Scholar Profile - Mary McNicoll PDF Print E-mail
Mary McNicoll


Chief Financial Officer at OzChild
Awarded a scholarship for University of Queensland - The Leadership Challenge, 2012

What sort of work does your organisation do?

Every child has rights - observing these rights and ensuring the safety and protection of our children is at the heart of OzChild’s work. OzChild strives to protect the rights of Australian children and make sure they have the best opportunities for a brighter future.

Our programs range from foster care for children aged 0 – 18 who can no longer live at home; services for children with disabilities; support such as counselling for families experiencing difficulties; respite for families whose children often have complex needs; education and development programs and scholarships for disengaged and underprivileged youth.

Describe a typical day's work.

My role oversees the finance, payroll, IT and infrastructure (including property, motor vehicle fleet, insurance and telecommunications) aspects of the organization.  This involves regular meetings with senior executives, program managers and other staff, the board of management as well as external service providers.

Key duties include preparing budgets and business plans, financial reporting to program managers and to the board, setting and implementing ICT strategy, making recommendations regarding property acquisitions and disposals and managing the organisation's investment portfolio.

My role is a key member of the executive team which meets regularly to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the organization and to provide support to program managers. With the recent acquisition of services in the western part of Victoria and the take-over of another organisation in the southern metropolitan area, program support needs are currently very high.

What were some of the key learnings from the Leadership Challenge course?

The course allowed me to identify and explore my own leadership style and how this impacts on the people with whom I interact.  It drew from contemporary research and practice to demonstrate how the best leaders apply their knowledge, skills and influence to achieve positive outcomes in a rapidly changing world.

A key learning was also the impact of trust in any leadership relationship and how a breach of that trust can affect the ability to influence key stakeholders in a change process.

How has it impacted / changed / benefited your role and your organisation as a whole?

It gave me a better self-awareness of the way I interact with others and how this might affect their perceptions of my leadership style.  It also enabled me to examine other people's leadership styles and to indentify ways of better connecting with them professionally. This has enabled me to use my technical knowledge and skills better, resulting in a move to a more senior leadership role in the organization. OzChild has benefitted from having from having my technical skills available at the executive level where I have put my learnings to good use in influencing business outcomes.

The course also gave me a good understanding around the language of contemporary leadership research and practice so that I have been able to continue to read and learn about current best practice leadership.

How did you come to be working in the not-for-profit sector?

I worked in Chartered Accounting for many years, climbing the career ladder,  prior to starting a family. On return to work when the children were young, I went back to Chartered accounting but on a part time basis in a small firm close to my children's school. I found that I was no longer interested in career progression. As the children became more independent, I realized that I wanted to move away from 'timesheets' and to do something for the betterment of the whole community.

An opportunity arose and, with the goodwill of my family, I took it even though it meant a drop in income. Initially, it was an enormous culture shock but I soon grew to love working in the sector. Eighteen months after I joined the sector, I applied for a Finance manager role at OzChild. I haven't looked back.

What do you feel is most needed to sustain and build the impact of the not-for-profit sector?

We need people with business skills to become involved in the sector, whether that is as an employee, a board member or as a pro bono consultant.   NFP often have very passionate employees who can provide excellent and creative services.  But the sector often lacks a breadth of skills in areas such as finance, IT and the legal system.  Governments and funding bodies are demanding greater accountability and transparency in the delivery of services.  There is increasing competition for funding which is likely to result in the amalgamation of smaller agencies to achieve economies of scale.  Where amalgamation does not occur, smaller agencies will need to form alliances, not only for financial efficiencies but also to ensure their voices are heard by governments and other funding bodies.  People with skills in the corporate world are needed to help NFP agencies navigate this increasingly complex world.

What is something interesting / unique / unusual about you?

Having never been a runner in all my life, I decided to take up running / jogging in January this year (It's running to me, but to my experienced running daughter, it's jogging!). I now run / jog 5kms before work most mornings and my longest run is 6.7km. I get a real kick out of knowing that I can start jogging and keep going non-stop for more than half an hour. Hardly unusual or unique in the greater scheme of things but it is to me personally.

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"People with skills in the corporate world are needed to help NFP agencies navigate this increasingly complex world."


In November 2012, ASF awarded Mary a scholarship to attend University of Queensland's Leadership Challenge course. At the time she was the Senior Manager of Finance and Infrastructure at OzChild, though has since progressed to CFO.


Annual revenue / size:

Large: $5m - $25m pa

Segment of NFP sector:

Social Services

Operating in: