Digital Transformation » Technology » Corporate CFOs navigating a global crisis: lessons from a non-profit

Corporate CFOs navigating a global crisis: lessons from a non-profit

Thresa Giles, the CFO of Pace Centre for Girls discusses how her team navigated uncertainty and created a self-monitoring tool proving that when faced with adversity, innovation can lead to success

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, organisations had to re-evaluate their day-to-day operations; not-for-profit (NPO) Pace Centre for Girls was no exception.

Thresa Giles, CFO at Pace, recently told the World Finance Forum that while the organisation’s primary focus was the well-being of hundreds of girls across the US, the finance function had to “innovate or die”.

Pace operates across three states in the US at 25 different locations. Giles oversees the organisations’ finance, treasury management, compliance risk, ethics, and construction teams.

Speaking at the WFF, Giles explained how her team navigated a “trifecta of disasters” during the pandemic: a deadly virus, social and racial unrest, and economic uncertainty.

“With any disaster, there are always the results or consequences of the disaster, whether it is a change in consumer demand, whether it be positive or negative. We had a disruptive supply chain, staff shortages, and a change in our work environment,” says Giles.

Navigating uncertainty

The economic downturn means now more than ever CFOs have an added task to change mindsets and quell fears around job security and looming layoffs.

This year has seen layoffs cost tens of thousands of workers their jobs, particularly in the tech sector. The workforce reductions have been driven by some of the biggest names in tech, including Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Zoom. Startups have also announced cuts across sectors.

This, along with the recent turmoil in the banking sector and the mooted recession, means the uncertainty continues, and CFOs have the added responsibility of changing mindsets and alleviating fears related to job security and potential layoffs.

For Giles and her team, during the pandemic, they had to take proactive measures to help employees feel supported and valued during this challenging time.

“We committed to all our employees, that they would not lose their jobs; we would not lay them off; we would not close our doors. Now, fortunately, we were able to make that commitment,” said Giles, adding that leadership at the board level had also laid the groundwork to make this possible.

Changing mindsets for innovation

Strategies to ensure employees were less focused on job security and uncertainty meant they could now focus on innovation, Giles continued.

“We started thinking about how we can refocus our team, their mindset had changed, and we can now focus on innovation.”

Giles recalled late economist Peter Drucker, noting ‘if you do not innovate, you die’.

“If we die, then we can’t help our girls. So, our team came back together. And what took place during this time was that their minds were focused on what we could innovate,” she said.

Giles explained her team was able to create a self-monitoring tool that would benefit the organisation and allow the finance team to review 100% of all indicators company wide.

“What that means is that we can now stay 100% compliant with all regulatory and operational laws with one tool. Pace is highly regulated, as we receive 70% of our funding from the federal and state governments,” Giles said.

“And if you have anything to do with the federal government, you know that the laws change every time we pour a cup of coffee.”


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