Yiqun Zoe Shen, MS-Finance '12

Opportunities in Nonprofit Finance

I'm in my second year of the MSM-Finance program and have had three internships in the nonprofit sector so far. I'm trying to find as many opportunities as possible to gain experience before graduating in January 2012.

During summer 2011, I worked at North Coast Community Homes (NCCH), a small, regional nonprofit that provides housing for developmentally disabled adults. I met Michelle Marshall, the CFO of NCCH, in a class I took through the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations. I told her I really wanted to work for a nonprofit, and she happened to be looking for an intern.

Michelle needed a detailed history of the organization's financial performance, a fundamental analysis of that data, and a presentation of my findings for a meeting with the Board of Trustees. She provided 25 years' worth of 990 tax forms and some old annual reports. I spent about six weeks on the project. Our first-year class in fundamental analysis, taught by Scott Fine, was a huge help. I also depended a lot on what I learned in our course in financial modeling. I took my notes from class with me to work and did everything that Christa [Bouwman] said to do.

After I completed my project for NCCH, I spent two months in Westport, Connecticut working with Save the Children. I had submitted my resume online, and the volunteer coordinator contacted me with an opportunity for someone who was familiar with Access. I had taken a certification exam on Access in China. I helped the grants manager generate quarterly reports on the 500 or so active grants that Save the Children has at a given time, using Access to extract data from the organization's database. My empirical finance class last semester, where we used SAS statistical software to examine stock market data, was really helpful here. Leo [Madureira], who taught the class, gave me a feeling for how all the numbers work together.

A second project for Save the Children had to do with transitions the organization is experiencing. There are many independent branches all over the world working to unite under the new umbrella of Save the Children International. I generated a budget for the Connecticut office (one of two U.S. headquarters) under the new structure.

Currently, I am interning with the YWCA. I am compiling evidence of compliance and of how money was spent for grant makers at the state and federal levels. Several federal earmark grants support the operation of the NIA Program. Another grant from the Ohio Department of Development will go to replace the heating system in the YWCA building. The first floor of the building is the office, and the second floor houses Independence Place, a housing facility for young adults 18 years old and up.

While in China, I did volunteer work and enjoyed helping people, but didn't consider a career in nonprofits, because the nonprofit industry is not as extensive there as it is in the U.S. After I came to Weatherhead, I found out about the Mandel Center and became more interested in using my finance knowledge in a nonprofit context. Ideally, I'd like to work for a human services nonprofit. Working on grants has been a great experience. It requires a lot of organization, which I enjoy, and the financial side (working on budgets, expenses, and cashflow) is a lot of fun.

— Yiqun "Zoe" Shen, MSM-Finance '12