I recently facilitated a workshop about finances that was part of a series for nonprofit leaders and board members. The guest speaker asked participants to raise their hand if they normally would avoid such a topic – and most of the hands went up!

I, too, once had finance-phobia and avoided any in-depth discussions that involved budgeting, income statements, balance sheets and the like. That is until I rose in the ranks and suddenly needed to know these things and more. I became responsible for multi-million-dollar budgets, working with lenders on bond issues for construction and serving as a leader on a board where I carried the fiduciary responsibility, even if it wasn’t accompanied by adequate knowledge. Suddenly, those Finance 101 workshops seemed relevant, but now I wanted them to go even deeper.

I shared this story with participants and let them know that I eventually spent a lot of time and money to earn an MBA (after my doctorate) because I had to have that level of knowledge on the subject to be successful at my job. I encouraged them – and now, you – to pay attention when exposed to financial matters, or even better, to seek them out through training, volunteer experiences or asking as many questions as you can when given the opportunity.

Money is the universal language through which business is conducted – no matter if that business is a booster club, lemonade stand, side hustle, nonprofit board or a major corporation. The more you can understand what to pay attention to and pitfalls to watch for, the better equipped you are to have power in this critical area.

Cure yourself of finance-phobia one line-item at a time. You don’t have to become an accountant, but ignorance will eventually limit you.

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