Nikki Parnell


Museum of Discovery

Little Rock

Age: 28

Nikki Parnell

As chief financial officer, Nikki Parnell has guided the nonprofit Museum of Discovery through a challenging season of financial transitions.

The certified public accountant and Crittenden County native began working at the museum one year before it closed for nine months of capital renovations.

Due to the closing, Parnell, 28, learned to manage without most of the organization’s sources of income, like admission fees and facility rentals. She also oversaw the $9.2 million grant that funded the project but did not cover operations.

“I feel like it’s not an experience most CFOs get to experience,” Parnell said. “You’re cutting off most of your income sources and you’re having to figure out how to run your business, pay your employees, pay utilities ... .”

Then the 85-year-old museum reopened, transitioned to having its regular income streams, rebranded and drew record crowds, changing Parnell’s challenges again.

Parnell’s career move into the nonprofit sector in 2010 as museum CFO came after four years spent primarily auditing nonprofits for Thomas & Thomas LLP in Little Rock.

The industry has proven to be “where I belong professionally,” Parnell said.

She also volunteers for other nonprofits, serving as treasurer-elect of the Junior League of Little Rock and on the event committee of Sculpture at the River Market.