You could call Debra Lockwood the Queen of Non-Profit Accounting. She’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Provident Resources Group, an organization that helps low-income families, students and the elderly with housing, and she also has a huge volunteer job as Chairman of the American Heart Association.
But Debra hasn’t always been non-profit accounting royalty. She began her career in public accounting, in the audit field. After that, she started her own auditing firm. When that got old, she got her ABV (accredited in business valuations) credential and did consulting valuation work and expert witness testimony. It wasn’t until then that she decided to sell her practice and move into the non-profit sector, working for a women’s hospital.
“The one thing that I can say about my career is that it’s been varied,” Debra says. “I consider myself very fortunate that I have had many transitions in my career.”
But there was something about non-profit that made her stay. “I enjoyed giving back to the community. I thought if I could use my talents and experience, and use that in a non-profit world that would be a good match for me.”
And so far, it has been. As CFO of Provident Resources Group, Debra says she not only oversees the accounting, but is also deeply involved with operations, decision making and strategic planning. When there’s a new housing development deal in the works, Debra is there from day one—leading the finance and regulation aspects of the project and managing a team of accountants under her. It’s a job that’s far from the number-crunching stereotype.
“I spend probably an hour—maybe two—a day actually manipulating numbers,” she says. “ Someone who admits she “gets bored easily,” working at Provident is perfect for Debra.
“We’ve got affordable housing, senior living, healthcare, lessening the burdens of government, and education. We deal with attorneys, trustees, issuers, universities, hospitals. So it’s just varied and it’s intrigued me,” she says.
And working for a non-profit involved in low-income housing, there are always new challenges that come up each year. “We have got people out there in the country right now who can’t afford to even have a low income housing apartment because they don’t have a job, so they are choosing to go homeless. So we are trying to find ways to help them find options to get our rates even more affordable if at all possible, so that people can have a solution,” Debra says.
So it turns out that taking the roundabout path in your career just might lead you to the niche you’re destined for. “Everything that I have done prior to now has become a tool in my drawer to enable me to really help get directly to where we need to be,” Debra says. “I personally don’t regret anything that I’ve done along the way.”