Armanino Blog

Call of the Sea: Why Outsourcing Makes Sense for This Nonprofit CEO

by Eric Thomas
February 27, 2018

Outsourced finance and accounting services can benefit nonprofit organizations in a number of ways. One example is our client Call of the Sea, an environmental education nonprofit targeted toward youth in the Bay Area. The Armanino team recently spoke with Charles Hart, CEO of Call of the Sea, about his organization, his reasons for outsourcing his finance and accounting function, and the advantages he's seen from doing so.

What is Call of the Sea?

It is a marine-based educational organization that uses vessels and on-the-water education to meet our mission. We have been providing these programs to the youth of the Bay Area for over 10 years and thus far have sailed with about 60,000 students in total, teaching them environmental education. We have now built a new vessel, the Matthew Turner, which will allow us to teach 10,000 to 15,000 students a year. So we are very excited about the future, and we are in growth mode.

What have been your biggest challenges running the program?

This is the sixth nonprofit that I have run. Like most nonprofits, there is a financial challenge to be able to meet your mission and raise enough money that you can do it well and do it first-class. Approximately 30% of our total budget is dependent upon donated contributions. We earn 70% through charging schools and individuals for the trips, but again, we rely on the community for their donations to complete this program.

What made you consider outsourced finance and accounting?

We felt it will give us the depth and strength that we need in performing all our financial functions. As a small organization, fewer than 10 employees, we need a lot of support in specialty areas such as accounting and finance. So we get the strength of a much larger department that we basically couldn't afford as a small organization.

How has outsourcing impacted how you do business?

Having run nine computer companies, I have always believed professionalism and businesslike practices are the best way to operate. Armanino has provided us with the financial reports and also the consulting capability to make financial decisions that make good business sense. In addition, we are able to use Armanino for not only our monthly financial reporting, but also the year-end tax reports that we have to file as a nonprofit.

What is the day-to-day relationship like?

We work with an Armanino senior consultant who is our key contact point for everything related to finance and accounting. She uses other resources throughout the Armanino organization to meet our needs, whether it be tax questions, payroll, etc. She knows the resources and sometimes we go directly to them, but it has been nice to have that one focal point. Our interaction is basically on a weekly basis.

How has outsourcing positively impacted your mission?

We have to present a businesslike picture to the outside world to be able to compete for a wide range of grants and donations. If we don't look like we know what we are doing in a business sense, we are not going to get their attention. Armanino provides us with that professional look.

After running computer companies all my life, I know there is a difference between a nonprofit and a for-profit organization. But the methodology and the reporting should be the same at the bottom line, and that is what we strive for, to look as businesslike as we can while operating as a nonprofit with unique challenges.

What services do you see yourself needing in the future?

I would like to expand into some other consulting areas. Maybe we could get into personnel issues and so forth as the organization grows, but particularly, right now, we need the strong financial and accounting consulting that's being provided on basically a daily basis by Armanino.

Anything else you'd like to say about outsourced finance and accounting?

Well, I certainly feel it is the way to go for nonprofits. For those who are not able to afford a full-time accountant or bookkeeper, you get the consultants and with them the in-depth experience Armanino brings to the table that we can't hire but need on a daily basis. So to me it's great, a perfect relationship.

Contact our experts to learn more about the benefits of outsourcing.

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Eric Thomas - Partner, Consulting - San Ramon CA
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