In Episode 20, I have a conversation with Maya Tussing of Fairlight Advisors about how nonprofit organizations can maintain financial health so they can keep delivering on their mission. Discover how Maya coaches small-to-medium-sized nonprofits to manage cash flow over multiple years, reduce risk, and optimize their board fundraising.
“You want people on your board to have skin in the game somehow.” - Maya Tussing
This week on Real Life Planning Podcast, Cynthia will cover:
“ [It’s] very important to build true believers who over time will increase those donations and maybe leave an estate many decades later." - Maya Tussing
“ The number one thing is making sure that the organization has a consistent proactive plan to build the number of donors, not just the amount of the individual donations.” - Cynthia Meyer
“Many nonprofits are not using technology really effectively or are underestimating cyber security risk. ” - Maya Tussing
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About the Real Life Planning Podcast
Host Cynthia Meyer welcomes fascinating guests to share real life stories of how they are realizing their financial potential. Each episode explores practical, realistic steps to create results.
Transcript - Real Life Planning Podcast - Episode 20
[00:00:06] Cynthia Meyer: The other day I had a conversation with the president of the small local nonprofit that I sit on the board and we were noodling on this idea that the nonprofit has a certain amount of cash. You know, we're raising and spending money and just thinking about what does that mean in this market environment? We've also got some new folks coming onto the board and how do you train them and get them up to speed with all the various things that have to happen as the board of the nonprofit. And as I was thinking about this, I thought I have got to ask Maya.
[00:00:44] So I reached out to my friend and fellow mastermind group member Maya Tussing, who is a specialist, a financial advisor who works with nonprofits to develop resilient organizations. And so we started chit chatting about this and it turned into this episode of the Real Life Planning Podcast. This is episode 20 of the Real Life Planning Podcast with Maya Tussing of Fairlight Advisors. Maya, tell us what's important to know about you?
[00:01:16] Maya Tussing: Thank you Cynthia, for inviting me to speak with you today. What should you know about me? I worked in corporate America for decades before I went on my own with collaborating with my partner Katharine Earhart to launch Fairlight. And I think it was a good turning point in my career to have worked in some of the largest financial services companies in the world and be able to parlay that experience to smaller clients. You talked about my working with nonprofits.
[00:01:55] I worked with really large foundations and endowments and pension funds as a portfolio manager for BlackRock. But being able to take a lot of that robust and Wall Street rigor that you learn in the corporate world as you have Cynthia, as well. And be able to bring that to smaller clients and nonprofits that don't have access to that has been really rewarding.
[00:02:23] Cynthia Meyer: And how is it that you settled on this clientele as an niche that you wanted to work with? What life experiences did you have that led you to wanting to help nonprofits? And if I understand correctly, I mean, from working together in our mastermind group, you're mostly working in the small, the medium size nonprofit space; folks that aren't currently well served with traditional financial services and often really need a lot of help and guidance in different areas.
[00:02:53] Maya Tussing: My career has really been working with institutions, whether it's big or small. I spent many years as a risk manager within organizations helping product groups and operation teams be more efficient.
[00:03:08] At the same time, I was sitting on small boards. Nonprofits with a budget of a million to 10 million, which is considered small; very small. And really trying to survive and thrive with so little. And with boards who are very passionate. But really it's a volunteer job. So you get what you get. And so in being able to combine my experience of helping small teams, and that's a typically, you know what a nonprofit is? It's a small team. Often, they'll have only five people working who are on staff, but they really have to rely on the larger ecosystem to help them out- their boards, their leadership, their partners. That I really enjoyed.
[00:03:56] A story that kind of inspired Katharine and me to launch Fairlight is we had been fundraising for a nonprofit that did microfinancing for low income women entrepreneurs. We raised our own money, other executives at the company and through the foundation about, a quarter of a million dollars. Within a couple weeks, the nonprofit failed. This is something as a donor, you don't know what's under the hood often, you know?
[00:04:29] We were just major donors to this nonprofit and through the grapevine we learned that they grew too fast. There was a lot of mismanagement of grants and the like. It was a sad and heartbreaking and frustrating story to go through so much and we had a lot of friends in that organization. We knew the beneficiaries of that organization. And for it, poof, to just go. It was a mighty nonprofit that had been very important, but something like mismanagement of money can really quickly destroy and collapse a nonprofit.
[00:05:05] And we didn't want that to happen. So we wanted to be able to share our knowledge for those who are willing to listen about how to manage money. And at least, also bring partners who had deep experience like you, accountants and IT professionals and marketers who may have deep expertise and corporate expertise, but really want to work with small nonprofits as well to give back.
[00:05:34] Cynthia Meyer: So I, I think that's wonderful. And there really isn't anyone doing it besides your firm as far as I know. As somebody who's been on various boards, in various positions over my whole grown up life basically, I've seen as a board member, I've seen a couple of different situations and I was wondering if you could maybe jump in and talk about them. One, I've seen a situation where the board has responsibility for approving budgets and plans of a relatively substantial amount of money, but they defer, they just raise the dough. They just defer to the executive director and the financial team of the nonprofit, right? They're not necessarily understanding the financial statements that come to them. They are delegating everything to the staff.
[00:06:23] I've also seen situations where the professional staff is really focused on delivering the mandate of the nonprofit to the end users; whoever that is and has in turn, delegated all of the financial management of the organization to the board. I don't know if you've come across either a situation and how in both of those situations that isn't necessarily resilient.
[00:06:46] Maya Tussing: Yeah. Okay. So, I can talk about the first one. The first example where you have a board that basically relinquishes their accountability for the finances and the operations. I've heard a consultant tell me it's almost like the lighthouse. They're the guiding light for the mission and to advise the staff and the executive director. But at the same time, I've seen some really disastrous situations where- and I can count numerous situations in which you have a really smart, very capable executive director who can shield or is a bit opaque about what is going on for the board. The board is a volunteer. They may try to lift up the rock and I don't want to suggest that anybody is working is- there's any malice here. It can get to the point where there aren't really some nice things to see under that rock. But, board members are too afraid to know, and then when they find out, it's a lot of work to fix it. It's very easy to be naive about what's going on under the hood because a lot of these smaller and even midsize nonprofits are doing the best they can to deliver on the mission and sometimes they will make some egregious mistakes. Maybe at the time, seems valid, but could be ethically wrong or against the law based on moving grants around that are supposed to be targeted for a certain thing. Maybe they're even government grants that are supposed to do something and saying...
[00:08:33] Cynthia Meyer: Oh, that maybe you see those funds with other operational funds.
[00:08:36] Maya Tussing: Yeah, we really need it for this program but the grantor said, "No, you need to do this. That's a no-no." And you as a board are not going to be able to see a lot of that unless you bring in an attorney or an auditor and tell them I'm looking for that sort of thing.
[00:08:53] Your other example is the opposite; where you have a staff that's probably very overworked and they have to relinquish.
[00:09:05] Cynthia Meyer: Right. Maybe a super small, like a super small startup organization. They don't necessarily have a really experienced staff.
[00:09:11] Maya Tussing: One woman was telling me- she was a consultant to a nonprofit. She told me the executive director had asked someone on the board who worked for a big bank, to be responsible for the financials of the organization. And this board member who worked for this national bank, told this consultant, " I'm an IT professional. I don't really know anything about financial statements." But this individual was the only person that was close to the financial services industry and he said, "I don't know anything about- I'm not an accountant. I'm not an auditor. I don't know anything about nonprofit finance." Yet, he was too afraid to speak up. So those are two situations where, you know, and it's a reality within the nonprofit world, they're often under resourced and someone has to do it and there is either not enough oversight from the board or the board in a volunteer capacity, is expected to do things that actually should hire for as a staff position within the organization.
[00:10:29] Cynthia Meyer: So what's interesting, first is interesting, is that I have my windows open and there looks like there's this lovely insect flying around. I hope it's not too distracting.
[00:10:43] But getting back to the topic of nonprofits, right? As somebody who tries to actively volunteer and give a certain percentage of time and income, I'm really interested in what you think makes a resilient nonprofit. Like how could those of us who are serving in some capacity in a volunteer role, what should we be looking for in terms of developing a more resilient organization?
[00:11:09] What are the questions to ask the executive director or the professional staff, for example, about, that might lead them to implement some of these ideas?
[00:11:17] Maya Tussing: One thing that based on talking to experts, and I should say professionals who service nonprofits, particularly in the fundraising space, and I'm not an expert in that but I know enough to be dangerous, and donations are the lifeblood of the nonprofit or you know, it could be earned revenue, as well.
[00:11:38] Cynthia Meyer: Sure.
[00:11:39] Maya Tussing: And that should be a focus of the organization; making friends and networking. The gala and the events have long been an ineffective way of fundraising for nonprofits. The covid shutdown really put a nail in that coffin.
[00:11:59] Cynthia Meyer: The big gala and the silent auction. Not that those things don't have a role as a deadline to bring in other types of donations, it can't necessarily be everything.
[00:12:09] Maya Tussing: Right. And they're just so expensive for what they deliver and depending on where you live, and I'm in the Bay Area where hotel space and all that is exorbitant. You know, a plate for two, maybe you're paying $200 a plate, and you're hoping that each of those people donate more than $200, which is very unlikely. You're better off just doing individual donations. Doing maybe small events. Coffees. Speaking at lectures. Trying to get the message out. You've talked about the gala or the party has a role but maybe it has more of a role for goodwill and not as a fundraising tool; more as getting the word out of what we do and where we are placed in the community.
[00:13:08] The research has shown 70% of your donations typically for the average nonprofit should be small individual donations and those are small. We've talked about in the political campaign arena, and I believe you've worked in that, and that's very important to build true believers who over time will increase those donations and maybe leave in an estate many decades later. It is just really a long game and I think a lot of new nonprofits say, "Hey, we want to have our gala." You're not going to really make that much. It's really a slow process. I think...
[00:13:44] Cynthia Meyer: Just to summarize, the number one thing is making sure that the organization has a consistent proactive plan to build the number of donors, not just the amount of the individual donations.
[00:14:02] Maya Tussing: The goals should be in their strategic plan. How are you going to do this? What kind of infrastructure are you going to build? Is there going to be a CRM system?
[00:14:11] And engaging your board. Your board is not there, it used to be to rub elbows and glad hand, and build your own business kind of network. But really finding board members who take this mission seriously.
[00:14:25] Cynthia Meyer: They really want to put gas in the engine.
[00:14:27] Maya Tussing: Exactly. It used to be that you wanted to recruit a bunch of rich people so they would write checks when we know that's not effective either because a lot of rich people don't give to even the nonprofit they sit on the board.
[00:14:40] Diversifying that board so you have people who actually understand that community. Maybe even grew up in the community, if it's underrepresented or underserved communities- that they're sitting on the board just so they know how to talk to that community. But also that are going to be part of that fundraising machine, whether it's writing the checks, asking for the checks, saying thank you to those who wrote checks, to putting on small events, being part of programs. You want people on your board to have skin in the game somehow. Realizing that bringing in money toward the mission should be your number one goal.
[00:15:23] Cynthia Meyer: Oh, I think that's so well said. Bringing in money towards the mission. Yeah.
[00:15:28] Maya Tussing: And those of us in for-profit make as well, "Isn't that obvious?" No. To a lot of nonprofits that isn't not obvious. It's often the mission is saving children. Saving the environment. But you can't do that without money and that's kinda the rub, right?
[00:15:46] Cynthia Meyer: Donations are the revenue of the nonprofit, right? Donations or grant money or earned revenue.
[00:15:52] Maya Tussing: Earned revenue, like whatever, girl scout cookies, whatever.
[00:15:55] Cynthia Meyer: Yeah. Okay. So the foundation, right? The strong financial foundation; just like in somebody's personal financial plan, is bringing in income. Correct.
[00:16:03] What would the next category be of a resilient nonprofit?
[00:16:08] Maya Tussing: Just like any family financial situation or a business, you want to grow. I think it's unfortunate that the term of art is a nonprofit because we presume that organization will not bring in more income than they're taking out. But building that financial foundation for growth because every organization needs to innovate with the times. They need to also be prepared for the unexpected, which we have gone for the last two years. Before that, I think I mentioned my background was in risk management, and when I first started doing this, I just couldn't get arrested within the nonprofit world. There was not much of an understanding of what nonprofit risk management was. Large national ones, they operate like a corporation. So they would understand this. But the small and mid-size nonprofits thought we don't bring in a lot. We have very small margins. What is risk management?
[00:17:16] Cynthia Meyer: And are those folks the first people that really were blindsided by the changes during the pandemic?.
[00:17:22] Maya Tussing: For Covid, it worked out for some and not for others. I remember before the pandemic ,there was this question of how much is it that we need to hold in reserves for an emergency? How many months is it?
[00:17:35] And I thought it was such a strange question because as we all know from an individual perspective and from a business, it all depends on how risky you are. What are your challenges? How robust you are and the like.
[00:17:48] Cynthia Meyer: Do you have diversified sources of revenue or income or in this case, donations. Yeah.
[00:17:53] Maya Tussing: There was this belief that there was an easy formula and it made sense for everyone. But of course that's not the case. Some nonprofits hold loads of cash. You and I are in the investment world, I'm not sure I would do that. But for some it's very necessary.
[00:18:08] Other nonprofits, most nonprofits are only holding a couple months of cash, which will only really allow them to survive paying their staff for a few months.
[00:18:21] Cynthia Meyer: And their mortgage or their rent and all the other expenses.
[00:18:25] Maya Tussing: Exactly. There are capacity grants out there. There's fundraising for a reserve. I saw one nonprofit had a major donor who said, "I am writing a check of a hundred thousand dollars as an operating reserve, which means I want you not to touch it and put a policy around it and put it in a safe place. Maybe it's a money market or some treasury or get some advice on where you should put it. But this is not for programs." And those are great...
[00:19:01] Cynthia Meyer: For financial ballast.
[00:19:02] Maya Tussing: Those are great donations and I really advocate that nonprofits should be fundraising for those types. Programs are important, but you're not going to have programs if you can't survive the next pandemic.
[00:19:17] Cynthia Meyer: If you can't keep the lights on. Yeah. So let's dig into, we've got two ideas here, one of which is risk management and the other which is investing for the future. So let's take the risk management part first. And I know that Fairlight does, as part of your services, you offer a risk management assessment, basically. So talk a little bit about what that is. What are the different categories, subcategories that you're looking at in terms of risk? And what are the typical challenges that face that kind of small to medium size nonprofit?
[00:19:48] Maya Tussing: So you alluded to one is the diversification of your income sources. Are you concentrated in government grants? Or a particular donor? Or particular revenue stream? It's understanding where that comes from and a lot of nonprofits are starting to do that. Getting away from that concentration is very hard because it requires building up an expertise and a channel to another donor group. But that is one area.
[00:20:21] You talked about rent. Facilities is huge. Do they own their property? Do they rent? Or are they virtual? We found during the pandemic, and you within real estate would know this, a lot of nonprofits had absolutely no clue what their lease agreements said with their landlords. There were a lot of landlords that may not have been so kind to nonprofits. They didn't care. They wanted the highest paying renter and we don't care whether you are helping homeless children in our community. You can go find something else. Or, God forbid, the revenue slowed yet their landlord was increasing their rent.
[00:21:11] So facilities is huge. There's some nonprofits that actually need a facility. Some are buying them or there's a donor that's donating them. But the cost of maintaining...
[00:21:24] Cynthia Meyer: Sure!
[00:21:25] Maya Tussing: ...is huge and many, they don't realize you have to staff that. There are a lot of costs that come with that. So that's another one.
[00:21:32] Something that has become quite obvious to many of us users is technology. Many nonprofits we're not using technology really effectively, or we're underestimating cyber security risk.
[00:21:49] Cynthia Meyer: Especially if they're collecting some kind of personal information from their end users.
[00:21:54] Maya Tussing: Particularly in the same way we've seen that elderly are targeted for cyber crime, small nonprofits tend to be targeted for cybercrime. Because they often don't, you know, they have a lot of holes in their system and they often are not going to say anything about it. Often there's the thought, "Isn't it going to be the big nonprofits or the big corporations that are going to be hit?" No, a lot of these fraudsters go after those small organizations and take 10,000. I knew one small nonprofit where they almost lost a million dollars through a fraudster that stalked them for a year within their email system and then posed as their CFO. That's another that can really kill a nonprofit.
[00:22:47] HR is huge. It's the biggest in a business and in a nonprofit, the biggest expense. What's the morale? Your management? Are you... turnover?...
[00:23:00] Cynthia Meyer: Just like any employer, right?
[00:23:01] Maya Tussing: You've got key person risks, that sort of thing. On and on. And lastly, general operations and governance. Do you have the policies in place? The regulation- do you have a high risk or at risk community? Are you working with children or the elderly? What are your programs? The operations? Generally, operational risks. So we think of those five areas and some are going to be more relevant to others. I think that's a quick and dirty way that a nonprofit should look at those five, and if they don't have the resources to do some kind of robust dashboard, but at least think about that with your staff and your board about which are the top three that could really kill us?
[00:23:44] Cynthia Meyer: That's cool. Okay So the third way that you are looking at the financial health or the resilience of a small to medium size nonprofit is about growing, right? It's about growth. So break that down for us. What does that mean?
[00:24:01] Maya Tussing: As we know, the world changes and it could be that there are technology solutions that could help you get your program more efficiently and more effectively.
[00:24:15] During the pandemic nonprofits that relied on the community to come to them. I'm in San Mateo County, which is in the Bay Area.
[00:24:26] Cynthia Meyer: That's Silicon Valley for those people who, aren't familiar with California.
[00:24:30] Maya Tussing: And we know about Sandhill Road and the Venture Capital and Facebook is here and Oracle has been here.
[00:24:37] But we also have a lot of poverty here along the coastline. And there was a nonprofit that was focused on immigrants on the coastline and they had services to come in. But during the pandemic, they couldn't find them. They didn't have ways to access them. They had to think through, how do we find them? How do we have more connections? If they have cell phones, do we have their numbers? That sort of thing. So being prepared for external changes is one.
[00:25:11] Dare I say, competitors. So nonprofits typically don't partner with other nonprofits that are in the same area.
[00:25:22] You may have and I hate to say this, but you may have a lot of nonprofits in the area of human trafficking. I remember there was one point I felt like, there was yet another human trafficking nonprofit. Which is great that there are these nonprofits that are looking at that.
[00:25:40] But what you're doing is you're balkanizing or you're splintering that mission.
[00:25:48] Cynthia Meyer: And the donor interest community; the pool of interested donors who...
[00:25:52] Maya Tussing: Exactly.
[00:25:53] Cynthia Meyer: ... who are really making that our top donation priority. .
[00:25:55] Maya Tussing: And so, remember there are major donors out there who believe in that. They may write little checks or they may write one big check to one.
[00:26:04] Either there's a collaboration effort, because this is not capitalism. This is serving a community. But unfortunately, maybe it's because we're Americans and we believe in this capitalist kind of mindset. A lot of nonprofits ironically say, " We have to take donations." They don't say that explicitly, but you have to think innovatively of how can we collaborate and do the most impact as a mission as opposed to us little nonprofit that serves this little nichey area.
[00:26:42] Cynthia Meyer: So digging into this a little bit, because I know that you personally are, you are a networker, right?
[00:26:51] You want to connect people. You've got a series of webinars and conversations and you're constantly connecting one person to another. I literally could not think of the number of people that you have introduced me to. So you're a connector, Mya. And tell us a little bit more about how you are trying to foster this kind of cross pollination in particularly in the Bay Area, in general, among different nonprofits?
[00:27:15] Maya Tussing: No, that's a good point. We started a network, which is now called a Social Impact Advisor Network, which we had originally started to help us navigate the nonprofit world. It is very hard to break into. It's very balkanized where, both of us are part of the financial service industry, which is very, I wouldn't say cohesive, but we all go to conferences together...
[00:27:46] Cynthia Meyer: We might, if people work on their own or they work for different employers, but if you're, for example, a professional financial planner, like you're going to conferences with people that work at all different kinds of organizations.
[00:27:55] Maya Tussing: Yeah. And maybe your colleagues now go work for another one. So I know people who've worked at Fidelity and State Street and Charles Schwab because they used to work with me. But that doesn't necessarily happen in the nonprofit world, to some extent. I want to be fair. It's also made of, because you've got these different missions, it's a sector of how they prepare their tax statements. It's not really an industry, so to speak. You've got board members who come from all over. It's not really an easy sector to break into.
[00:28:26] So we thought let's get together a bunch of professionals who want to service professionals like you and me, IT, or marketing or accounting or audit, bookkeeping, social media who either serve nonprofits exclusively. Maybe a large part of their book are nonprofits or they want to get more into because they really like working with nonprofits. We came together to learn more about how nonprofits think. We'd found also that we were jumping into a sector that we really didn't understand their philosophy on operations. We've come from Deep Wall Street firms which there are some similarity, but not a lot.
[00:29:15] This network is about, I'm going to say maybe four, five years old, and it's developed. We are now developing a directory for nonprofits. A woman said to me who runs a kind of a chamber of commerce of nonprofits, and she said, "I know maybe one accountant who's willing to do nonprofit accounting, but I can't tell you if that person's good. So I would love to be able to see a whole list of accountants and what are their expertise? And are they a fit for that nonprofit? Can you build that?" And I said, "Hold that thought. This is going to take a while." But we finally were able to tell her at our socialimpactadvisorynetwork.com, that we have at least about 50 individuals who span different professions a nd we are always looking to find more people who are interested to be on that list and be vetted.
[00:30:24] Cynthia Meyer: And who want to serve. Who feel driven to serve that specific type of organization.
[00:30:32] Maya Tussing: And these are high quality service professionals who've worked, some of them have worked in very well respected companies or have worked with and had clients of very well respected companies. They are providing that same level of service to nonprofits whether bigger or small.
[00:30:51] Cynthia Meyer: So I just love how you are really trying to innovate in this space. You are, you're blazing a trail in nonprofit financial guidance and coaching because it really hasn't been thought of this way before. It's great that you're in the Bay Area, where there are so many organizations that you can talk to one. But I know you also work with people all across the country.
[00:31:13] Getting back to the investing question here because we certainly had a rocky market this week. I know that many small to medium size nonprofits are one: trying to manage cash maybe over multiple years- so maybe they have a grant that lasts for three years or something.
[00:31:28] They say, "Okay, there's inflation. What do I do with my cash?" And then they also, they have an endowment or they're trying to build an endowment. And for those people who don't regularly work with this space, basically that's a pool of invested savings that is designed to grow to fund future programs or the future mission of the organization.
[00:31:46] So the last leg of the stool is, if I understand it correctly, is this investing for growth, right? So what does that mean?
[00:31:53] Maya Tussing: As a financial consultant, investment consultant to nonprofits, I think of really three areas. You've got your short term cash. You've got your medium term funds and then your long term. Most nonprofits, I'm saying not the large national ones that have a huge financial team...
[00:32:10] Cynthia Meyer: But they're like a Fortune 500 company, an American Red Cross...
[00:32:12] Maya Tussing: Exactly. Often they think I've got my checking account and someday I want an endowment. And for those, if you're listeners who don't know what an endowment, it's basically a restricted gift from a a major donor who says, this money is only for puppies with cancer, as an example. And so you may not use it for anything else but puppies with cancer. Or there may be a time bound. There's some kind of restriction. It could be indefinite.
[00:32:43] Cynthia Meyer: And for those of you who've served on nonprofits before, there are often, there are tax rules as to how much you have to pay out of the income from the endowment and how you have to account for that. So there's some moving parts in that question, right? It's not just like your retirement account.
[00:32:58] Maya Tussing: Exactly. And usually you want a professional managing it. I've heard of nonprofit, you were talking about boards who are managing the endowment which...
[00:33:06] Cynthia Meyer: No, I've heard of that. Yeah.
[00:33:07] Maya Tussing: Yeah. Not a great idea. If you've got resource strapped, but that's for long term growth, and it's the same for an individual. You have more equity in that and you want to see that grow over time.
[00:33:18] Cynthia Meyer: You have an investment policy statement that says, Okay, here's how we're going to manage this money.
[00:33:22] Maya Tussing: So, I think a lot of nonprofits are not aware. It's quite funny that since interest rates and yields on fixed income have come up, there are a number of people who not been aware of this thing called a treasury which have been around for, I'm sure, hundreds of years, I don't know. But for a very long time, t bills, treasury notes and treasury bonds, but particularly, t bills which are yielding- so there's a percentage rate that you can get over your investment of 3%, that you can make up to 3% over three annualized for parking your money for three months.
[00:34:07] Cynthia Meyer: In this current market environment which is, we're recording this in the middle of September. So that's where we are right now.
[00:34:13] Maya Tussing: Timestamp this. But this is not really, these securities were not really worth much for very long time. I think a lot of the public wasn't really looking at that unless you sat on a "govy" desk, as one of our colleagues has. Now you can say, "Hey, you're going to sit on this money for six months? Why sit on in cash? You could do a money market which is going to make some decent money now, but if you're not going to need it for six months to year, and you have to have that money for your grant, you're not supposed to put grant money in like the stock market. If you have some unrestricted money that you want to buy a van or you have a program in a year, put it in a treasury, a t bill and maybe you could do a ladder if you're not sure about it.
[00:35:00] So there are a lot more opportunities and it's kind of the silver lining in this crazy market. That there are better yielding products than just sitting in your cash or CDs, which are just not really appropriate I think for a nonprofit that's sitting on $4 million in a checking account. They can be optimized far more effectively today.
[00:35:24] Cynthia Meyer: So I think one of the interesting things, and having masterminding with you for the past three years is how you learned from talking to your clients, right? You learned how many people were making decisions about their longer term allocations, right?
[00:35:41] So they're coming to you with their endowment or their pension or whatever, and getting that together. You're helping them with the balanced allocation there. But in those conversations with people about their risk management, for example, you were discovering, right, that managing cash on the short intermediate term was a place that folks weren't really doing.
[00:36:03] Maya Tussing: Thanks for raising that. You'd asked earlier for this podcast about how have we changed our plots and we are small organization and we had, based on our experience with larger organizations, we were trying to go after the big money which was endowment. That's long patient money. It's where all of the big players in this industry wanted to go after. We found that a lot of our clients didn't have an endowment or they had a tiny endowment and they'd said, "But we're sitting on $10 million of cash that we have to deploy in a short period of time." And a lot of investment advisors don't want that money. We saw that as a service that we can provide and forget about the fact that's going to be drawing down.
[00:36:49] There's an effective way to manage the timing of that money, whether you're building a building for a school or you have a new program, or you're starting a planned gifts. Where can we put this as we're growing for the future and we're going to deploy that for new programs? What can we do with that?
[00:37:10] Cynthia Meyer: And to preserve the purchasing power of the capital. Especially in an inflationary environment, the checking account, it's not going to be worth as much and spending power in five years. Yeah.
[00:37:20] Maya Tussing: You look at a food bank that is probably killed on all sides with fuel prices and food prices.
[00:37:27] I heard from an executive at a food bank, said their fuel prices are higher than their cost of food. You know, And that to just deliver food and they're getting killed on all fronts. They have to be very effective in their cash management or liquidity management for those reasons.
[00:37:48] Cynthia Meyer: Before we finish up here, What else would you say to the either the nonprofit executive or board member that's listening, what do you want them to take away from this conversation?
[00:38:02] Maya Tussing: Nonprofit leadership should understand that there are experts out there that can help them in a non-conflict way. And what I mean by that is back to your first question, is presuming that your board is always going to be the best to be accountable for that. We have a marketing exec on our board so we're going to have that person responsible for marketing. To put it more bluntly, is we have someone who's a banker and advisor and we will have them responsible for our finances.
[00:38:41] That is a very myopic way of looking at that. If that person leaves, you have a key person risk. If that person's not effective, relying only on that person's network is also very myopic. I think trying to network and understand who are the experts and uniquely qualified to service nonprofits, we are out there. You don't have to rely on your small network or your board and your staff to get that done. We're hoping to provide those tools through the network and through our expertise to allow nonprofits to do better.
[00:39:20] Cynthia Meyer: What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received?
[00:39:25] Maya Tussing: Something I go back to all the time, and it's unrelated to this, is something my father said. I was in a challenging situation; at work. It was my first job out of college and I wanted his advice. He told me all of the things that I could do. But he said, I'm not going to tell you what to do because that's what I would do.
[00:39:53] You need to figure out what you're going to do based on what's right for you. And I said, But I don't know what's right. . And he said, You can only make the decision, but what is right now? , it may be wrong tomorrow. It may be wrong in a year. But you don't know that. Be comfortable in knowing that what you're doing, what the decision we make is right now a nd you can change that. You can't regret that you made that decision. I keep going back to that; that was some 30 years ago. I continue to remind myself with my business, with my personal life, I'm making the best decision right now for what is right for me.
[00:40:38] Cynthia Meyer: Oh, I like that. I really like that very much. And what are you curious about then, right now?
[00:40:47] Maya Tussing: I'm just living one day at a time right now. I've always, as a risk manager, was always trying to figure out what could go wrong. Since so much has gone wrong over the last two years, I try not to do that anymore. And just, you know, you're cautiously optimistic as the term is and trying not to be anxious of what could be and live in the now. I'm curious about when success will be. But as you say, I'm merely but curious, I'm not anxious about it. Know that success and happiness and fulfillment is around the corner, but it's always around the corner, which is for me, is what keeps me going. I'm not trying...
[00:41:29] Cynthia Meyer: Because you're always, you're always reaching for the next star. You're a runner, right? You are running to the end of the race, and then you're going to go do another one, right? Yeah. So it's not like you, so you have success and happiness, but you're just reaching for the next race, right?
[00:41:43] Maya Tussing: Yeah. So I know I'm running half marathon in a couple in a few weeks. But I'm thinking, ok, what am I going to do after that half marathon? Not I'm finishing my running career after this half marathon. What am I going to do after? Am I going to do another one? Am I going to do shorter one?
[00:42:02] Cynthia Meyer: Are you going to get a Tough Mudder?
[00:42:04] Maya Tussing: Yeah. If I'm injured, how am I going to prepare?
[00:42:06] Cynthia Meyer: I hear the risk manager mind.
[00:42:08] Maya Tussing: Yeah, it's hard to get away from it.
[00:42:09] Cynthia Meyer: So just finishing up here, tell us where we can find you online.
[00:42:13] Maya Tussing: You can find us at fairlightadvisors.com. We'd love for you to check out our website. Of course you can find us at the socialimpactadvisornetwork.com. if you're interested in professionals who service nonprofits.
[00:42:30] Cynthia Meyer: Oh, Maya thank you so much for a really informative conversation today. I think we could have kept going for another hour.
[00:42:37] Maya Tussing: I know I could talk to you for hours. Thank you.
[00:42:40] Cynthia Meyer: So there's a lot to dig into, so we're going to have to continue this in a future conversation.
[00:42:44] And until next time, thanks everyone for listening today. If you have a topic or a question about the podcast, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Go ahead and subscribe to the YouTube channel and check out all the other great content. Thanks.
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