Cindy Bertrand has a unique perspective into our nonprofit community.
For more than two decades, she has served our community’s nonprofit organizations in different ways: board member and treasurer, employee, advisor, and financial statement auditor.
“From a financial standpoint, my experience has afforded me the opportunity to look behind-the-scenes firsthand at nonprofits that were really well-run and others that were not,” she shared. “But most importantly, I’ve realized what an amazing community we have.”
From playing a financial leadership role in our local nonprofits to funding a long-desired mini-golf course for an underserved South African community, Cindy lives out the charitable values instilled in her while growing up as one of six siblings in a religious family.
“My father would give away his last nickel if he could,” she admitted. “It’s just part of who I am.”
Accountant to Changemaker
Cindy’s work with nonprofits started organically during her time working as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). As a military wife, Cindy chose to pursue a career in accounting because it was “a job I could take anywhere”.
When her husband was reassigned to San Diego, Cindy and her young family decided to settle.
Cindy served an eclectic mix of clients in her profession, which included a small group in the nonprofit sector. One of her first audit clients was the Jewish Community Foundation (JCF) in 1995, where she was later recruited to be the Chief Financial Officer..
“It piqued my interest into what the nonprofit community meant to San Diego,” Cindy voiced.
One of Cindy’s proudest accomplishments during her tenure was playing an important role when JCF and The San Diego Foundation partnered to save a loved nonprofit organization, which at the time was on the verge of a financial collapse.
“It was my first chance to see what The San Diego Foundation was all about,” she said. “It was symbolic of how we could bring the community together.”
Cindy returned to public accounting focusing solely on nonprofit audits before she received her second opportunity to partner with The San Diego Foundation.
She was the audit partner when The Foundation purchased its Liberty Station headquarters in 2006 and was one of the few to see the ground floor of the new premises.
“The office space was nothing more than concrete and posts at the time,” she recalled.
Impact in San Diego & Beyond
Over her career, Cindy served as the financial statement audit partner and advisor to several major nonprofits across the county, including La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla Country Day School, Planned Parenthood, Father Joe’s Villages and Home of Guiding Hands. She was once again recruited away from public accounting to a nonprofit organization, this time to be Controller and eventual Vice President of General Accounting & Finance at the YMCA of San Diego County.
In addition to the Y’s local impact, a moment that stands out to Cindy is her two-week trip to South Africa, where she had the opportunity to meet with sister YMCA boards to discuss their budgets and financial challenges.
The South African YMCA budgets were small in comparison to their U.S. counterparts, and focused primarily on social services. She traveled to the surrounding neighborhoods of the Cape Town YMCA where they were suffering double-digit unemployment rates in their youth. There were rundown, poor medical facilities and a severe lack of community services.
One of the goals of the YMCA staff was to provide a safe environment for the unemployed youth.
Despite what Cindy perceived to be a rough part of town, she learned that, more than anything, community members wanted a mini-golf course.
She was humbled.
And she took matters into her own hands.
“I partnered with my colleagues from the States and we paid for it,” she said. “It’s a real draw for the community. And it gave me a chance to experience philanthropy in San Diego and in another country.”
During her nine years with the YMCA, Cindy expanded her nonprofit influence by serving on several boards, including for 2-1-1 San Diego, Orchestra Nova, Nonprofit Management Solutions and Komen for the Cure.
Joining The San Diego Foundation
Cindy also joined The San Diego Foundation Finance Committee. And in 2016, she joined The Foundation’s Board of Governors.
“I love our plan for the future,” Cindy stated. “I’m most excited about [President & CEO] Mark Stuart’s vision, management style and what he brings to the board.”
Cindy said she’s most pleased with how The Foundation managed and responded to urgent requests during the pandemic through the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund, granting more than $60 million to nonprofits region-wide since the pandemic began.
Now the CFO at California Western School of Law, Cindy is a mainstay in the nonprofit community. She is most passionate about supporting early childhood education. She also advocates for employment and education access for people with special needs.
“Philanthropy is inspiring. It has given me a different outlook on life,” she said. “I’ve had lots of moments over the years where I’ve realized what an amazing community we have.”