Brian Swartz hit the ground running when he became Apollo Group Inc.’s senior vice president and chief financial officer in 2009.
Just prior to his joining Apollo, the company had discovered a stock option backdating issue. Swartz, along with Apollo’s president and chief operating officer, Joe D’Amico, led a comprehensive overhaul of the governance practice at the company. It included hiring a general counsel, upgrading the effectiveness of the internal audit function and establishing a chief ethics compliance officer.
As part of resolving the backdating issue, Swartz also performed a detailed review of Apollo’s historical account balances. He identified a variety of adjustments that were included in a Securities Exchange Commission restatement in 2007. The SEC accepted the submission of this review without further changes or censure of the company. These actions helped Apollo to avoid being de-listed on the NASDAQ, thus saving shareholders billions of dollars. Swartz credits the support of his colleagues and board members with his success.
“It’s all about building relationships … and trusting people, and making sure you have full access to information and data in order to make business decisions,” he said.
Due to the state’s budget problems, the Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC) has seen its funding reduced by 21 percent. But under business director Barbara Thompson, West-MEC has been able to significantly increase its service to member districts and purchased three major land and building holdings. In addition, West-MEC, which provides career and technical education to high school students in the West Valley, has increased its employee count by 100 percent.
Thompson has kept West-MEC financially solvent through careful financial planning, budgeting and working closely with all staff and member districts. Currently, West-MEC receives 78 percent of the formula funding as provided by state statute. The state Legislature has, through its budget process, continued to cut funding to education districts. Thanks to Thompson, however, West-MEC has so far managed not to cut any student programs or support functions.
Another Thompson innovation is the development of a system that will result in each department having the ability to better manage its portion of the budget. Before Thompson’s arrival, all financial decisions were made within West-MEC’s superintendent and business offices.
In his three years as chief financial officer for the Arizona Community Foundation, Paul Velaski’s work has often taken him out of the financial sphere.
Along with managing the accounting, finance, budgeting and financial reporting functions of the $470 million foundation, Velaski also is very active in the fundraising area, something not typical of most nonprofit CFOs. He has successfully rebuilt trust with significant donors, giving them a more positive view of the foundation.
“I enjoy solving complex issues that we are presented with almost daily, while still making sure our organization fulfills our mission by matching our donors’ philanthropic desires with the needs of the community,” he said.
Velaski has assembled a team of accounting and financial professionals that has changed internal processes to ensure the timely recording of contributions, proper accounting of complex transactions and accurate reporting of financial information to internal and external constituencies. Velaski and his team have had two consecutive external audits with no audit adjustments or management letters issued. The transparency Velaski has brought to the foundation has created trust with current and prospective donors, resulting in more assets for the organization.
It’s been a busy five years for Dale Wanek, chief financial officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix. Under his stewardship, the organization has nearly doubled its assets; reduced overall expenses in the last fiscal year by $300,000; opened three new clubhouses; and achieved 100 percent clean audits, with zero discrepancies.
“It is often said that nonprofits should be ‘run like a business.’ With our emphasis on transparency and adherence to practices, I like to think we run better than a business,” Wanek said.
Along with other senior staff members, area directors and club managers, Wanek was instrumental in helping club locations monitor spending and reduce energy costs. He also opened new revenue streams, entering a lucrative agreement with a mobile phone company to place cell towers on club properties. In addition, Wanek created a process by which nonprofit groups can rent club space during off hours. Wanek also secured more than $10 million in loans, and successfully negotiated in paying back only $7 million. With the loans, the organization was able to build three new facilities, serving more than 7,500 additional youngsters living in extremely poor neighborhoods.