‘Numbers Inform Your Story’—Meet Tides’ New Chief Financial Officer James Lum

James Lum, a seasoned financial leader with a passion for mission-driven work, joined Tides as its new chief financial officer last month. In this role, Lum has responsibility over Tides’ finance, accounting, investment, and real estate operations. Portrait of James Lum.

Prior to joining Tides, Lum served as the chief financial and information officer at Bridgespan, a global nonprofit consulting firm. At Bridgespan, he oversaw the creation of an $80 million DEI-focused investment fund for the firm’s mission-related education programs and the launch of a third international office in Singapore. Previously, he served as the CFO for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), a national nonprofit whose mission centers on creating a just economy, where he oversaw more than $90 billion in community benefit agreements with banks to provide investments and loans for underserved communities. Prior to NCRC, Lum served as CFO at GuideStar (now Candid), a nonprofit specializing in nonprofit financial data. In 2014, while at GuideStar, Association Trends presented Lum with the Nonprofit Transformational CFO of the Year Award. Lum was also CFO for 270 Strategies, a grassroots advocacy consulting firm with clients across the political, corporate, and nonprofit sectors. Earlier in his career, Lum led financial and technology projects for national and international divisions of media companies including The Wall Street Journal, MTV International, John Wiley & Sons, SiriusXM, and Showtime Networks.

Lum is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where he majored in economics and biology, and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School. 

Lum talks about what led him to join Tides and what he hopes to achieve in his new role. 

What inspired you to join Tides?

I think it’s very clear that Tides is a progressive organization that has continued to evolve to one that is now squarely focused on strengthening the power of groups that have faced systemic challenges. Despite the progress that has been made in this country, far too many people are still relegated to the sidelines. I think Tides has an opportunity as an organization with its vast resources to really jump start further progress. For me, it is about supporting that development, so that’s why I’m here. 

Tell us more about your background and how it has informed your commitment to social justice?

I grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, the self-proclaimed birthplace of democracy where Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and James Madison all lived in the vicinity and are enshrined at City Hall. And yet all these presidents were slaveholders, and the city is where the Unite the Right rally occurred several years ago. So, it is a place that reminds me how little progress has been made and that there are still pockets in our country where people are openly opposed to progress. 

In fact, my parents still reside there, and recently my father pointed out a locked entrance to a local movie theater. He explained that he originally used that door because it was the designated “colored” entrance. His story has never been told nor anybody like him, and that’s the Asian American story. Many people’s stories have been forgotten or not told. I want to change that. I don’t want to be a silent partner. Too many Asian Americans have been used as pawns or tools for other people’s agendas. I want to change that by being an ally for everyone. 

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

Throughout my career I have strived to translate transactional financial data and use it as a powerful tool to help organizations understand the past and present. Numbers inform your story. And so that is what I hope to do: strengthen our story and the story of our partners by providing numbers that can provide actionable insights.

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