Read as Chris Jacobs talks about his career working with the United Methodist Foundation. You can find Chris on his website at www.chrisjacobs7.com and on his Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.
I’m currently working as the Operations Officer for the United Methodist Foundation of Indiana. In my role with the Foundation, my responsibilities have been focused within the organization’s Loan & Savings Ministry which works to provide churches with a reliable and affordable source of funding through stable investments made by individuals, churches, and agencies.
How would you describe what you do?
It’s difficult to grasp what I really do based off of my title, so it always helps to describe my position in more detail. My responsibilities are divided into three key areas: customer service, accounting/reporting, and administrative tasks. I would say that on average I spend fifty percent of my time on accounting and reporting, thirty-five percent on administrative tasks, and fifteen percent on customer service.
What does your work entail?
As I mentioned in the previous answer, most of my time is spent on accounting and reporting responsibilities. This involves processing customer transactions in our banking software, posting accounting entries in our accounting software, performing reconciliations between these software, and generating and analyzing various financial and operational reports. The time I spend on administrative tasks includes scanning files into our document management software and mailings statements and correspondence to our customers. The time I spend on customer service involves communicating with our customers by email or phone to assist in setting up accounts, answering any questions, and resolving other issues that may arise.
What’s a typical work week like?
In a typical week, I will be working at the office from 8:30am to 5:00pm each day. On occasion my hours will be longer due to meetings or time-sensitive projects, but this is a rare occurrence. Most of my time in the office is spent at my desk either completing work on my computer or speaking with customers over the phone.
How did you get started?
When I completed my undergraduate degree at the end of 2010, the job market in finance-related fields was still very limited due to the recession. I had always wanted to go into either banking or corporate finance, but there simply wasn’t any entry-level positions available at the time. I spent the first few months after graduation working in a call center while keeping an eye open on the fields that interested me. Looking back, it’s ironic that I ended up in the nonprofit sector because when I was in college that was the last place I would’ve wanted to end up. While working in the call center position, I was made aware of the opening for my position. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but my options were still very limited at the time, so I decided to give this position a try and see where it led me.
What do you like about what you do?
The most enjoyable part of my position is the financial analysis. I love working with numbers and having the opportunity to work on complex problems, and as a result really enjoy having the opportunity to develop and analyze various financial and operational reports for the organization.
What do you dislike?
Customer service is the only aspect of my position that I dislike. I’m often required to answer the same questions over and over and walk customers through basic transactions. As an introvert, this aspect of my position is mentally draining and can be very frustrating at times.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I started as hourly, but I was transitioned to salaried when I began to acquire more responsibilities. The total compensation package also includes a retirement match, vacation, insurance, and HSA contributions.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
My education is a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and a Master of Business Administration degree. However, only a Bachelor’s degree in either finance or accounting is required for this position.
What is most challenging about what you do?
The most challenging aspect of this position is the variety of tasks I’m responsible for on a daily basis. Communicating effectively with customers and then performing accounting and analyzation tasks requires two very different mindsets which can be near impossible to switch between.
What is most rewarding?
The most rewarding part of my position is knowing the good that is happening as a result. Thanks to our ministry and my work, churches are able to acquire the financing they need to improve their facilities and better further their mission. It’s gratifying to know that I’m playing a small part in this process.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
If anyone is interested in working within the nonprofit sector, I would highly recommend working for an organization with a mission you can support and that aligns with your values. It’s very rewarding to know that your work has a purpose and that it’s playing a part in furthering something that you support.
How much time off do you get/take?
I get two weeks of vacation each year and one personal day each month. It would be completely acceptable to take all of these days off, but I seldom use all of my days.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
I don’t recall coming across any misconceptions about my specific position, but I think there are some misconceptions about the nonprofit sector in general. One that I often hear is about the working conditions in nonprofits. Many people assume that nonprofits are terrible to work for because they are focused on their mission and not on their employees, but I have found this to not be true in my experience.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
At this point in my career, I don’t have any concrete goals in my mind for the future. This sector, and the workplace in general, is constantly changing, and I’d hate to lock myself into a predetermined career path. In the short to intermediate future my goal is to be in a position that maximizes my strengths, minimizes my weaknesses, and gives me the opportunity to work for an organization I support. I have enjoyed my time in the nonprofit sector and would like to continue on that path if possible, but at the same time, there are plenty of for-profit organizations doing great work as well.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
One final thing I would share is that working for a nonprofit can be a great learning opportunity. Both my undergraduate and graduate studies focused heavily on a for-profit perspective, so learning business from a nonprofit perspective first-hand has been a great way to round out my education and become more knowledgeable about business. Even if it’s only for a few years, I would definitely recommend working in the nonprofit sector to anyone who is interested.