May 10, 2024

Hicks Leaves Indelible Mark on the Foundation’s Financial Ministry

By: Suzanne McGovern


Twenty-four years ago, Pam Hicks first walked into the Foundation’s office on McDonald Street. At that time, financial records were maintained on spreadsheets. “Financial software was fairly new at the time,” according to former President Tom Marston, who recruited and hired Pam. “And the Foundation itself was relatively small.”

“Before Pam, we had just three employees: me, a secretary, and a bookkeeper,” he said. “But we knew we needed sophisticated accounting systems.”

“As a CPA with great accounting experience, Pam was exactly what we needed,” he recalled. “She was an expert in not-for-profit accounting. She brought a wealth of knowledge to our ministry, and as soon as she arrived, she began helping us revamp our internal operations.”

“I asked her to look for software for our trust management systems, and she did. She helped us build the platforms we needed to manage complex financial transactions.”

“Not only was her expertise impressive, but so were her people skills. She was not a stereotypical ‘numbers person.’ She likes people. She was positive, upbeat, and fun to work with.”

“She recognized that we were not just a financial institution, but a ministry, and I think that has been her central focus throughout her very successful career at the Foundation.”

Tori Lehman, a principal at Clifton Larson Allen, which has conducted the Foundation’s audits for nearly 20 years, calls Pam “crazy smart.”

“Her brain works faster than she can talk or write,” Lehman said. “She works harder and faster than most people. I find that I must be laser-focused on what she is saying to keep up with her.”

“Her job is incredibly complex,” she said. “The Foundation is part religious charity and part financial institution. There are lots of moving parts: all the investments, the loan portfolio, lots of different software.”

“Pam cares about the Foundation’s ministry. And she never misses a deadline.”

In the more than 20 years that Pam has guided the Foundation’s financial administration, assets have grown from roughly $101 million to more than $243 million, according to CFO Margaret Cox, who worked with Pam throughout those years and has become Pam’s successor.

“Thankfully, Pam is always thinking ahead,” Cox said, “and she designed a schedule for the trusts so we know what to pay out and when. Under her system, we process the payments for all our trusts annually in February, unless they have an automatic payout already set up. The schedule helps us keep things on track.”

According to Cox, the staff, which currently numbers five people, also manages some 160 to 170 loans and issues statements, collects payments, and keeps up with maturity dates for the Foundation, the Annual Conference, and local Districts.

“With all of that, we try to employ the latest software systems for our loan programs, general ledger accounting, wealth, and trust accounting,” Cox said. “We have come a long way from the days of spreadsheets.”

Virtually everyone who has worked with Pam has been amazed by her vast “institutional knowledge.”

“She can remember things about trusts that came in over 30 years ago,” said current President and CEO Ed New. “I am amazed by her ability to remember all the details and to keep us in line with donors’ wishes. She helps us anticipate when to review and when to act on the donor’s behalf.”

Former President Mark Becker believes Pam is “the institutional memory” of the Foundation. “She has seen so much and done so much,” he said. “I truly believe that if I had any success in that job, it was primarily thanks to Pam. She is a great employee to have.”

During the third year of Becker’s presidency, the Foundation sought CEFEX Certification.

“CEFEX, or Center For Fiduciary Excellence, is an external company that conducts an audit to determine if your processes and practices are in your clients’ best interest,” he said. “Pam is the one who got us through that exercise.”

“Once you earn that CEFEX designation, you can feel absolutely confident about your relationships with your clients.”

“Pam also got us through a cyber audit,” he added. “She always looked out for the best interests of our clients and the Foundation.”

Conference Treasurer Craig Smelser began working closely with Pam when the Conference and Foundation moved into the Conference Center building.

“What impressed me most about Pam is that she knew everything about how non-profits are allowed to spend their money,” he said. “She kept up with all the rules and regulations.”

“In 2006, Congress passed the UPMIFA (Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act), which governs the management of institutional funds donated to non-profit charities. Following the federal action, each state, including Florida, adopted its own version of UPMIFA, and, of course, Pam made sure the Foundation was in full compliance.”

“She was always aware that she was entrusted with other people’s money,” he said.

Foundation colleague Andy Craske, Vice President of Loans and Investments, calls Pam the “rock” and “our spiritual center.”

“When we are uncertain about whether to grant a certain loan or take the next step with a client, she always says ‘What is our mission?’ She keeps us focused on what is important. To Pam, this is not a job. It’s a ministry.”

Pam has touched the lives of the people she works with in countless ways. As Mark Becker puts it, “She takes care of staff.”

According to Cox, “Pam mentors and trains everyone who comes through the door. She wants everyone to be their best selves.”

Christie Morrison is a case in point.

Morrison had majored in geography and environmental planning in college, but when she came to work for the Foundation after her two sons were in school, “Pam suggested I go back to school and get my accounting degree,” she said.

“I would never have done anything with accounting without Pam’s encouragement.”

Morrison became an accounting manager for the Foundation and later went on to earn her certification as a Certified Financial Planner. She considers Pam a great role model.

“We were able to think outside the box together,” she noted, “to figure out different ways to do things.”

Cox says that Pam’s leadership style “is not about being the best, but about making everyone else better.”

And that may be part of her legacy to the Foundation. “Pam brought us into the modern era,” New said. “She made sure the Foundation was on a firm footing and well-equipped to continue succeeding financially. In the process, she has had a phenomenal impact. We will see her fingerprints on the ministry of the Foundation, and its people, for decades to come.”

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