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Saving nonprofit funds motivates Heise

By Tonya Layman, Atlanta Business Chronicle Contributing Writer

For Laura Heise, serving as chief financial officer of United Cerebral Palsy of Georgia Inc. is more than just watching every penny that comes in and goes out. It is about serving a purpose that makes the lives of clients better.

As the organization serves adults with developmental disabilities, Heise works to guide the finances, ensuring the money is spent wisely so that more services can be provided.

“In a nonprofit there is never enough money,” she said. “You have to run everything as tight and efficiently as humanly possible. My folks here do that ó we run very lean. We really have to finagle things and watch expenses so we can make the money go as far as it can.”

As a member of United Cerebral Palsyís senior management team, she impacts organization policy and is a resource for staff members, providing training and support in budget preparation, financial reporting, program evaluation and more.

In order to achieve this, Heise encourages her team and UCP’s leadership to think outside of the norm to create solutions to problems.

Heise is the CFO of the Year in the Nonprofit Organization category for Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2013 CFO of the Year Awards.

One of her tasks is getting the organization’s data into a usable format that can be understood by program staff.

Because of the high cost of technology, UCP canít afford “fancy systems that allow you to push a button and spit out a report.” Instead, the finance staff has to manipulate the data, taking it sometimes through various programs, to get it into a format that is usable by the business decision-makers.

Heise has led this effort for six years and has significantly enhanced UCP’s financial stability and operations. Her efforts have helped make UCP the largest charitable service provider for people with disabilities in Georgia and South Carolina, with an annual budget of $20 million, more than 600 employees and about 70 operating locations.

Scott Gundrum, associate director of finance for UCP of Georgia, said Heise is a strong advocate for the organization and has developed a great finance team.

“Laura is the type of boss that tells you where she wants to go with a project or responsibility and then gives you the ability to decide how to get to that point,” he said. “She is there with support every step of the way but not looking over your shoulder…”

Heise has increased net assets 2.5 times.