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Learn audit director Cathy Lydon’s tips for fellow advisors when working with nonprofits.

Cathy Lydon
Cathy Lydon, Audit Director, Client Manager, Nonprofit Team Leader for Redpath and Company Ltd

Cathy Lydon never stops learning.

As a CPA with nearly 20 years of experience, she’s always gathering and gaining new information to make sure the nonprofits she works with have the resources and tools they need to ensure their organizations are financially sound.

Recently the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation had the opportunity to sit down with Cathy, an Audit Director, Client Manager, Nonprofit Team Leader for Redpath and Company Ltd to learn how she partners with us to better support her clients.

How did you hear about the Foundation?

Throughout my time working with nonprofits, I ran into the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation in a couple of different ways. I work with nonprofit organizations that receive grants on a regular basis from some of your donor advised funds and institutional grantmaking. I see you as a donor and as a supporter of the nonprofits that I work with. I also have a couple of nonprofits that hold endowment funds with the Foundation.

The Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation historically shows up for nonprofits I work with and has staff on site that are doing complex investment type work and are willing to assist nonprofits in managing their investments.

What has it been like knowing you can direct your clients to a resource such as the Foundation?

I like to be able to provide solutions to our clients’ issues, whether they're financial in nature, or audit related. At Redpath and Company Ltd., we consider ourselves an advisor to our clients, whether we're advising them on a specific audit or accounting topic or anything general that could be impacting the operations of their organization. There are times I'm not able to provide an answer to their issues or be the person who can solve their problems, which is why I like to be able to fill my network with those problem solvers.

I really like having the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation as part of my network, knowing that they want to solve nonprofit issues and want to be part of the solution. So it's great to be able to make introductions and referrals to organizations to help our clients find answers to their problems.

What advice would you have for other advisors working with an organization like the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation?

I think a lot of times people don't necessarily understand all the ways that the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation can help nonprofits. The thing I've learned in the nonprofit industry is most people in the industry are willing to help each other. It's a culture of sharing and giving and there's always going to be somebody who's willing to step in and say, ‘hey I can help you with that’ or ‘hey, I have this really great connection with somebody who will be able to help you.’ So it's just making sure that you're continuing to reach out to others, to continue expanding your network and learning.

What advice would you have for younger accountants in your field, particularly those who support the nonprofit sector?

I would tell them to ensure that they're always asking questions to understand why they're doing things that they’re doing, and to always continue to seek knowledge and additional information to be able to continue to grow and expand their abilities. A lot of people think their learning is done once they graduate college, but I'm still learning on a daily basis.

There are a variety of social identity groups in the Twin Cities out there for estate planners/attorneys. Are there any for the accounting community?

Absolutely! So in the accounting community, especially in the nonprofit industry, there is an organization called the Nonprofit Financial Group. It’s a group of nonprofit financial experts – either people who work for a nonprofit organization or a service provider who works in the nonprofit industry. They meet on a monthly basis and share information that’s important to nonprofit finance and accounting individuals.

There’s also MNCPA for accountants and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. The MNCPA is a great resource for finding accounting guidance and that sense of community, within that nonprofit area. The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits provides information and tools for both nonprofits and advisors.

To learn all the ways the Foundation can help you support your nonprofit clients, read about our nonprofit resources. To also learn how we have helped support other advisors with their clients, read more advisor spotlights.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Cathy is a member of the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation’s Cornerstone Council, an advisory group of professional advisors who help fellow colleagues learn more about the Foundation and assist us in learning how to better serve advisors and their clients in philanthropic planning.

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