Sarah, Director of Finance, UMOM New Day Centers, Arizona

New Employer

UMOM New Day Centers

UMOM New Day Centers mission is to prevent and end homelessness with innovative strategies and housing solutions that meet the unique needs of each family and individual. 
Founded in 1964, UMOM is located in Phoenix, Arizona and is the largest shelter for homeless families in the state. They keep families together, provide a continuum of care from emergency shelter to transitional housing and finally, permanent, affordable housing. Families at UMOM have the opportunity to gain the skills, medical care, quality child care, and education they need to rebuild their lives and succeed when they leave.
Every night they provide safe shelter and supportive services for over 170 homeless families through our continuum of services.  They also offer nearly 300 units of affordable housing across the Valley, each community with Program Centers for residents.

UMOM New Day Centers

Career Changer

Sarah (CPA) Name
Sarah (CPA)
Director of Finance
Sarah had been working for a large real estate company for nine years, before volunteering and later working with a local sports non-profit. She decided to take up a volunteer assignment with AfID to help decide whether to fully commit to a long-term career in the not-for-profit sector.
Sarah spent 3 weeks on assignment in Cambodia supporting ‘Our Strength’, a women’s holistic health organisation that coaches women about reproduction and childbirth. We caught up with Sarah to see how experience volunteering through AfID helped her to make the leap into a career in the not-for-profit sector.

Why did you choose to volunteer; was it part of a planned career change?
My career change to non-profit work came not as part of a planned career change, but by happenstance.  My position at a large real estate company, where I had worked for nine years, was eliminated.  I had an internal audit background and volunteered to help a local sports non-profit that was undergoing difficult challenges.  That volunteer assignment became a paid position where I worked for three years.
I decided to volunteer with AfID to determine whether I wanted to make non-profit work my long-term career or go back into the private sector.  Sports were one thing, but the type of human service non-profits and the work that touches our hearts were another.  It would be moving away from my private sector background and fully committing to a non-profit career.
My volunteer experience brought me face to face with the type of client I was considering serving.  In the private sector, we often take the availability of quality financial information for granted.  Volunteering with AFID showed me that a small amount of information really made a difference in an organizations ability to assess and serve their constituents.  That even as an accountant rather than a direct service provider, I could truly make a difference.  
Where are you working now? Can you tell us a little about your current role and how it differs to your last full time position in your previous sector?
My current role is as the Director of Finance for UMOM New Day Center.  UMOM is the largest family homeless shelter in Arizona.  We house approximately 150 families on our resident campus providing case management, child care, medical care, food and clothing.  Our mission is to prevent and end homelessness with innovative strategies and housing solutions that meet the unique needs of each family and individual.
Many of my skills from the private sector transferred.  Debits and credits are the same.   Spreadsheets are the same.  Managing people is the same.  I have learned the specific regulations that are needed to deal with city, state, federal and private funding.  
What would you say are the pros & cons of your decision to work in the sector?
The resources for salaries and supplies are the con.  We often wait for donated supplies rather than purchasing items. (I am currently waiting for someone to donate a whiteboard.)  The pros far outweigh the cons.  I know that the spreadsheets I create make a difference to the families we serve.  The analysis I perform helps drive decisions about what resources we will be able to use for programs and serving our clients.  
What would be your advice to other accountants considering a similar career change?
To quote Nike, “Just Do It” (I am American and I did work with sports).  I do not regret, for an instant, my decision to leave the private sector and pursue a career in human services.  I sit at my desk and hear the children laughing in our facility.  Knowing that my work improves their lives makes any small inconveniences worthwhile.