Do candidates need a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree to be a nonprofit CFO?
Most of the technical assistance providers and funders in our sample described the ideal CFO as having both the CPA and the MBA—in addition to many years of relevant financial management experience. However, the need for a CPA or MBA depends on the size and complexity of the organization, the role of the board in fiscal management, and—perhaps most importantly—the skill set of the organization’s existing financial staff. In organizations with a CPA as a controller and a strong accounting department, it is less important for the CFO to be a CPA. However, if there isn’t a financial staff member (or highly involved board member) with a CPA, most of our interviewees said they thought it would be prudent for the CFO to be a CPA. In fact, of the CFOs we interviewed, the vast majority had MBA degrees and a quarter were CPAs. Most of those CPAs also held MBAs. The CPA CFOs in our group reported that the rigorous work required to earn their CPAs gave them new insight into the finance function a