a largely volunteer-driven nonprofit with two part-time employees and a $185,000 budget into a $1.2 million operation with 11 FTEs. Sitting in her office in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, Executive Director Maura McCarthy attributes much of that growth to what Your Part-Time Controller has done to build clarity and transparency in its financial systems and apply that knowledge to organizational changes and strategic planning.
“We were trying to keep up with our rapid expansion, but our siloed budgets didn’t speak to everyone,” she recalls. “Our auditor said we couldn’t carry on like this. We looked around and talked to three companies. YPTC had the most comprehensive approach.”
YPTC began working with FOW in 2010 with what McCarthy calls the huge challenge of recreating their accounting systems to meet GAAP standards. Then YPTC staff began training FOW personnel to create clarity and transparency in financial reporting and budgeting.
“As a result of our financial investment in YPTC, we now have one of the best small nonprofit financial accounting systems that I’m aware of,” she says. “We have much more clarity plus a partner who’s dedicated to our mission. YPTC hires great people with solid accounting backgrounds and who have a heart for nonprofit work. We’ve learned to use our budget as a management tool, and to adjust our programs and giving cycles to business fluctuations.”
This increased clarity has been manifested in several ways. Grant reports to funders are now cleaner and in compliance with standards. FOW rearranged its organizational structure to match the chart of accounts to better frame programming and projects. Greater understanding of the organization’s financial reality has enhanced accountability and forward-thinking in strategic planning.
But perhaps the most significant benefit has been the impact on FOW’s 2,000 donors. “We’re supported by a tremendous number of people who are deeply and emotionally invested in this park. Our transparency in our decision-making, and especially in our finances, is really important to them. There is a level of trust with our supporters that we have to honor by being accountable across the board.
“We’re still growing and thinking about how to grow smarter, and our budgeting is a big piece of that,” she adds. “Working with YPTC has been one of the most critical parts of our growth as an organization.”