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Day in the Life: Laura Carson, CPA


Sep 1, 2018

CFO - YMCA Camp Tecumseh, Inc.


ABOUT ME

Alma Mater: Indiana University Bloomington
Organization:
Camp Tecumseh, located on 600 acres along the Tippecanoe River in Brookston, IN
Size:
100-400 Employees depending on the time of the year
Job Description: Provide financial stewardship and fiscal management. As Chief Financial Officer, I am responsible for financial/accounting reporting, budgeting, overseeing endowments and investments, HR duties and monitoring the camper registration process.
Previous Positions: United Way of Greater Lafayette – Finance & Community Impact Director; Materials Processing, Inc. – VP Accounting & Administration; audit and tax positions at KPMG
Family: I live with my husband of 30 years — Daryl. I have three wonderful grown-up children — Tim (TJ), Liz and Rachel.
Pets: A momma’s girl yellow lab named Stella and an aloof (is there any other kind?) cat named Grace
Hobbies: Yoga, hiking, gardening, playing at the lake and reading
Other Memberships/Community Involvement: I’ve been involved with several non-profit boards through the years, including LTHC Homeless Services, Lafayette Great Banquet, Radian Research (an ESOP) and United Way. One of the great things about being a CPA is there are numerous opportunities to bring your expertise to volunteer boards of directors!

Laura Carson at the Camp Tecumseh animal farm


DAILY JOURNAL

Wake at 6 a.m. I’m awake but haven’t needed to hurry since we have become empty nesters.  My husband brings me coffee in bed where I prop up to read my devotion and start the day with prayer.


8 a.m.  Arrive at my office. I pass a family of deer at the entrance to the camp and slow down to see the campers leaving flagpole and heading to breakfast. I check in with the leadership team for daily updates before we head in our different directions. I go through my email, return correspondence and check in with staff.

Laura Carson in her office at Camp Tecumseh

9 a.m. Meet with our CEO and the Director of Development. We are in the beginning stages of a capital campaign for improvements to River Village, the oldest part of camp. This is a phased plan that will involve new cabins, a new dining court, staff housing and updates to the original lodge. There is a lot of excitement around the campaign and so much to accomplish!


10:00 a.m. Begin the month-end close process. I invoice retreat groups and post cash receipts. Balancing of credit card and bank transactions is the first step in reconciling our bank accounts. Groups and schools pay after they have been to camp. Individual summer camp tuition is prepaid, so those fees are recognized as revenue after the camper has attended camp. 


Noon. Take a break when the food service crew brings the office a tray for lunch — it’s grilled cheese day! Might go check out the salad bar. Lunch is a gathering of office staff in the middle of the office. We answer phones as needed, but prefer to eat together when we can. 


1 p.m. Balance contributions and gifts to the subsidiary ledger maintained by the director of development. Generous donors contribute to our general funds and to scholarship funds that help cover the costs for campers and nonprofit groups. Camp Tecumseh, with the help of our donors, awards over 400 need-based scholarships for summer campers every year. An additional 3,600 partial campership-scholarships are awarded to retreats and outdoor education groups. Part of the month-end closing process is recording these scholarships. After closing entries are complete, I can review our designated fund balances to make sure the funds have been used in accordance to donor or board restricted purposes. Final preparation of the financial statements is completed by the 15th of the month following, and financial reports are approved by the CEO, treasurer and board of directors.

Camp Tecumseh

3:00 p.m. Head to HR committee meeting. We are a cross-functional group that has been tasked with reviewing our employment handbook and HR policies. We have also worked to provide job descriptions for each job title and to develop a better performance review process. 


4 p.m. Approve accounts payable invoices for a check run in the morning. The process includes making sure account codes are correct and proper departmental approvals are documented. Every other week I review and approve payroll. Depending on the time of year, we could be running 100 up to 400 payroll deposits. Thank goodness we have an outside processor! 


End of day. Head to Lafayette for an LTHC Homeless Services Board meeting. I am the treasurer and will give the financial report. We have received grants and generous donor gifts to build a new homeless services center in Lafayette. The design phase is concluding, and we are days away from breaking ground. 

CARSON'S TIPS FOR NEW TALENT

Advice for Students Considering the Profession: Accounting is a great way to get your foot into any door. All organizations — whether it is a small business, a fortune 500, governmental entity or a not- for-profit — needs an accountant. When you select the field of accounting you are not limited to one type of company or one specific industry. I have worked in public accounting, manufacturing, been self-employed and now work in nonprofit. Each industry has been interesting and taught me something I’ve used along my way. Becoming a CPA gives you a level of expertise and prestige that can get you opportunities for top leadership in organizations.

Advice for young pros wanting to advance in the profession: Advancement in the profession is not tied to one industry as other degrees might be. If you are not progressing in one company or position, don’t be afraid to take another opportunity. Find what you enjoy and are passionate about. If you can connect to your purpose and passion you will succeed. Keep looking until you find it. You have highly marketable skills — don’t sell yourself short.



Perks of the job:

  • I take walks in the woods or along the river.
  • Fox and deer walk past my office window in the late afternoon spring, fall and sometimes winter.
  • I get to see kids having a great time while learning and playing.
  • In the summer I may go to morning chapel in the amphitheater overlooking the river.
  • I often get a serenade of camp songs by our day campers.
  • I’m able to live my faith and using my professional skills to support the mission of the organization and be a servant leader to staff, camp guests, donors and camp leadership.

Beach at Camp Tecumseh

Fun Facts about Camp Tecumseh

Established in 1924 to serve children from YMCAs from around the state

4H campers have been coming to Camp Tecumseh since 1924

It is currently one of the largest independent YMCA camps in the U.S.

We serve more than 35,000 guests a year: 6,500 resident and day campers in addition to 400+ groups

On any given week in the summer, we have campers from 21 states and 7 different countries

Our summer counselor staff come from 43 universities and colleges from around the country

We host the largest outdoor education program for schools in the state

Our Retreats staff hosted 13,500 weekend guests in 2017

Camp Tecumseh Food Service staff prepares and serves more than 200,000 meals a year

The favorite — and even famous — camper food is our Baked Oatmeal (you can find the recipe at camptecumseh.org/connect/blog)

 



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