A career in accounting can take you anywhere—because accountants are needed everywhere. And that includes the charity—that is, the not-for-profit—world. We caught up with Kim Kim Moran, the COO at Unicef, to get the scoop on what it's like to be an accountant in the not-for-profit world.
Well, the not-for-profit sector—the charity sector—their aim is for good, but the most important thing is that many of them are very large businesses. Their top-line revenues are very large. UNICEF is close to $100 million per year. So, it’s absolutely crucial that you have senior financial management when you're dealing with that much revenue. As well as, when a donor gives you a dollar, their expectation is that you spend it wisely. So that’s where a CA can come into play, because they can understand the best way to run an efficient and effective organization.
Well, the accounting skills that people learn as a CA are completely transferable betweem the not-for-profit sector and the for-profit sector. It’s the same basic skills. So really it’s a question of choice. Is it something you’re passionate about, whether if it’s a charity or a for-profit?
I had left a position in the private sector. And I was looking for something different. A different range of experience for myself. And I saw the opportunity for UNICEF and I went and talked to them, and I hadn’t really been motivated to [work for] not-for-profits before then. I didn’t know very much about it, I hadn’t done a lot of research. And when I got to talking to them, I realized what a tremendous opportunity for me, because I was attracted to the mission.
And UNICEF has a tremendous brand name—and I knew about it. I knew what its work was. The second part is what could I add to the not-for-profit: Traditionally, there haven’t been a lot of businesspeople who've been attracted to that sector, and I could add the skills that I gained in the for-profit industry to make it more efficient and effective.
Hm. I come from a very senior position, so my day in the life might be very different from a CA entering the field.
The typical activity for somebody in accounting in a not-for-profit area is preparation of monthly financial statements. Insuring processes are effective and efficient, monitoring purchasing, for efficiency. Providing analytical support to others in the organization, making decisions about where to invest, where to invest, that’s probably the major thing.