Any nonprofit looking to steer itself toward success needs a quality board of directors. One crucial team member, the treasurer, helps create annual budgets and plan financial rollouts for long-term projects.

Elaine Bickel

When Past Meets Present

It’s especially helpful when your treasurer already knows your organization’s lay of the land. Elaine Bickel returned to Gabriel Homes to assume the treasurer role in 2016 after working there in the early 1990s.

Gabriel Homes caught up with Elaine recently to share her story. See what we talked about below:

Get to Know Elaine:

How did you first get involved with Gabriel Homes?

“I originally joined Gabriel Homes as a part-time bookkeeper. My children were little, so I couldn't leave home much. I set up Gabriel Homes’ accounting structure, and tasks included many of the usual things: taxes, financial advisory, and check recording.

“Gabriel Homes had four properties at the time, so the most exciting days were the purchases of new homes and the growth of the organization.”

What brought you back to Gabriel Homes?

“The former executive director called me about 20 years after I returned to full-time work asking if I could fill in as treasurer for the board of directors. Returning was a full-circle moment: I was amazed how Gabriel Homes oversaw its team and finances, and it was cool to see the growth from the structure I set up.

“Organizations face new challenges when they grow. Gabriel Homes grew to a point where the bookkeeping and recording got more sophisticated. Coming back, I was glad to see everything at a point where the budget, expenses, and fundraising were so robust. The work became even more exciting.”

What at Gabriel Homes has impressed you the most?

I have been so pleased to see the growth since serving on the board. Gabriel Homes has taken the step it needed to so it could build a foundation for the future. Codifying and standardizing the processes has made the organization even more refined. I’ve been proud of everything the board has done to make change happen.”

What makes numbers and accounting exciting in your eyes?

“They tell stories. You learn about how an organization is doing at a point in time and how fundraising is going. The numbers at Gabriel Homes show the story of its growth – the growing number of residents and properties and how long both have been part of us.

“Accounting also shares the story of the health of the business. All homes need upkeeping like repairs and renovations, so the books show how we maintain our houses.

“Gabriel Homes’ story shows we have an obligation to the families to make sure we’re being wise with the money we receive from them and the state. Fortunately, the story also proves we’re in a place where we can hire who we need.”

What do you like about serving on the board?

“Not many people want to serve as treasurer for boards of directors. For me, bookkeeping keeps my mind sharp, so it’s the perfect way for me to give back. I love doing the books so much that I also do them at Great Falls Little League even though my kids haven’t played in years.

“You need lots of discipline serving nonprofits like Gabriel Homes, though, because you need to make sure the residents are supported and have what they need. Success requires boards with visions for the future, including strategic plans and business decisions, so I believe I bring the ability to see the forest from the trees.

“But ultimately, I love giving back to my community. I’ve lived in Northern Virginia for 25 years, and I love the people and community here.”

What’s something the community should know about adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities?

“When you get to know the residents, you realize they’re not much different from you or me. They may have some limitations, but they’re funny and friendly, and they work and play. Some residents have unique talents like art.

“Adults with IDD have strengths people may not see. Our community is enriched by getting involved with our residents and people similar to them around the county.”

What interests do you have outside of Gabriel Homes?

“I love seeing my grandchildren the most and seeing them change in every stage of life. They live locally and are my heartbeat.

“I also have family in New York City, so I have the chance to see them in lots of Broadway shows. When I watch musicals, I admire the voices and performances, especially when I can get enraptured by what goes on onstage. Theatre is like an escape: Even my young nieces and nephews have been bitten by the performing bug.

“Another spectacle to me is hockey. As a big Caps fan, I try to see the action when I can. My son skated through college, so he got me hooked on ice sports.”

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