Growing up in Des Moines, Karla Jones-Weber would spend after-school time at her parents’ business, helping with simple bookkeeping tasks beginning when she was about 10. She quickly discovered that she enjoyed accounting, and after taking a few accounting classes in high school she knew she would pursue it as a career. 

She began her professional accounting career with MidAmerican Energy Co., and after a few years moved from corporate accounting to start her own accounting firm. A connection made with a prominent Des Moines businesswoman while Jones-Weber was working as a bank teller during college would lead to her later joining the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines in 2001 as an accountant. 

Under her leadership as chief financial officer for the past 16 years, the Community Foundation has grown from $30 million to more than $640 million in assets under administration. The organization now manages more than 2,000 charitable giving funds, compared with just over 100 when Jones-Weber became CFO. 

Jones-Weber’s investment acumen has benefited the Community Foundation and its donors greatly, say its leaders. Her role in the oversight of the Community Foundation’s investment portfolios has yielded returns that maximize charitable investments, and thus opportunities for giving in the community, said the foundation’s president, Kristi Knous. 

The Business Record has named Jones-Weber as the Deloitte CFO of the Year, which honors an often unrecognized individual who demonstrates outstanding performance in his or her role as corporate financial steward.

“Her expertise, innovation and leadership has elevated the work of the Community Foundation, earned the trust and respect of those we serve and is sought from colleagues locally and nationally,” Knous wrote in a nomination letter. “Karla’s tireless work has strengthened the community in countless ways. While she does not seek personal recognition for her leadership, she has left her thumbprint on many of our most treasured and important community projects and initiatives.”  

During her tenure, the foundation created the Charitable Investment Partners program, established in 2014 to allow a donor’s professional adviser to continue investing the donor’s assets when a charitable giving fund is established at the Community Foundation. Since its inception, the program has grown from $33 million to nearly $139 million at the close of 2019.  

Also under Jones-Weber’s guidance, the Community Foundation established the Nonprofit Accounting Services program, which provides professional accounting and administrative services for organizations ready to spend more time fulfilling their missions and less time on financial administration. The highly sought-after program currently serves 31 nonprofit organizations as clients, and continues to grow.  

Her leadership has also been essential in the development of an enterprise risk management effort aimed at mitigating any business, financial or reputational risk for the Community Foundation. Jones-Weber’s leadership in this area of work has been recognized nationally, and she is often requested to speak at conferences on the topic of ERM for foundations. 

Several key civic projects for Greater Des Moines have benefited from Jones-Weber’s financial expertise, among them the Central Iowa Water Trails project. She has provided financial oversight and forecasting for the project by serving on its finance committee and as its volunteer CFO. 

“The Central Iowa Water Trails represents the best of our region thanks to its big, innovative visions and collaborative approach,” Knous wrote. “But this project would simply be a dream without Karla’s ability to forecast financial and budget projections and to manage the accounting and financial oversight for this game-changing project for our region.” 

Additionally, Jones-Weber is a member of the Iowa Society of Certified Public Accountants, and in 2020 served as its nonprofit organization committee chair. She is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and Financial Executives International. She is a past-member and board chair of the Iowa Christian Academy School Board. 

In addition to all Jones-Weber has accomplished professionally and through community service, she is also dedicated to her family with her husband, Martie, and their seven children. We recently caught up with her for an interview. 

Tell me about how you got started in your career.  

When I graduated from college, I went to work at MidAmerican Energy, which is a great, strong company. But what I realized very quickly with that first job out of college was that I was just doing a very minute sliver of the activity that happens in accounting, and I wasn’t able to see the whole big picture. And so it really helped me know that the work I wanted to do was probably with a smaller company where I could really get my hands into everything and be involved with the business and how things work and seeing the big picture and understanding the impact of decisions that were happening. … So I left and started my own accounting business and started providing accounting services to small and medium-size businesses. I really just trusted that God had a plan for me. I had a lot of clients that I provided accounting services to, but I never advertised — it was all word of mouth. I had a couple of great CPAs that acted as mentors for me. And I did that as my own business for a number of years. And actually, that’s what led me to the Community Foundation. 

What’s the story there? 

When I was in college I worked at West Bank; I was a teller. That was one of my favorite jobs. I worked with the business customers and I enjoyed interacting with the business folks in Des Moines, getting to meet people. I met Teresa Van Vleet, who owned Rowat Cut Stone and Marble — she was a great businesswoman and we had some good conversations. She wanted me to go to work for her during my college years, but I turned the offer down so I could stay in school. But she kept my resume, and maybe not quite 10 years later, she had married Johnny Danos, and Johnny was at the Community Foundation and they were looking for an accountant. My name had changed and she couldn’t find me, but she knew my dad’s business was on there. And so she contacted my parents to get ahold of me, and she was able to get my phone number and got me connected to Johnny, and that’s kind of where it all began. I came in and helped, then it ended up working out that I stayed on. 

What do you consider to be your guiding principle, your North Star? 

My parents instilled in me a very strong work ethic, and so I’ve always worked very hard. I love a good challenge. So I am always willing to dive in and try and figure things out, which I think is an important skill. And, you know, your integrity means everything. What happens when people aren’t looking is just as important as what happens when people are looking. And so I think that that is just core to the work of a CFO, for certain. But also [it’s an important part of leading] a nonprofit organization that serves our community. 

What’s the significance of the enterprise risk management program for the Community Foundation?  

I have been fortunate at the Community Foundation to serve under great leaders from our community; there’s not another place that I could have worked where I would have the opportunity to work with so many diverse leaders with different areas of expertise. One of the things that Cara Heiden, one of our prior board chairs and our finance committee chair, brought to the table was a great experience through Wells Fargo. As a nonprofit organization we don’t have a lot of the requirements as some of these public companies have, but we want to be able to say we hold ourselves to similar standards. … What I found doing research on it was that not a lot of nonprofit organizations do that work, and so we were going to have to figure it out on our own. … We’ve now used it for probably five years, maybe six, so it’s just kind of second nature now — it’s just how we operate. … It has definitely been a huge asset to us as we talk to auditors, as we talk to donors and other nonprofit organizations. It’s something that not too many [nonprofit] organizations in the United States have implemented. So it was fun also to be called upon by some national organizations to come speak on it and share what we had developed. 

What else is on your mind? 

Accounting isn’t always seen as maybe a career that people find the most intriguing. But I have found it to be exactly what I have enjoyed. I think sometimes people have a very, very narrow view on what accounting is [based on entry-level positions]. But you have to start somewhere, and then I think as you’re able to grow in your career it just provides so many different opportunities. It’s been a challenge in the accounting field to find qualified candidates. There  are less people that are taking the CPA exam. There are a lot of people who are going into the accounting profession — I think that might have just switched this year for the first time after a number of years of decline. So I would encourage students who are considering careers to think about accounting differently, and to think about different options that are available in the accounting field and ways that you can help organizations and businesses be leaders through your financial storytelling. 

Tell me about your family.

My husband and I together have a blended family of seven kids. Five of those are now adult children, so we have two at home. So that has also kept us pretty busy over the years. But as a working mom I think it’s been really good for my kids to see. We have five girls and two boys. It’s been good, especially for my girls, to see that you can be a successful businessperson, and you can have a family. And that you can do both of those things, and do them both well.