Tough calls helped nonprofit to recover from the recession

  •  | 
Print this page by Joan Tupponce
Article image
“Some people look at numbers, and
they get scared. I look at numbers,
and I see a story,” Hovermale says.

2016 Virginia CFO Award winner

Julie Hovermale, CPA
Better Housing Coalition, Richmond

Julie Hovermale is passionate about the mission of Better Housing Coalition. The nonprofit provides housing options and support services throughout the Richmond region to about 3,000 modest-income families and senior citizens.
“I live in the city, and I believe everybody should have a safe place to call home,” she says.

The Illinois native, who is a Certified Public Accountant, brings to the organization experience working for for-profit and nonprofit ventures. 

“She is setting a high bar of accountability and transparency for an industry that sometimes hasn’t had that much rigor all the time,” says Greta Harris, the organization’s president and CEO. “She brings that rigor. She believes if we are stronger financially, we are in a better position to have an impact on the community. The balance between financial strength and our ability to advance our mission is one of the greatest gifts she brings to Better Housing Coalition.”

Hovermale was faced with a big challenge when she joined the organization in 2012. It was struggling to recover from the 2007-09 recession and resulting downturn in the real estate industry.

Wheat McDowell, portfolio manager at Richmond Capital Management, is finance committee chairman on the organization’s board of directors. He says the Better Housing Coalition needed someone like Hovermale “to come in and save the day. At that time we had a lot of projects underway and some debt that was burdensome to the organization. We had outgrown what we were doing from a control standpoint.”

Hovermale spent a lot of time getting “her arms around a very complicated organization,” which has many companies and subsidiaries, he adds.  Her findings led a two-year series of changes that included wholesale organizational restructuring and new accountability for all business lines.

The organization now has a new focus that balances corporate sustainability with community impact. The corporate turnaround has resulted in a new nonprofit structure that generates 85 percent of its $15 million annual budget.
“From my standpoint, she did what a good CFO does,” McDowell says. “She allowed us to understand our own or­­­­­gan­­­­ization, and from that we were able to make a lot of good decisions as a board.”

One of Hovermale’s biggest strengths is her analytical nature. “Some people look at numbers, and they get scared. I look at numbers, and I see a story,” she says.

She had to make tough decisions that aren’t always popular with others. “I can leave my emotions on the outside and think more from a business standpoint,” she says. “I do have strong beliefs, and I don’t have a problem voicing my beliefs.”

Hovermale is “not scared to ask tough questions or to make recommendations to the board,” says finance committee member Neil Amin, CEO of Shamin Hotels. “She is also very down-to-earth, friendly and supportive of her colleagues. She is trustworthy and helpful to the whole organization.”

Admittedly introverted, Hovermale feels she has grown considerably since coming to the Better Housing Coalition.

“I have learned a lot about myself,” she says. “It feels good to do something for your community and for others. It makes me feel good going to work every day knowing I am helping people. Not everybody has an affordable place to call home. My goal is to continue to help my community and help through any way I can.”

showhide shortcuts