INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Ask a few pre-teen kids what they want to be when they grow up, and you’re bound to hear the obvious answers: police officer, firefighter, ballerina, basketball player, nurse, etc.
But … accounting?
“I knew I wanted to be an accountant when I was 12 years old,” Deborah Hackett said during a recent sit-down at the Donald W. Reynolds Community Non-Profit Center.
While a career crunching numbers might not seem like an ordinary choice at such a young age, what’s been extraordinary is Hackett’s work over the past seven years as chief financial officer for the Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation.
In general terms, Hackett is responsible for Parasol’s accounting, financials and investments and human resources administration.
Much of it is behind-the-scenes work, Hackett said, to ensure the foundation’s activities and reporting remains transparent.
Providing the financial backbone for an organization tasked with protecting millions of dollars in assets comes with plenty of responsibility, Hackett said — and, despite popular opinion, plenty of excitement.
“Accountants are stereotyped … you think it’s someone working in a back room in dim light, and you’re not very social, all that stuff,” she said with a laugh. “But the realm of accounting work is huge. To be able to work as an accountant, you can still do something meaningful in the world, and that’s what I love about it.”
Hackett grew up in Rhode Island and is a graduate of the John M. Olin School of Business at Washington University and the Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of New South Wales, where she taught accounting for several years.
After working in various accounting roles with transportation companies to medicine to retail sales, she moved to North Lake Tahoe in 2006, joining Parasol in 2007.
“If I had known that I could be an accountant working in a community foundation that is helping so many other people, I would have jumped on this long before,” Hackett said.
Over the past 17 years, Parasol donors have provided several million dollars in grants to support charitable causes. As an example, during the 2012-13 fiscal year, Parasol more than doubled the grant value awarded in the previous year, providing more than $6.4 million to 195 nonprofits.
Always there behind the scenes to help the donations flow is Hackett, who works directly with Parasol’s investment committee, which decides how the foundation invests the charitable gifts.
“I’m the one who administers how that is done, and I keep track of all the records,” she said. “That portion of my job is very basic accounting — bank reconciliations, recording deposits, making sure the money is in the right funds, tracking the money.”
Hackett’s dedication to the books and the people at Parasol is beyond impressive, said Parasol CEO Claudia Andersen.
“Deborah is a born teacher,” Andersen said. “She is passionate about helping nonprofits improve their financial expertise and reporting, allowing them to then focus their energies on providing quality programs and services.”
Andersen took over in 2007 as Parasol’s executive director, meaning both she and Hackett have worked side by side for seven years, doing their part to improve people’s lives.
“Claudia is smart and visionary and she is a great boss, a great person to work for because she’s so supportive,” Hackett said. “That’s one of the things — we work so well together. We joke about sharing a brain sometimes, which we almost need to do to make sure we’re always on the same page.”
Hackett’s role allows plenty of interaction with the many nonprofits in the region, as well as those inside the DWR center, as she provides her expertise in the field through workshops, forums or just one-on-ones with organizations that need assistance or advice.
“I love the work we do, and I love being able to help other nonprofits be efficient and effective,” she said.
In her off time, Hackett also enjoys reading fiction novels, going to the movies and hanging out with her two cats, Norah and Black Jack, and she’s a passionate speaker for the Incline Village Justice Court’s DUI Victim Impact Panel.
Learn more about Hackett and the foundation at www.parasol.org.