News & Insights

How does a school find the chief financial officer (CFO) it needs?

A first step is recognizing that CFOs (like presidents) are not one-size-fits-all. CFOs have different skill sets and temperaments, and the person who is right for one kind of school in one type of financial situation may not be right for another school.

Winston Ling, former CFO at Tyndale University College & Seminary in Toronto, assisted the school’s president, Brian Stiller, in saving the school from near bankruptcy. As Jay Blossom and Holly Miller noted in "Neither Yes Man nor Dr. No" (which appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of In Trust), Tyndale avoided bankruptcy because Ling and Stiller had the specific skills needed at this difficult time. But when Ling stepped down twelve years later, the board realized that his replacement would need a different set of skills.

“Winston came to Tyndale at a time that required a lot of quick and tough decisions,” said Randy Henderson, Ling’s successor. “That’s not my strength, and I’d have trouble in that kind of environment.”

Ling agreed. “I left the CFO job because I knew we needed someone to move the school forward. I don’t have the patience to accomplish that.”

Different skills for different situations – even at the same school. In the article, Ling and Henderson offered advice based on decades of experience as financial leaders in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Some of their conclusions:

  • CFOs do not need to be accountants, but they do need to be able to interpret financial data and ask the right questions.

  • Most schools will not find the best CFO candidate internally.

  • Screening committees should rule out “yes men” who agree with every idea the board brings to the table. But they should also rule out someone who says no to everything; a school’s CFO must not be allowed to stifle all new programs, missions, and innovations due to excessive caution.

Read the full article for much more about how boards can best approach this essential task of finding and working with the best CFO for their school.

Top Topics

Roles & Responsibilities



Board Essentials

Upcoming Events

The In Trust Center hosts learning community spaces throughout the year. Check out our upcoming events below.

Strategic Partnerhips


In this on-demand webinar, Rick Staisloff, senior partner of rpk GROUP, will discuss essential aspects of strategic partnerships. He will explore current trends, identify partners, navigate the due diligence process, and addresses common challenges. In addition to technical components of partnerships, he will also examine the intangible – yet critical – elements of partnerships, such as building trust and managing relationships.

Closing the Trust Gap


The current and very troubling condition of trust is a clarion call to action. But despite the dismal data showing pervasive organizational distrust, every organization can assess their current level of trust, learn and adopt a proven trust building framework, and then develop a meaningful and long-lasting plan of action. This webinar details the knowledge and practical next steps to strengthen workplace culture as a result of closing the trust gap.

In Trust Center Resource Grants


An In Trust Center Resource Grant offers member schools a chance to explore innovation at their institutions through a matching grant opportunity of up to $15,000. Listen to this 30-minute information session, including Q&A, as we provide details on eligibility requirements, funding priorities, application process. Previous grantees are eligible to apply as long as they are not within our current funding cycle.

Can’t Find What You’re Looking For?

In Trust Center provides Resource Consulting to our members at no charge. Contact us today and let us guide you to the most helpful resources for your situation.

Contact Us