JOB TITLE: NOLS Chief Financial Officer
THE ORGANIZATION: NOLS is a global, non-profit wilderness educational institution driven by its mission to be the leading source and teacher of wilderness and leadership skills. By leveraging its distinctive expertise and passion for the wild, NOLS endeavors to provide transformative experiences to a diverse body of students. Founded in 1965 as the National Outdoor Leadership School by Paul Petzoldt to teach wilderness skills through extended expeditions, NOLS has greatly expanded the breadth and reach of its exceptionally high-quality wilderness and leadership education programs and has emerged as the global leader in the field. The founder’s vision of nurturing leaders who know how to live responsibly in the wilderness and are capable of teaching others to do the same endures today and comes to life through a diverse and passionate community of “NOLSies.” NOLS staff, students, trustees, and alumni share a commitment to wilderness, education, leadership, safety, community, inclusivity, and excellence that guides the organization’s modern vision. With a new President and Executive Team, NOLS will build on this legacy and utilize the broad scope of NOLS’ expertise to inspire its community and to continue innovating programs that attract and engage students, whether in classrooms close to home or in remote wilderness areas around the world.
NOLS is headquartered in Lander, a small community in west-central Wyoming, nestled at the edge of Shoshone National Forest and the Wind River Mountains, where NOLS also holds the forest’s largest land use permit. Although based in Lander, NOLS is a global organization in its expertise, outlook, and influence. It has 17 unique operational locations worldwide, operates in all 50 states and in dozens of countries, and employs nearly 1,400 individuals as full-time and part-time staff. NOLS enrolls more than 28,000 students annually and has more than 360,000 active alumni. The school has an annual budget of approximately $40 million and an endowment of just over $50 million.
NOLS stands at an exciting inflection point. Its mission of connecting a global audience with wilderness experiences and developing leadership skills has never been more relevant. The school has matured as an organization and grown significantly, expanding its mission, global reach, and programmatic offerings. With long-tenured stability in the Finance department, we seek a new leader to maintain excellence, and grow our programmatic reach with fiscal discipline.
NOLS PILLARS: NOLS develops the next generation of leaders and cultivates new and diverse audiences through its core educational pillars in Expeditions, Wilderness Medicine, Custom Education, and Risk Services. With an innovative curriculum, powerful pedagogy, and world-class instructors, NOLS courses focus on building interpersonal and outdoor skills that transform lives and prepare students for success in school, careers, and beyond. Wherever students travel or learn with NOLS, they emerge with a leadership framework and “expedition behavior” that emphasizes these values: competence, communication, judgment, teamwork, respect for others, self-awareness, optimism, vision and action, and tolerance for adversity.
NOLS began by leading wilderness expeditions, and expeditions remain a significant part of the school’s identity and mission. Alumni of NOLS Expedition courses feel a particular passion and conviction about the school and describe profound experiences on these lengthy, fully immersive, and demanding courses.
On NOLS Expeditions, students spend anywhere from one week to several months in the wilderness at one of the school’s 17 locations, learning outdoor skills like backpacking, rock climbing, kayaking, and more. Students experience a rigorous leadership progression and build confidence as they practice leading in real-life situations. In recent years, demand for expeditions has softened, especially for extended, semester-long courses. In this digital age, to overcome the headwinds posed by interest in shorter courses, the Expeditions program must clearly articulate the unique value of leadership and personal development granted by extended wilderness experiences. The CFO will be an integral partner in modeling business scenarios, determining cost factors, and helping inform the financial aspects of programmatic choices as part of the executive leadership team.
In 1999, NOLS acquired the Wilderness Medicine Institute, the nation’s leading provider of wilderness first aid and wilderness first responder courses. The addition of Wilderness Medicine curriculum naturally complemented NOLS’ legacy expedition offerings. NOLS Wilderness Medicine has grown steadily and today provides industry-recognized wilderness medicine credentials to 28,500 students annually, both directly and through partnerships with organizations such as REI, Landmark Learning, and over 400 sponsor organizations. Courses operate in all 50 states and more than 40 countries, and can last from a 2- day wilderness first aid introduction in an urban environment for those with no previous medical experience to a month-long Wilderness EMT course on NOLS’ Wyss Campus outside Lander or a 28-day traverse of the Gila Wilderness for senior medical students, team-taught with Harvard Emergency Medicine faculty. Rapidly-expanding student demand over the years has made Wilderness Medicine a large and consequential driver of the school’s mission and revenue stream. In addition, Wilderness Medicine has expanded access to NOLS and has been an important bridge to introduce a more diverse audience to the full range of NOLS programs.
NOLS created Custom Education in 1999 to serve corporate and group markets. Custom Education provides personalized leadership training to organizations as varied as NASA, Google, business schools, youth pathway programs, four-year federal military service institutions, and secondary schools. Custom Expedition offerings provide a 7- to 30-day wilderness expedition, where groups travel, live, and learn in the backcountry. NOLS also offers the Leadership Navigation Challenge, which is a 1- to 3-day course that blends classroom and experiential learning. NOLS has successfully leveraged the strategic partnerships developed through Custom Education to introduce a broader audience to the school.
Careful risk management has been the foundation on which NOLS students have thrived as the school has offered decades of educational experiences, which by definition are under demanding conditions. Through careful leadership, the NOLS risk management team pioneered a practice of data-gathering and analysis to discern patterns underlying student and instructor “near-misses,” injuries, and illnesses. Then, importantly, it began to disseminate lessons learned from this process as best practices.
This helped drive a culture at NOLS of continuous improvement where safety is recognized as measureable and a critical professional metric. This NOLS-grown process and culture has continuously raised the bar for student health and safety and led to a safety database and risk mitigation expertise without parallel in the outdoor education universe.
These successes led to the creation of NOLS Risk Services. This team provides risk management reviews, custom designed training, and consultations to organizations with outdoor education programs and interests. It also provides experiential classroom trainings on how to identify hazards and manage risk in the outdoors. NOLS Risk Services serves as a founder and legacy partner of the national Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC), now in its 25th year.
STAFF AND STUDENTS: NOLS accomplishes its mission through an extraordinary team of faculty and “in-town” professionals—whether it is engaging a prospective student on their first call to NOLS Admissions or helping a multi-course graduate winnow their best options for an Alumni Trip. NOLS thrives because of the hard work and expertise of 150 administrative staff located in NOLS headquarters in Lander and 225 staff overseeing operations of the school’s 17 domestic and international locations. NOLS instructors are gifted field and classroom educators without parallel. Each year, over 1,150 instructors share their talents as wilderness, medical, and leadership experts and world-class risk managers who create transformative student experiences. Some teach full-time and many in more than one of the school’s pillars. The school’s operations are led by a team of accomplished outdoor professionals who are wholly committed to the NOLS mission. NOLS’ organizational culture seeks to mirror the leadership philosophy taught in the field, and accordingly, community, transparency, and independence are highly valued in the staff. As NOLS has grown to become a complex global institution, it has worked to build a cohesive culture among its diverse staff dispersed across remote locations around the world.
There is no one prototypical NOLS student. Courses are offered to students ranging in age from early teens to mature adults. Age and ability requirements are course dependent. NOLS supports students by providing more financial aid than any organization in the industry, awarding just over $1.8 million in scholarships in FY 2019. Each year, the Gateway Partner Scholarship Program provides opportunities for approximately 150 youth from up to 30 official partner organizations to expand their leadership and wilderness skills at one of NOLS’ seven domestic operating locations.
LOCATIONS: The construction of NOLS World Headquarters (HQ) in Lander, Wyoming in 2001 created a consolidated central administrative HQ location. Across the street from HQ is the historic Noble Hotel, which NOLS owns and renovated in 2005. The Noble provides a comfortable and welcoming first introduction for many NOLS Rocky Mountain students and a “home base” for many instructors. Additionally, the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus (20 minutes outside of Lander) was completed in 2012. It is the first LEED Platinum project in Lander and the fifth in the state of Wyoming. The campus, home to the growing NOLS Wilderness Medicine Wilderness EMT program, includes classrooms, housing, and kitchen and dining facilities.
Current NOLS locations include: Alaska, East Africa, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Northeast, Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, River Base, Rocky Mountain, Scandinavia, Southwest, Teton Valley, Three Peaks Ranch, Wyss Campus, and Yukon.
With a significant portion of its operations by permit on public lands, NOLS relies on positive, supportive relations with public lands and government partners for its outdoor classrooms. Increasing constraints on use in these wild spaces and changing government regulations present ongoing challenges for the school. From its founding, NOLS has promoted the protection of its wilderness classrooms through environmental education and stewardship and will engage selectively in environmental advocacy work in areas where the organization has unique and credible interests and knowledge.
FINANCE: NOLS’ financial position has strengthened considerably over the last decade, and the school has a healthy foundation for growth and long-term sustainability. NOLS’ annual operating budget is $40 million. In FY 2019, 90% of revenue came from tuition and other program income; 6% from philanthropy; and 4% from the endowment. Approximately 62% of tuition revenue comes from NOLS Expedition programs, 23% from the Wilderness Medicine program, 11% from Custom Education, and 4% from Alumni and Risk Services. Total endowments currently stand at over $50 million. It is important to highlight that NOLS has had notable recent successes in major and annual giving through its Step Forward capital campaign and is on track to meet its $30 million goal by the end of 2020.
Location: Lander, WY
Reports to: President (Terri Watson)
- Controller: Monthly financial statements preparation, receivables, payables, payroll, audit
- Information Systems Director: software engineers, network admin, system admin, support
- Purchasing Manager: Schoolwide purchasing, mailroom, shipping/receiving
- Does not supervise, but provides key input to the Rocky Mountain facilities manager
- The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is a member of the senior leadership team.
- Responsible for the finance, information systems, purchasing, and HQ facilities functions, the CFO works closely with committees of the Board of Trustees.
Schoolwide Financial Leadership
- Responsible for the overall financial management of NOLS including financial statement preparation, receivables, payable, and payroll.
- Present and interpret financial information to other members of the Executive Leadership team.
- Respond to inquiries and provide analysis to the President.
- Lead schoolwide annual budget process.
- Provide financial modeling to inform decision making at all levels of the organization.
- Provide education on relevant financial topics to school directors and other staff via written papers, presentations, and interactive educational sessions.
- Responsible for determining and implementing schoolwide financial policies and procedures.
- Responsible for compliance with all U.S. financial regulations (taxes, payroll withholding, etc.)
- Work with Operations on compliance with non-U.S. tax and other regulations. Lead on ensuring business compliance in international operations.
Board of Trustees
- Be the primary staff representative to the Finance Committee, Audit Committee, & Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees.
- Work with Treasurer to determine appropriate topics for the Finance and Investment Committee and keep them informed, so that they can most effectively participate in the governance of NOLS.
- Work with the Chair of the Audit Committee to coordinate audit activities throughout the year.
- Arrange regular meetings of the Finance and Investment Committee with our investment manager to review performance.
- Provide education to trustees and respond to requests for information.
Executive Leadership Team Member
- Be an active member of the school-wide senior leadership team, guiding overall strategy.
- Lead financial modeler to support schoolwide decision discussions.
- Actively contribute to the development and execution of the strategic vision and plan of NOLS.
- Part of crisis response team, as/if needed.
- Provide leadership for, and manage the strategic development and deployment of, information and technology at NOLS.
- Responsible for the overall Information Systems strategy, including budget allocations to both capital and operational needs.
- Oversee the IT Department as they lay framework for future systems review and lead future implementations.
- Determine the maintenance priorities for the HQ facility and budget needs.
- Oversee third-party contractors for facilities work and relationships with the City of Lander.
- Act as one of the primary points of contacts for any after-hours HQ building issues.
- Work with Fremont County to obtain and maintain appropriate property tax exemptions.
- Work with other local governments to obtain and maintain property tax exemptions.
- Provide leadership for, and manage the enterprise-wide purchasing function.
- Manage overall liability and property insurance programs including organizational liability, property, and other non-health insurance policies as the lead agent.
- Employee benefit programs
- Oversee the plan design for the NOLS 403(b) and act as plan administrator.
- Lead role in the overall management of NOLS’ self-funded health plan, including obtaining administrative services and reinsurance.
- Manage primary banking relationships, including cash management.
- Responsible for obtaining any needed financing including the line of credit.
- Oversee the investment of the endowment and other funds, in partnership with the Investment Committee.
- Support and advance the professional development of the finance, information systems, and facilities staff.
CANDIDATE PROFILE: The ideal candidate will have the following professional and personal skills, qualities and characteristics.
- Minimum 10 years of experience leading finance in a complex philanthropic environment, including hiring, training, and staff leadership/team development.
- Strong financial management skills and experience, including coordinating audit activities and managing reporting, budget development and analysis, accounts payable and receivable, general ledger, and payroll.
- Additional experience leading a technology function would be highly beneficial, especially experience in large scale implementations of enterprise systems.
- An understanding and sensitivity to the complexity of the various funding streams at NOLS (earned revenue and philanthropy, domestic and international).
- The technical abilities and confidence to ensure that the NOLS financial oversight is of the highest caliber in terms of both best practices and compliance.
- Passionate about the mission and impact of NOLS; comfortable working in partnership with the staff, funders, and other partners to advance the mission and agenda.
- A strategic finance leader with the tactical ability to “deep dive” into the details with strong quantitative and analytical skills; able to transition seamlessly between the “big picture” and minutia.
- Comfortable with both the rigor of the finance function and the ambiguity of a growth organization that operates across multiple geographies and cultures.
- Ability to set clear priorities, delegate, and guide investment in people and systems.
- A creative approach to problem-solving that supports and enables sound decision-making, and empowers others to contribute to the overall success of the organization.
- A high level of intellectual horsepower with a collaborative and service-oriented mindset.
- Skilled at building effective relationships at multiple levels across complex institutions.
- A strong leader, communicator, and collaborator, with the ability to engage with a wide range of stakeholders including team members, funders, Trustees and other partners.
- Skilled at presenting financial information in a clear, confident fashion to a range of constituents.
- Skilled at building and leading high-performing, diverse teams with the highest degree of professionalism and guiding team members’ growth and development.
- A high level of emotional intelligence; a style that will resonate in the NOLS community and beyond.
- Sensitivity to culture and passion for the mission and programs of the school is essential, as is the ability to operate within a transparent and collaborative a team culture.
- Able to develop a powerful sense of shared purpose and productive and fulfilling relationships with others, motivating them to engage the opportunities and challenges ahead, providing true leadership for this next chapter.
- Highest levels of integrity, ethics and values.
- MBA and/or CPA required
DIVERSITY-EQUITY-INCLUSION: NOLS is committed to creating and fostering environments that are welcoming, equitable, and inclusive for all of our past, present, and future students, instructors, and staff.
We seek to celebrate the breadth of diversity represented within our community, while keeping our eyes on the continued journey that we must walk, run, or stroll to create spaces made with everyone in mind.
NOLS is committed to building a diverse community that is inclusive of people from all backgrounds. NOLS does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, genetics information, disability unrelated to job or admission requirements, or veteran status.
If you or someone in your network is interested in exploring this opportunity, please contact:
Partner, Bridge Partners
Partner, Bridge Partners
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