To CPA or Not To CPA: That IS The Decision

Decision: Should Center for Community Wealth Building (CCWB) co-develop CO CPA?  Do we have the capacity to do it well?

The goal that the decision is supposed to produce is to identify if CCWB is the organization best positioned to take on the development of CO CPA.  I want to find out if we have the capacity to convene stakeholders to co-create CPA. If so, I want to identify what additional resources are needed to make CPA happen in CO.

I am currently investing a lot of time and effort into the CPA model because it is aligned with CCWB.  CCWB’s vision is a people-owned, inclusive, and sustainable metro Denver economy that catalyzes prosperous and resilient communities free from racism and injustice.  The CPA model can be a strategy for CCWB to achieve a more just economy that catalyzes prosperous and resilient communities.  

I want to explore and define if CCWB is the best organization to convene stakeholders to develop CO CPA.  Some of the possible choices include:

Take on the CPA development and drop other projects


  • Complete CPA feasibility
  • Continue relationship-building period
  • Identify other organizations that are interested in co-designing and co-creating CPA
  • Assess which CCWB projects to drop
  • Evaluate the potential negative impact resulting from dropped projects
  • Connect with impacted stakeholders
  • Draft and communicate the message effectively

Take on the CPA development and add 10 hours of work a week


  • Complete CPA feasibility
  • Continue relationship-building period
  • Identify other organizations that are interested in co-designing and co-creating CPA
  • Personally, assess current activities outside of work to identify where the additional 10 hours will come from (community time, family time, giving circle time, volunteer time, sleep, etc.) 
  • Identify which dropped activity will have the least negative impact
  • Create an exit plan to transition out with minimal impact 

Seek another organization to develop CPA


  • Research potential organizations
  • Build relationships with organizations, if needed
  • Introduce potential organization to the CPA model and leadership
  • Create a plan to transition CPA
  • Share all information gathered
  • Confirm commitment to developing CPA
  • Define CCWB’s role moving forward

Seek additional resources and human capacity to develop CPA


  • Complete CPA feasibility
  • Continue relationship-building period
  • Allocate time to fundraise
  • Identify potential funders without cannibalizing CCWB
  • Apply for funding
  • Build relationships with other potential funders
  • Hire a staff member to develop and lead CPA

Merge CPA with The BackOffice (TBO) Project and add 5 extra hours of work a week


  • Complete CPA feasibility
  • Continue CPA relationship-building period
  • Coordinate with other TBO committee members to assess the idea of a merger
  • Develop a business plan that includes CPA and TBO
  • Create an operations plan that makes sense for CPA and TBO
  • Allocate time to fundraise

Don’t take on CPA

No dependencies identified with this option 

Wait until CCWB has the internal capacity to devote the time to develop CPA


  • Complete CPA feasibility
  • Include CPA in 2021 CCWB budget
  • Identify the types of resources needed to make CPA happen
  • Build relationships with potential resource providers

While these are all possible choices, they all come with their own pros and cons.  Also, while doing nothing is definitely an option. I am not convinced that this is the way to go either. Oftentimes, the easiest option is not the best option. What other choices am I not thinking about? 

Reflection Script

As I sit here trying to digest all the wonderful questions you posed, I can’t help but think that I need to spend more time processing all of this information.  I also realize just how disappointed I would be if we chose to not develop CPA in Colorado. I know that emotion is not supposed to be part of the decision, but it is definitely something that is coming to the forefront for me.  

I also realize that I am hesitant to partner with other local organizations at the moment.  Perhaps this uneasiness comes from not having specific criteria to determine the best partner organization.  I know exactly what I do not want, but I have not spent any time thinking through what I want.   

Felipe, I appreciate your questions.  Yes, I do believe that with additional resources or support, this decision would be slightly different.  I believe in the model and I know that CPA will help advance CCWB’s mission; that was the reason I wanted to do this incubator.  I also believe that the potential for sustainability is significant and can provide even more opportunities in the future. It really is this promise that makes me want to think deeper/longer to make this decision.   

As soon as I’m done with the reflection script, I will go over to my aunt’s house to celebrate my partner’s birthday.  I am incredibly grateful that my family will ensure that he has a (well-deserved) celebration during a time that is incredibly busy for both of us.  There is no way that I could have done this by myself. They planned the party, cooked his favorite meal, purchased his favorite cake, invited people, and helped me purchase, and wrap a gift, and will most likely help with the cleanup responsibilities.  This celebration is the perfect example of how it will take a village to birth CPA. Perhaps, I should also think about which aspects of my current professional responsibilities could be outsourced so we can make it happen.

Thank you all for your thoughtful questions!

6 thoughts on “To CPA or Not To CPA: That IS The Decision”

  1. Yessica,
    I like that we both looked at the same decision. This might be an interesting approach for us to use on other issues we face.
    I especially like the option of seeing if this is something The Back Office is equipped to take on. But, it seems that you are really the backbone of that effort, too. If someone else is stepping into that role, it feels like a conversation worth having. I had a call with Rocky Mountain Microfinance Institute today and told Rob about CPA. He put his SBDC board chair hat on and wondered whether Abrams might see this as fitting within their mandate. Evidently, Abrams is working closely with RMEOC because he has been instructed by the State Office of Economic Development to develop co-op capacity building capacity. While we have well-founded concerns with SBDC, I wonder if it’s worth an exploratory conversation. Maybe CPA is something they would be interested in helping resource, as it hits the Governor’s goals for a more inclusive economy. Rob also thought that the Promise Denver effort might be interested. However, Promise Denver scares me more than the SBDC.

    I will fight you hard on your finding 10 extra hours to devote to this. Sorry. Health is number one priority.

    In terms of the option to drop an existing project, I framed that as evaluating our current theory of change to ensure that the path we’ve laid out for ourselves is still the most promising option. I think it’s a conversation worth having — in the spirit of rational decision-making.


  2. Yessica, I agree, the easiest solution is not always the best option, and I am also curious about the role of parsimony (Occam’s razor) in this decision-making tree?

    And, I am also having wild visions of you and your team each coming to this moment where you are each contributing the most powerful, beloved, joyful parts of your selves in the work (and still having a life!). You may already know Gay Hendricks’s book The Big Leap (I think his institute was based in Colorado for a while)? In it, he talks about the executives he coaches and how they are all good, but people around them want them to stay good, but they actually have the potential to express their genius, to be great, which means doing less with more focus on what you do best. I don’t know if that makes sense?


  3. Lol I feel like I’m listening in on your conference call – I love it! It’s cool so see the variations between your two posts. Yessica, I really like the specificity and creativity of the options you listed. It sounds like from Michelle’s response there are even more options! That’s a lot. Have you all written out a list of criteria for determining what you’re looking for in a partner org? How do you all start quickly narrowing your options, now that you’ve considered so many?

    Plus, I’m wondering the same thing I asked Michelle: What are you excited about? How do these options make you feel?

    What was this process like for you? How does this process compare with how you and CCWB usually make decisions?

    I liked it more than I expected. I may even use what I wrote as a pre-read for an upcoming board meeting.


  4. What other ways could you frame this decision to allow for more insight?

    What if a prominent wealthy Colorado big wig learned about CCWB and CPA and was ready to write a one-time check for $250,000 next week for whatever Yessica thought would most advance CCWB’s mission?

    What if CPA offered CCWB a $100,000 starting May 1, 2020, with the possibility to renew it for a 2nd year?

    What if CPA DC’s staff offered unlimited technical support (HVAC, solar, composting 🙂 and you focused on building the relationships and casting the vision? What if revenue in year 1 was $50,000? What if Revenue in year 2 was $100,000 and year 3 — $200,000?

    What if CCWB kept 60% of that revenue that came from that shared work?
    What if the recurring revenue from rebates continued growing year after year with increasing margins allowing CCWB staff to dedicate an increasing amount of staff time (and growing staff) to make even more progress on core outcomes (not CPA ones) because they had to spend so much less time on fundraising?

    What if in CPA Incubator cohort 2 (in early 2020) we recruit 2 or 3 extraordinary entrepreneurs / organizers based in Denver who have unbelievable values and experience alignment, they go through the incubator learn the key strategies to build a CPA and then they say they’re willing to work for CCWB? How would that contingency shift your thinking?

    What if CPA did all the back office & legal work for you for the next 3-5 years? (all your finance reports for your board….)
    what if CPA helped you set up your own 501c3 non-profit? And what if we did all your accounting / finance / operations anything you wanted support with we provided at no cost…
    What if we (Community Cooperative – a 501c3) offered free back-office / fiscal sponsorship / filling out the Form 1023 for you to get your own 501c3 — and all the time you would have spent on that you instead put into relationship building for a CPA-like co-op? How many hours would that be? over what time period? How much resources would that free up?

    What other ways can you completely reframe this question/decision to allow for more insight?


    1. Hi Yessica! One of the problems I noticed from this decision-making framework, and its a pattern I noticed in many of the posts, is that it somehow leads us to think smaller than we could be. That may also have to do with the time limit we have for thinking/posting but still.

      I really enjoyed reading your post and Michelle’s back to back as it is super interesting to see how you go about the same decision from different angles. While I obviously don’t understand the TBO project and can’t give you any insight into how feasible it is to make space or move stuff around, I’d invite you to think the following:

      What inspires you about CPA and how could it contribute to the success of your other projects beyond furthering your organizational mandates in the broadest sense?


  5. One question I would have for both you and Michelle would be why CPA vs. something else? What other alternatives are out there to accomplish what the CPA does. As I mentioned in myproject, for the Episcopal Church, we have the added incentive of wanting to serve our parishes with lower costs and good service. Is this the best alternative use of the resources? What else could be dropped that might have less impact?


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