Transform #4: The Multi Dimensions of Vitamin Angels

At Sage Transform 2022, Blake and David spoke with Bonnie Forssell and Jennifer Herbert at Vitamin Angels. They discussed the complexities of running a global not-for-profit.

Attention: This is a machine-generated transcript. As such, there may be spelling, grammar, and accuracy errors throughout. Thank you for your understanding!

Bonnie Forssell: [00:00:00] Well, because our jobs aren't finance anymore. Like we have this other like, operational, bigger leadership role than I think CFOs have had in the past. And the past has been like the CFO runs Finance and that's it. And I think CFOs are evolving. It's like when I think about my job and what the CFO role was then is now the controller role today. I probably spend about 20, 25% of my time on finance specifically, and then the rest is on other areas of the business.

Blake Oliver: [00:00:33] This episode of the Cloud Accounting Podcast was recorded at the Sage Transform Conference in October of 2022. Because it's a little shorter than our usual episodes, this episode does not qualify for free CPE on the earmark app. However, it's a great interview. I hope you listen and I hope you enjoy. Welcome to a special episode of The Cloud Accounting Podcast. I'm Blake Oliver.

David Leary: [00:00:58] And I'm David Leary-

Blake Oliver: [00:00:59] And we are recording in person at Sage Transform in Orlando, Florida. Welcome to the show, listeners.

David Leary: [00:01:08] Yes. Listeners. We're live.

Blake Oliver: [00:01:10] We're live.

David Leary: [00:01:11] And best thing about the show is we have true customers. It's business. And so we have a CFO, Bonnie Forssell. She's from Vitamin Angels, and we have one of her person on our team, Jennifer Hebert. She's a senior accountant at Vitamin Angels. And they've been using Intacct for four years?

Bonnie Forssell: [00:01:29] Three years.

David Leary: [00:01:30] Three years. And then I think you said, Jennifer, you've used it in a previous role as well. You want to start with that, like the older journey, and then we'll move into the transition.

Blake Oliver: [00:01:39] Well, I want to hear about Vitamin Angels. Oh, hey, let's say you don't mind telling us. Tell us about Vitamin Angels first.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:01:44] So Vitamin Angels is a public health nonprofit where an international organization and we work in 70 countries all over the world. And our focus is on public health and nutrition, specifically for pregnant women and then children up to the age of five. So we're focusing on the first 1000 days of life.

Blake Oliver: [00:02:02] And so what kind of services do you provide that, you know, help women, pregnant women and women with young children?

Bonnie Forssell: [00:02:09] Absolutely. So we provide vitamin supplementation. So vitamin A, ANTI-PARASITIC, drugs, prenatal vitamins for pregnant women. We also do advocacy advisory services with governments, so state, federal governments and education services, so breastfeeding, education, infant and young children feeding education.

David Leary: [00:02:31] So your website says you've helped over 70 million women in children just this year. Yes, but how how do you scale it? Like, how do you. That seems monstrous.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:02:40] No, it's such a good question. We have a really interesting operating model to where we partner with other smaller NGOs. Has our our strategy is really to reach the hardest to reach populations that aren't being reached through national health services. Okay. And so in order to do that, we have to be really local. And so we partner with other organizations that serve a particular community, like, for example, maybe in it's an indigenous community in a remote area in the mountains of Peru, you know, something like that. We can never do that on our own. We really rely on our partners and so we work with 1600 I'm sorry, 2600 partners all over the world that help us reach those really hard to reach areas.

David Leary: [00:03:21] And so are you acquiring the vitamins and shipping them? Like what's the.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:03:26] We get them donated to us. Sometimes when they are donated to us, they're under really strict manufacturing guidelines. So it's we don't just take, you know, like ashwagandha or anything like a random vitamins. We take only vitamins that have a health like intervention impact hadn't been proven. And so we take only those to a specific specification that W.H.O. requires in order for us to do this work. So that's the World Health Organization. We get them donated or we purchase them ourselves, and then we pass them along.

David Leary: [00:03:58] So you kind of ensuring that there's quality happening? Absolutely. This distribution versus 16, you said 1600 NGOs that are 26. Some 2600. Yeah. Okay. So you're ensuring that the right stuff's getting to the right place is absolutely quality. Okay, That makes a lot of sense.

Blake Oliver: [00:04:13] So you're on stage in text? We are. How long have you been on Intacct?

Bonnie Forssell: [00:04:18] For three years. So I came on four years ago to Vitamin Angels, and that was one of the big tasks was to switch out our old system into a newer system that was more that could help catapult. What we were trying to do.

David Leary: [00:04:32] Was the old system.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:04:33] We used for you.

David Leary: [00:04:34] With.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:04:34] So, yeah, a quick fix online.

David Leary: [00:04:36] Help us online. And were you on any system before that or you just always QuickBooks Online all this online.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:04:41] You know, I think maybe in the very beginning we were like in Excel, maybe in the very beginning.

Blake Oliver: [00:04:47] And what was the impetus to switch?

Bonnie Forssell: [00:04:49] We're really limited. So we had a lot of big plans and a lot of things we wanted to do, but our accounting system couldn't keep up with it. And so.

Blake Oliver: [00:04:57] In way, a.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:04:58] Lot of forms will leave a lot of foreign transactions working internationally, a whole set of accounting challenges. And Jennifer actually is doing a lot with our international group, but we couldn't do that in QuickBooks, not easily. We also had issues with inventory and like how do we track inventory? We were doing it very manually. Everything was very paper based. We just didn't have a lot of automated automation happening. More was being required from a reporting standpoint, you really wanted to. We never took restricted funding. It was kind of a rule because we didn't feel like our system could make it would make it too difficult on us to to manage restricted funding. And so we wanted a system that was easy so we could take restricted funding and report on it easily. Slice and dice data different ways is really hard to tell what areas like what countries are sucking up our budget because we couldn't track. Detail unless we exported data into Excel and manually figured out where all these countries and these costs are coming from. There's a lot of reasons. And honestly, we probably should have done it ten years ago, but at least we have it now.

Blake Oliver: [00:06:06] And what brings you to this conference?

Bonnie Forssell: [00:06:09] I'm here for the CFO Summit.

Jennifer Herbert: [00:06:12] And I'm here because I'm new to the company. So it's kind of like a refresher because I haven't been in Intacct for probably like almost five years now. So it's a good refresher.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:06:22] And working is fun, too. Yes.

Blake Oliver: [00:06:25] So you've used Intacct before in a previous role? Yes. Okay. What was that?

Jennifer Herbert: [00:06:30] It was they did kind of real estate. So it was a weird, very weird company. But I did the whole implementation of Intacct. So originally they had the software zero, which is kind of like QuickBooks, but that wasn't big enough because we did a lot of billing through all the invoices. So that was a huge thing with Intacct that you can mark every invoice of who you want to bill, of which customer and stuff. So that was nice. So and I did that for about two years or so.

David Leary: [00:07:00] All right. So, you know, in the keynote this morning, talk about how they spent $1,000,000,000 on R&D and they did $1,000,000,000 in acquisitions. So, Jennifer, for you coming from using it five years ago, not using it for five years and now you're getting back in it like, are you seeing these differences? Are you seeing do you notice that, oh, man, this is I don't remember this being cool?

Jennifer Herbert: [00:07:20] Well, it's definitely different modules that I had used that we don't use here just because it was a for profit. And it was it was just set up differently and it was real estate. But I definitely see more advances in Intacct than it had. So that's why I'm kind of glad that I came for this conference. To see how we progressed exactly. Came a long way in five years, but this is definitely so.

Blake Oliver: [00:07:47] What's your favorite part about insects? Bonnie I'll go to you answer first.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:07:52] And you can answer if you'd like.

Jennifer Herbert: [00:07:53] To.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:07:53] Jennifer I think I have two favorite parts, so one is kind of like just the basic building block of Intacct. It's just the dimensions and that dimension structure. I've worked in really large ERP systems where like the coating was numerical and like, and it was complicated and it is I remember like looking at a chart of accounts and all the different classes and departments and like trying to think like, how do I code? This is very linear, Intacct, feels more three dimensional because of the dimensions I guess that you have. So I love that just the flexibility of how we code things, how we can report because of this, just build it like how Intacct is set up.

Blake Oliver: [00:08:34] So help me visualize this. What are your dimensions look like at Vitamin Angels?

Bonnie Forssell: [00:08:40] So we have the basic dimensions, you know, like vendor customer, but for us, donor employee, that kind of thing. We also use entity obviously, because while we have a more multi entity, so we have several nonprofits in different countries that are consolidated and we use let's see, what am I missing project. So that's for our restricted grants. We use the project Dimension Departments classes. So classes are for the statement of functional expenses, which is really looks like one of the big key metrics for anybody evaluating the efficiency of a nonprofit. So it's really important and departments are more internal, like how we measure ourselves internally and we also have like program type. So we want to know like how much are we spending on our prenatal program, how much are we spending on our children's program, and how much are we spending on advocacy and implementation, science and research. So like, we have these different ways that we can slice it. Oh, and country, of course. Wow. The country.

Jennifer Herbert: [00:09:37] Yeah, I was going to add that, but I figured you would probably get it.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:09:39] Yeah, eventually. There's a lot of.

Blake Oliver: [00:09:41] Yeah, that's quite a lot. I mean, and I'm trying to picture like how you could have done that in QuickBooks and it's just not possible.

David Leary: [00:09:47] You can't because you can't do class tracks for balance sheet accounts and that's why you can't do.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:09:51] You can do classes in QuickBooks.

David Leary: [00:09:52] But that's just profit.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:09:53] Loss. One thing.

David Leary: [00:09:54] Yes I just lost money.

Blake Oliver: [00:09:55] Yeah, right, right. Yeah. And then the restricted funds for that, you know, you're getting grants and you can only use them for a specific purpose and you have to be able to track the these money.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:10:05] And just to click a button, filter it for that particular grant. You can see that, pal. So that brand it really easy And so it's it was before we would add export manually manipulate the data and it's just no good at time for that so no we don't do that.

David Leary: [00:10:21] So Jennifer, we need to hear about your favorite feature.

Jennifer Herbert: [00:10:24] Mine would probably be allocations. We used to do that a lot in Excel, so you, you know, get your percentages for each project or.

Blake Oliver: [00:10:34] Give us an example of an.

Jennifer Herbert: [00:10:35] Allocation. So let's say maybe 50% went to one country, 25% went to another country, and the other 25 to a to a third country.

Blake Oliver: [00:10:47] Oh, like a vitamin shipment or.

Jennifer Herbert: [00:10:49] Yes, okay, let's just say that. Yes. Got it. Any invoice that came in or maybe even an employee's time like their payroll, we can do it that way. So you would just create an allocation in the system and say 50% goes to us, 25 goes to India and 25 goes to Africa or whatever the case may be. Yeah. And then when you're going to code it, all you would pick is that allocation and it doesn't automatically for you there is nothing else you need to do.

David Leary: [00:11:19] So you have to continue to do that over and over again. Add the three lines separate.

Jennifer Herbert: [00:11:23] As.

David Leary: [00:11:24] Separated out for especially for anything that's repeating that makes sense.

Jennifer Herbert: [00:11:26] Exactly. And you would have to code each one of those lines if you did it manually, you know, and then you got to get a calculator. I know some financial softwares would actually have a little calculator when you put the amount in there and then you could put 25% or 50%. This just does it for you. So I think that's a great feature.

David Leary: [00:11:44] That trickles down.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:11:45] That's a great feature we started using in the last year. Yeah, so it's exciting. And then I also say the API, like just how easy and tax API is. So we do integrations like we have an awesome Salesforce integration, it's just really seamless and that's I don't code, obviously I'm a CFO, but when I talked to our coder, he says this is like such a clean API, he understands it like Intacct was very supportive of whenever he was building out. We had a custom API built for Salesforce and it took him just a couple of weeks.

David Leary: [00:12:16] So when you make the system migrate, like how on the processes, that was it like three weeks, six weeks where you're still migrating when you migrated from QuickBooks Online because you didn't meet your needs, you outgrew it. I mean, did you do it section by section? Jude All at once. Like, how did that go?

Bonnie Forssell: [00:12:29] Only once you can say how long it took for you and your own company. For us, it Vitamin Angels. It took us about six months total beginning to end. Not included the Salesforce API that we had built too. So we just we just did it all and we had a cutoff date. So it was like, this is the date that we're doing it. Everything's going in and.

David Leary: [00:12:47] Nothing in earth. Any help, External help did say, just help you, did you?

Bonnie Forssell: [00:12:52] We use nominee No, you just support us through it. And they were wonderful like they that's what they do. So they had like a whole project like template and I'm sure they've improved it even more. That was three years ago, but they had a project template and it just like they thought through every possible scenario and they're like, okay, we work with nonprofits like yours. They typically like to see this and it's like, Oh, I didn't even think of that. Like they're they're really good.

David Leary: [00:13:17] So they're coming in and pulling all the levers and all the preferences and Intacct, and then you just get your data in there and just start using it.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:13:24] Wow.

David Leary: [00:13:25] Mean.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:13:27] I don't want people to think they just snap their fingers and they're Intacct. It's working wonderfully.

Jennifer Herbert: [00:13:31] I think a lot of test runs.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:13:33] Yeah, a lot of there's a lot of user acceptance testing and tweaking things just to get them how you want them and building out workflows and because it's still customizable to what your business needs.

Blake Oliver: [00:13:45] So Bonnie, you have an accounting background. How did you get started?

Bonnie Forssell: [00:13:49] And I started KPMG So public accounting now I was an auditor.

Blake Oliver: [00:13:53] How long did you stay at KPMG for?

Bonnie Forssell: [00:13:56] Four years.

Blake Oliver: [00:13:56] My year, okay.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:13:57] Three years and then started having kids and I didn't want to work 80 hour weeks anymore.

Blake Oliver: [00:14:02] Really? Why not?

Bonnie Forssell: [00:14:05] I don't know. That work life balance like mumbo jumbo like you got to me. And I was like, No, I do want a life.

Blake Oliver: [00:14:12] So that's. When did you take time off? Did you just go into industry like.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:14:15] Yeah, I went right in the industry. I started out working at a really big company. We worked with PeopleSoft, PeopleSoft, Oracle, PeopleSoft. So it's a huge system, totally different.

Blake Oliver: [00:14:26] And what were you doing there? Controller work?

Bonnie Forssell: [00:14:28] Oh no, I was a divisional controller. Okay, so.

Blake Oliver: [00:14:31] How is that working in like giant ERP systems.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:14:34] Wholesale? It was hard. Well, we had a whole team that supported Oracle, so it's like a whole team that just supported the financial software. But I mean, this is, you know, it's $1,000,000,000 organization, so it's okay, you know.

Blake Oliver: [00:14:47] Clients, but still hard for you even though you had a team supporting it, still hard to get what you needed out of the system.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:14:53] The reporting was really clunky. Any time I wanted to make an editor for I couldn't do it. I'd have to wait on it to do it just because the the tree hierarchies were too complicated. Like you need to be trained in it to build a report versus an Intacct. You still have to be trained in it, but it's more intuitive.

Blake Oliver: [00:15:09] You don't have to put in a work order to get a report of change. Yeah, you can make it.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:15:13] You just make the report change and test it out yourself and you might not get it right the first time. But yeah, it's, it's like they have a report writing wizard. So it's, it's made for accountants. Like you don't have to be an i.t person to figure it out.

Blake Oliver: [00:15:26] So you were a divisional controller at a very it sounds like a very large company. Very large. And then, yeah, how did you get to CFO? Because that's also a leap going.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:15:35] From quite a journey. And so I, I left that company and I decided to start my own business. So I did CFO consulting for small businesses. So I went to $1,000,000,000 organization and working with organizations that were 1 to 5 million in revenue. So really small and being sort of like a part time. Cfo. So serving my client base, I had hired other CPAs to help support me in that and I got tired of selling like just constantly looking for new clients and doing that piece of it. I was like, I just want to be a regular accountant again.

Blake Oliver: [00:16:07] It was a lot of the work we were doing, like project based.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:16:10] Project or ongoing. It just it depended like I had one that started out as a project. They're opening up a new location and so they needed someone to help with the debt financing and work in like helping like get their board organized. And so I had like that as a project. But then I had other ongoing clients that just needed ongoing monthly support, like just some way to.

David Leary: [00:16:30] Review their financials, keep me firm. Basically started a bookkeeping firm and yeah.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:16:34] I had a bookkeeper and I had different levels. So is yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:16:38] So you got tired of doing the business side of it.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:16:41] Sold it, yeah. So it's still going. One of the ladies that I worked with has it now. That's great for business now.

Blake Oliver: [00:16:48] Congratulations.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:16:49] Well, I'm glad to be rid of it. And I much for sure what I'm doing now.

Blake Oliver: [00:16:55] Cheers to.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:16:55] You. Yeah. So then I. Then I started, I was doing controller roles, so I was a VP finance controller for one organization that ended up committing fraud. Like the organization by fraud. Oh.

Blake Oliver: [00:17:10] Yeah. Yeah. So you should.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:17:10] Interview me for that one. It was a good story. Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:17:12] Your point. You're pointing to the the the sticker for our show. Oh, my Fraud, which is a true crime podcast for accountants. So. Okay, we're going to send you over to Greg and Kayla.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:17:21] Okay.

David Leary: [00:17:21] Get interviewed there.

Blake Oliver: [00:17:23] Tell us actually, I want to dig into.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:17:24] Now the.

David Leary: [00:17:24] Fraud. Not too much, a little bit a taster, a taste.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:17:27] I might have to talk to an attorney before I talk to anybody about, but. But I left. I left that company pretty quickly. And then I went to a tech company, so a health care technology company. And then I was VP finance there. And then I got I got I did a big capital raise at that company. And I remember sitting in a room and we were celebrating this big capital raise that I worked my butt off for. And I was looking around the room. We were celebrating with our leadership team and our investment bankers, and I was the only female in the room and I was like, What am I doing? Like, is this where I want to be? Is this like what I want? And so I was kind of having this like existential crisis. And then I got a call from a recruiter for the job I have now, Vitamin Angels. And I was like, Oh, like I'm a mom. I have four kids. I was like, just to serve in a way that I couldn't do in that previous role. And then a company like Led by women, tons of.

David Leary: [00:18:23] Mission driven.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:18:24] Mission driven, like supporting women and the mission of supporting women in their health and their children. And so I was like, this is perfect. Like, absolutely perfect. And it was a step up in my career, too, so I can't beat that.

Blake Oliver: [00:18:37] That's great.

David Leary: [00:18:38] So, well, Steve, here we just see CEO. He was town and say she was CFO. Do you have we're starting to see this jump, but CFOs are jumping into that CEO role. This is like like CEO. Yeah, no CEO.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:18:53] Aha. I can see that. I get my well, because our jobs aren't finance anymore. Like we have this other like operational bigger leadership role than I think CFOs have had in the past. And the past has been like the CFO runs finance and that's it. And I think CFOs are evolving. It's like when I think about my job and what the CFO role was then is now the controller role today. So like our controller, she's not here with us right now, but she's here, she's in a class, so she couldn't make it. But she does like what the CFO did. 20 years ago. So she's very finance focused and runs it. And so that allows me to do is step back from the detail. And I probably spend about 20, 25% of my time on finance specifically, and the rest is on other areas in the business.

Blake Oliver: [00:19:43] What other areas?

Bonnie Forssell: [00:19:45] So strategic planning, conflict resolution, negotiation, a lot of legal stuff. A lot of a lot of legal. And HR is actually reports up into me. And so there's all those HR things going on. So and then I tier four, it's me too. I love it.

Blake Oliver: [00:20:01] It's r i, c legal and finance.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:20:05] And then I have a really strong controller. Yeah.

David Leary: [00:20:08] You're basically already a CEO. Yeah.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:20:13] I think my CEO would disagree. What's still left.

David Leary: [00:20:16] Here? That donor management. Maybe you're not running that part entirely. Yeah, that would be a.

Blake Oliver: [00:20:21] That's a big job.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:20:22] Yeah, it is.

Blake Oliver: [00:20:23] That's great. Well, any more questions, David?

David Leary: [00:20:26] No, I don't have anything else.

Blake Oliver: [00:20:27] Bonnie. Jennifer, thank you so much for joining us today. If people want to learn more about Vitamin Angels, where should they go?

Bonnie Forssell: [00:20:35] They should go to our website. It's Vitamin Angels dot org. And there's a donate Now button right on the top.

Blake Oliver: [00:20:42] That's right.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:20:42] Putting that out there.

Blake Oliver: [00:20:43] Yeah. Donate to Vitamin Angels and help create healthier kids.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:20:48] Healthier families, Healthier families.

Blake Oliver: [00:20:51] All right. Wonderful. Great chatting with you.

Bonnie Forssell: [00:20:53] Thank you.

David Leary: [00:20:53] Thank you.

Jennifer Herbert: [00:20:53] Much. Thank you. Bye.

Creators and Guests

David Leary
David Leary
President and Founder, Sombrero Apps Company
Bonnie Forssell
Bonnie Forssell
Bonnie Forssell is the Chief Financial Officer of Vitamin Angels, a public health nonprofit working to improve nutrition and health outcomes in low-resource settings worldwide. As the CFO, her focus is on overseeing the strategic direction of the $100m+ organization, international expansion, and ensuring all funds raised are used as efficiently as possible in order to advance the mission of the organization. Additionally, she leads the Finance, IT, HR, and Legal/Compliance teams at Vitamin Angels. She has a Masters in Accountancy from the University of Missouri – Columbia and is a licensed CPA (inactive).
Jennifer Herbert
Jennifer Herbert
15+ years in all areas of Accounting, including Intercompany, financial reporting, month-end close, fixed assets, Accounts Payable and Receivable and bank reconciliations. Project accounting, prepare personal, partnership and corporate tax returns. Forensic Accounting with strong attention to detail. Hospital accounting, including reporting for Medicare/Medicaid. Prepare yearly budgets.
Transform #4: The Multi Dimensions of Vitamin Angels
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