For the month of March, we wanted to turn our spotlight on an important, if little seen, part of our organization. Central City Concern’s board of directors is comprised of an all-star line-up of community figures and subject matter experts, but when the board needs to hone in on a particular part of CCC’s work, they sometimes turn to the board committees, which are specialty groups that are made up of board members, and other volunteers with a particular expertise.
For this month’s spotlight, we sat down with one of the members of the board’s Audit and Compliance committee, Shirley Cyr, to hear about the work she does. While Shirley herself is quick to divert any praise directed at her to others, a couple of her colleagues at CCC jumped at the opportunity to share their appreciation for her work. EV Armitage, CCC’s executive coordinator, said Shirley “is a dedicated committee member. Her expertise in the very specific and complex area of nonprofit audits has been really helpful for CCC, and she is able to address valuable questions and comments about our audits.”
Sarah Chisholm, CCC’s current chief financial officer, added, “we’re delighted to have Shirley serve on the committee because of her passion for serving the nonprofit sector and her technical accounting knowledge. She provides an important function, which is ensuring our annual financial audit has the appropriate checks and balances.”
Read on to hear about how Shirley’s work helps CCC “be good” and the changes she has seen in her 10 years of service.
• • •
Peter: What is your name and volunteer role?
Shirley: My name is Shirley Cyr and I am part of the Audit and Compliance board committee within Central City Concern.
P: And how long have you been on the Audit Committee?
S: I have no idea! I think it’s been since 2007 or 2008. I was asked to participate by David Altman, who was CCC’s CFO at the time. So I’ve just stayed involved. He moved on long ago, but I’m still there.
David, when he came in, felt that the organization needed to put some procedures in place and formed the audit committee, since there hadn’t been one before. Besides being responsible for the financial statements and the audits, we also review the compliance audits which are done internally. It’s a lot more than I initially thought it was, as far as the oversight, but it’s been interesting.
P: Has it been exciting to be able to shape things through the committee’s work?
S: We’re more of an oversight committee and provide guidance, but it does play a significant role for the organization even though most people don’t know it’s there.
P: It’s having that second set of eyes and the assurance that comes with that.
S: Yeah. David, when he brought me in, it was because I’m a CPA. So, financial expertise is why I was put on the committee. Looking at the organization’s financial statement, interpreting them, and understanding them, that’s pretty easy for me because that’s what I’ve done for a long time. I worked in public accounting for about nine-and-half-years.
P: Outside of questions about our programs, I think the question I get the most often about CCC is, “How are you funded?”
S: A lot of it is governmental funding for the critical services CCC provides, so there’s a lot of compliance involved with that. You don’t get to continue the work if you don’t do a good job, so compliance is critical to the organization. Many agencies come in and audit the organization and look at the record keeping; if it’s not right, you get shut down. So, it’s got to be good.
P: What has your experience been with seeing CCC change over the last ten years?
S: It’s been a lot of growth: added housing, added services, and the ability to serve more. It’s been incredible to watch that growth. Sometimes you get a little bit frightened that growth has been too fast, but it’s been handled well. There’s always a little bit of upheaval with growth and it can take a little while to settle in sometimes, but I think it’s been handled very well. The staff I’ve gotten to work with are incredible.
"There’s always a little bit of upheaval with growth and it can take a little while to settle in sometimes, but I think it’s been handled very well. The staff I’ve gotten to work with are incredible."
-Shirley Cyr, CCC Volunteer
P: Has there been a particular project or part of that that you got to work on that was particularly meaningful for you?
S: The compliance aspect, just so far as overall compliance, I think that’s been fascinating for me.
P: What’s been the most fascinating thing to learn more about?
S: Last week when we had our meeting it was a lot about the staffing, looking at the female-to-male workforce percentages in different departments, so you want to try and get some diversity within genders, but also different ethnicities. CCC has done a very good job in bringing in a good blend of people that reflect the community that they work in, and that’s what’s really critical.
Part of this is because CCC hires so many people that have been clients of the organization. In my company, we look at trying to improve the workforce, and to help people out that are previously disadvantaged into getting jobs and good jobs. You guys do it every day of the week. It’s something that we strive to do more of, and we try and try and try, and we do the best we can, but you guys are actually able to do it. I’m pretty impressed with that. We didn’t get to keep the report after the meeting, but I would love to mirror it, because I love to plagiarize, so to speak, when I can, with ideas and formats and such.
P: That’s sort of the broader benefit of bringing people such as yourself to these oversight committees, is that you can take inspiration from us, but we can also be inspired by your experience and different lenses.
S: I think the lenses are probably the important part. You get different ideas from different people or sometimes you just want to knock an idea around. When you’re in accounting or the CPA world you are in an entity pretty much by yourself, so you’re a sounding board of one, which is hard. So sometimes it helps to have others around to do that.
"Every once in a while I’ll look at my commitments and say, 'Okay continue or don’t continue.' And this one I haven’t given up and I don’t think I will."
P: That’s a lesson I’m still learning in my own career, which is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.
S: Well, it’s like, “Have you got this kind of policy?” And they’ll say, “Oh yeah, sure, here you go!” And that’s how policies are developed, so a lot of them will look the same because they come from the same source. That’s how I’ve done things forever, I’ll go online to find things. Thankfully we have the internet!
P: If someone was interested in volunteering with a committee, but they were on the fence, what would you tell them?
S: It’s a great organization that accomplishes good works. It feels good to be a part of the organization in some small way, because it does impact change.
Every once in a while I’ll look at my commitments and say, “Okay continue or don’t continue.” And this one I haven’t given up and I don’t think I will.