Finance skills fill a gap in the not-for-profit sector

Alma Tuazon is helping to raise standards in the charity sector.

Bringing professional finance skills into the welfare domain is leading to satisfying outcomes for all parties.

The biggest kick Alma Tuazon FCPA gets out of her job is seeing the changes she implements make a difference.

As executive director business services at the Children’s Protection Society, Tuazon has spent the past three years introducing a host of systems to help the 120-year-old Melbourne-based organisation become more nimble.

Having worked in the not-for-profit space since 1999, she says she is excited by the opportunity that many cloud-based technologies now offer organisations such as hers. 

Alma Tuazon FCPA“I’ve always embraced technology,” she says, explaining that new systems have enhanced workplace flexibility and have helped to eliminate the need for constant software upgrades and travel for meetings. 

Tuazon grew up in the Philippines and migrated to Australia in the 1990s. Although she already had a bachelor’s degree and experience working in the financial services sector, her qualifications weren’t recognised in Australia. It was while finishing a second undergraduate degree that she considered working in the not-for-profit world.

One motivation was to achieve a work-life balance while raising three young children and pursuing post-graduate studies. “I have a banking and logistics background, but I saw that I couldn’t work the long hours that I used to do at the bank,” she says.

The opportunity to make a difference was another incentive. “I enjoy the holistic nature of community service,” she explains. “You’ve got to be able to appreciate the work done by all the social workers, all the nurses and youth workers in the field.” 

"You have to bring your business acumen into this industry, otherwise it won’t be sustainable in the long term."

Tuazon is a past chair and vice-chair of the public sector and not-for-profit committee of CPA Australia’s Victorian division. She also participates in the CPA Australia taskforce on planning events and was a key contributor to CPA Australia’s submission on reducing red tape in government. 

Tuazon’s initial entry into the charity world was working in accounts for Melbourne City Mission. As she progressed to more senior roles, she says the job became even more satisfying. “It is far more fulfilling and gratifying to actually work alongside programs in tendering for new and innovative ways of addressing the service gaps in the community,” she explains. 

Professional development: CPA Q&A. Access a handpicked selection of resources each month and complete a short monthly assessment to earn CPD hours. Exclusively available to CPA Australia members.

“It gives [the organisation] the opportunity to look at – is that pilot program an innovative program? Is that sustainable in the long term? Can we look at funding past the first three years of pilot funding?”

Tuazon believes the industry is crying out for more finance professionals. “Even though it’s a community service organisation, you have to run it as a business as well,” she says. “So you have to bring your business acumen into this industry, otherwise it won’t be sustainable in the long term.”

Tuazon is hopeful that the sector is starting to attract more high-calibre finance professionals.

“The industry is evolving,” she says. “As more and more commercially trained specialists come to this industry, it actually provides far more sophistication – the way people think of running programs.”

The one downside of the job? Trying to run programs on the “smell of an oily rag”. 

Long history of helping

The Children’s Protection Society is an independent organisation with no political or religious affiliations. Its mission is to help vulnerable children, young people and families. The society was founded in 1896 by the then governor of Victoria’s wife, Lady Sybil de Vere Brassy.

Read next: One FCPA goes from spreadsheets to construction in East Timor


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August 2016
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