Wildlife Habitat Council
"...move the new system towards an excited acceptance..."
Headquartered in Silver Spring, Md., and with regional offices in Tucson, Denver, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Houston, and Chicago/NW Indiana, the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) promotes and certifies habitat conservation and management on working lands through partnerships and education. The WHC builds partnerships with corporations and conservation groups to create solutions that balance the demands of economic growth with the requirements of a healthy, biodiverse and sustainable environment.
Formed in 1988, WHC was the first organization to bring together conservation and business interests to create voluntary wildlife habitat enhancement and conservation education programs. Council-assisted programs are found in corporate and community settings in 45 states, the District of Columbia and 12 other countries. Through its focus on building collaborations for conservation, programs focus on creating and sustaining healthy ecosystems and connected communities.
When Margaret O’Gorman was named WHC’s President, she found an organization whose financial recording and reporting systems were in need of significant restructuring. Fortunately, she was already familiar with Your Part-Time Controller from her previous position as the Executive Director of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. “I had engaged YPTC back in 2008-2009, and when I moved down here I remembered that Eric had opened a D.C. office, so I reached out to him,” she says.
Since the spring of 2014, YPTC Associate Ed Szrom has been busily restructuring the Council’s financial recording and reporting systems. “I knew how much work was needed to get our structures in order and Ed has managed to do this,” she notes. “I expected no less from someone from YPTC but Ed has brought something additional to the project that has ensured its success.”
O’Gorman points to four specific factors that have made YPTC’s engagement particularly beneficial. Szrom has been a valuable mentor and stepped in to train Linda Duvall, the Council’s new CFO. She had been second-in-command when the previous CFO left after some 20 years and had to take over the reins midstream. “Ed’s coaching through this transition has had a great impact on both Linda’s confidence and her abilities. He’s helped her to understand the bits and pieces she had not been involved with before,” says O’Gorman.
Each of the Council’s programs has a separate budget manager, and Szrom’s interactions with them have allowed them to explore the limits of the new system, express their confusion, and suggest improvements. “He’s managed to keep each manager engaged and has really helped to move the new system towards an excited acceptance.”
WHC’s Board of Directors includes many senior-level people, from very large corporations, who are accustomed to working with budgets of great complexity. “They are very smart, very knowledgeable, and very engaged individuals from the business world. They are all quite interested,” she says, “and they ask very direct questions. Ed’s obvious comfort with his subject and high level of knowledge helped move them from a group who constantly questioned the finances to a group that is now eager to make sure we have the best reports possible and that is thrilled with the transformation.”
Finally, the transition after losing a CFO with such long tenure was challenging. “Ed’s manner is such that he brought much-needed calm to an area undergoing substantial change,” she says.
“Restructuring something as important as a nonprofit’s financial reports is a difficult task, and not something you take lightly,” she adds. “I’m glad that we were able to get YPTC to help us get through it.”