Women of Influence: Lynne Telford – Vice President of Finance/Chief Financial Officer

If Lynne Telford sees a need, she doesn’t wait to be asked. She just pitches in.

“Lynne is one of those people you just have to admire. She’s smart, she has a huge heart, she gives of herself, she helps people,” said Jerry Smith, CEO of Pikes Peak United Way. “She’s done so much for other folks in the community. You just love her.”

Smith nominated Telford, vice president of finance for Pikes Peak United Way, for Women of Influence.

Telford is also chief financial officer of the nonprofit organization, a job she took four years ago after many years in the private sector.

“I was lucky enough that my husband and I decided to stop working altogether in the year 2000. We took that summer off,” she said. “I’d always had it in my life plan to do something more community-based, and it was a time in my life when I could afford to work in a nonprofit organization.”

She was the controller at Atmel Corp., a semiconductor manufacturing firm in the Springs, for 11 years. Before that, Telford was CFO for two companies in Los Gatos, Calif. First, for VSL Corp., a construction firm, then Britton International, a start-up integrated network company.

United Way is an alliance of 1,400 entities across the country, although each retains its independence. The Pikes Peak United Way is considered more progressive than most, Telford said.

“I like working here because the people are fabulous. Even if you have a bad day, there’s everything to feel good about. It’s an outstanding organization.”

Telford handles finances, administration, human resources, facilities and Information Technology. She also champions eWay, a product that allows donors to pledge over the Internet. But it’s her purchase and financing of the nonprofit’s new home at 518 N. Nevada Ave. that has Smith forever in her debt.

“Her leadership is vital to the continuing success of Pikes Peak United Way; it was her astute business sense and financial acumen that led to the purchase of this building, which has now become a place for all nonprofits in the community to convene.”

Pikes Peak United Way had been leasing office space since 1922. Telford went to the board, and after a property tax exemption and a little bit of construction, the organization has a permanent home downtown.

“Anybody who works with Lynne knows that she is a leader. That’s the difference,” Smith said. “She knows how to lead people, but she also knows how to ingratiate herself and make people feel really good about working with her.”

Telford received a bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting from San Jose State University, and her CPA certification in 1980. She did graduate coursework in business at Santa Clara University and completed advanced seminars in nonprofit management, finance and legal topics.

Telford always had a talent for mathematics, but did not know the direction her career would take until halfway through college. “I’ve really enjoyed having a finance career because I’ve been able to work in several different industries-garment industry, construction, semiconductors and now, nonprofits,” she said.

But are financial situations similar in nonprofit organizations and private for-profit firms? The two have more in common than one might think. “We are always very careful with money. No matter where I’ve been, we’ve had to be very conscious of how we spend money,” Telford said. “The difference here in nonprofits is that it’s a lot more about relationships than efficiency.

“If you worked in a for-profit business, you might not pay much attention to a $5 customer, but here we know that that $5 might be very precious to a person and we really need to honor that contribution.”

Telford brings her smarts to a variety of community activities. The lifelong Girl Scout participates in many events for the national organization, and was a troop leader for several years. “When I was growing up, my mother was ill. I felt Girl Scouts played a large part in my growing up, and gave me role models,” Telford said. “I feel like I’ve had a pretty successful life, and I owe a lot of that to Girl Scouts.”

Work for the Pikes Peak Library District takes a lot of Telford’s time, a fact she couldn’t be happier with. In February she was appointed to the library’s board of trustees, and was a founding member of the Pikes Peak Library Foundation. She also was a Right to Read volunteer from 2000 to 2001.

“We have such an outstanding library in Colorado Springs; it’s ranked eighth in the nation. We have incredible readership,” Telford said. “I’m attracted to the idea of a community aspect that helps everybody, from the poorest to the richest. Freedom of information is such a wonderful American concept.”

Telford is a board member of Dress for Success, an organization that helps low-income women who are trying to find jobs. “They get an hour of personal consultant time, and we dress them from head to toe. When they get the job, we’ll give them additional clothing and show them how to mix and match different outfits. It is really great.”

Dress for Success, which wasn’t standing on its own very well, recently moved to the Women’s Resource Center where a well-developed infrastructure was already in place with classes and tools for women.

Leadership Pikes Peak’s signature program is 10 months long, and has been in Colorado Springs (organized under Citizen’s Goals) since 1980. The program teaches people how to interact in their communities. They meet once a month for a full day, one day learning about public safety, one day focusing the arts, one day concentrating on the environment, “so they really get to know what’s going on in Colorado Springs, what the issues are and how they can connect in the community.”

Telford graduated in 2003, was on the board, and is now treasurer of the board for Leadership Pikes Peak. “The class is really a fabulous program.”

Telford said that being selected as a Woman of Influence was a nice birthday gift-she just turned 50. “I’m really honored when I see the other people in the group. I feel really pleased to be included among them.”

She is married to Doug, and has two children, Lisa, 31, who lives in California, and Brian, 28, who lives in Oregon.

Within her own organization, Telford can think of another woman worthy of recognition, Cheryl Tolley, the director of Leadership Giving for Pikes Peak United Way.

“I admire the way that she always knows the right thing to do at the right time, and how much she really treasures our donors and goes out of her way to make sure that people are informed and thanked and treated really well. She’s a wonderful woman.”