The money management mission of Numbers 4 Nonprofits

Nonprofit executives have ample philanthropic expertise, but like private-sector executives, they often need assistance on the business side. With limited budgets, however, they have a challenge attracting the best and brightest accounting help. Enter Nick Curran, founder and CEO of Numbers 4 Nonprofits.

For Curran, entrepreneurial inspiration comes from the mission of nonprofit clients and the work they do in the community, and his business expertise began with nonprofits as an external auditor with the accounting firm Williams Young (now Wipfli). He launched “N4N” to partner with nonprofit clients and help manage their money — including assistance with annual budgeting, cash flow projections, and financial statements — and manage it with a mission.

For stepping up to the plate in a community enriched by many nonprofit organizations, Curran’s service-oriented business earned a 2019 Dane County Small Business Award. Numbers 4 Nonprofits and five other winning companies will be honored during an annual awards celebration on Tuesday, July 16, starting at 4 p.m. in the Overture Center’s upstairs Promenade Hall and Lobby.

Big (word-of) mouth

In helping clients fulfill their missions, Numbers 4 Nonprofits also assists with managing immediate cash needs, processing vendor invoices, and evaluating internal controls. Since Madison has a lot of nonprofit organizations, Curran attributes N4N’s growth to the sheer size of this local industry, clients’ need for high-level business acumen from outside their walls, and the relationship-management expertise of a staff that help clients feel as though they have a full-service financial department.

In 2007, Curran began with six clients with related revenues of $44,000, and as of March 31 of this year, it projects revenues of at least $1.35 million while helping more than 75 clients and employing 13 people. Through the first two months of 2019, it saw 75 percent revenue growth coupled with 50 percent growth in net income.

In addition to meeting an unmet need with a high-level staff, word-of-mouth also has been a big part of that growth. “What we have found is that nonprofits tend to, because of budget size, attract the lowest-tier financial people, and so that doesn’t always lead to the best financial results,” Curran explains. “So, they ended up coming to us to fill that gap, and we’re still able to do it for the cost that is in the budget for those organizations. We started out with the Madison Children’s Museum, got to go through their capital campaign with them, and from there it just snowballed. In this town, when you do good work, word travels fast.”

Percolating perks

While Curran cites the organization’s total benefits package as a key contributor to employee attraction and retention, a couple of perks stand out, including 100 percent coverage for individual health and dental, and the accommodation, via a monthly stipend, of the technology setup needed for remote work environments. He doesn’t view benefits as a necessary business expense, but as a necessary investment in the kind of people he needs to attract. Combine that with all elements of the organization’s benefits package, especially 6 percent toward retirement without employees having to match, and scheduling flexibility for those who provide exemplary service to clients, and it’s clear the organization offers a benefits package that allows employees to balance their work and home lives while meeting the needs of clients.

“It’s our highest cost, compared to our revenues, but I don’t even want to call it a cost,” Curran says. “It’s very cliché, but it’s our investment in the product that we put out there.”

That kind of investment may represent a cliché, but the organization’s community reinvestment is amplified by the work it does with mission-driven nonprofits, which provide N4N with opportunities to support their missions. Many of them are child focused, including Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Bowl for Kids’ Sake, the Road Home for homeless families, and the Madison Reading Project. During the summer of 2018, approximately 370 books were collected by Curran’s staff and donated to Madison Reading Project.

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With the belief that a big difference can be made in the community when a workforce has a “roll-up-the-sleeves” mindset, N4N staffers donned work boots and grabbed pitchforks to assist with barn clean up at Heartland Farm Sanctuary.

Numbers 4 Nonprofits and five other Dane County Small Business Award winners will be honored during the annual Dane County Small Business awards celebration on Tuesday, July 16, starting at 4 p.m. in the Overture Center’s upstairs Promenade Hall and Lobby.

“We like to spread the [philanthropic] wealth, and we try to pick 10 or so galas during the year, but we budget for that,” Curran notes. “That’s part of our giving back to the community.”

The need for career growth and development provides more opportunities to give back and to network in the community. Collectively, N4N staff members are involved with the Downtown Madison Rotary Club and the Tocqueville and Rosenberry Societies of the United Way of Dane County, and they offer volunteer tax preparation. Curran personally donates to the United Way and Community Shares from the salary he takes from the business.

“The referrals come from our clients, who know that we give back to them a little bit, and it just snowballs.”

Over the moon

Given that his business peers, including past Dane County Small Business Award winners, were involved in choosing the 2019 winners, Curran says his organization is thrilled with the award. “We have a really good reputation in town, and this is just validation of that and puts us on another level as far as a business in the community,” he states. “So, we’re over the moon with it. I posted it on my LinkedIn and Facebook, and lots of people have given us shout outs of well deserved and ‘atta boy’ and all of that stuff. We look at it as a big, big positive for our business.”

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