Kickstarting Your Chapter Finances & Accounting
It’s no secret that chapter leaders need to keep a keen eye on their finances if they’re to run, and grow, a successful chapter. But it isn’t always simple to know exactly what this involves. However, as more organizations look to monitor chapters closely in order to mitigate risk and liability at the national level, the onus is increasingly on chapter leaders to take charge of finances and accounting.
When setting up your chapter, you’ll want to keep financial management at the forefront of your mind. To manage your money effectively, you can opt for a local bank account for your chapter, or a consolidated banking model set up by national. Always check with national to see what policies and procedures they already have. Here are a few things to consider with each option.
If you’re setting up a local bank account for your chapter
- Are you, as chapter leader, required to have a signor from national on the account? If so, who should you contact at national?
- Are there any approvals that chapter leaders or volunteers need to be aware of to cut checks or set up payments?
- Are there any chapter credit card policies or procedures you should be aware of?
- How should chapter leaders or volunteers send required reporting to national? (A quarterly revenue and expense template is available – feel free to alter to meet your association’s requirements)
- How frequently do you need to send reporting to national?
- What information should reports sent to national include? (e.g. bank statements, etc.)
- If chapters collect funds (dues, event registrations, etc.), is it clearly stated how any dollars owed to national by the chapter should be paid?
- If national rebates funds back down to your chapter, is it clearly stated how often you will receive funds and how the amount will be determined?
- How should you, as a chapter leader or volunteer, reimburse members or other officers who front money for the chapter?
If your organization has a component banking model
- Who should you get in touch with at national to gain access to, or set up, your chapter’s account?
- Is there access to training to learn the financial management system national is leveraging?
- Do you understand the payment approval process? If there is a dual approval required, do you know who needs to be that second sign-off?
- Is it clear what reports from the system should be ran and sent to national? How frequently should you be sending reports to national?
- Are available expense management options and processes clearly outlined to reduce member and/or chapter officer reimbursements?
WHY YOU NEED TO THINK ABOUT INSURANCE
If national provides insurance for you
- Who is the best person to reach out to, to get the ball rolling?
- What information do you need to provide to national?
- Is there an estimate or fixed cost that you need to know about?
If you’re obtaining your own insurance
- Are there minimum coverage requirements that chapter leaders or volunteers such as yourself need to be aware of?
- Are there any preferred insurance providers for associations, especially chapter-based associations?
- Are there preferred providers you can leverage to make the process quicker and easier?
- Do you need specific information from national?
- Who should you contact if you come across any bumps in the road?
CHAPTER DUES: LET’S KEEP IT SIMPLE!
Chapter dues are notoriously complicated, but they don’t have to be. Some chapters collect dues. Some don’t. Some nationals collect all the funds and rebate dollars to the chapters. Whatever model your organization goes with, you can ensure that you’re doing everything you can by adhering to the specific responsibilities of your chapter. Take a look at the key questions below to get started.
If it’s your responsibility to collect dues on behalf of your chapter
- Does national provide technology to enable you to collect funds, or do you need to build your own infrastructure to do so?
- Is there specific messaging you should be using to communicate the benefits members receive with their chapter dues and/or their national dues?
If national is collecting dues for you
- When can your chapter expect to receive its funds?
- How can your chapter help to communicate the benefits members receive?
How to Solve a Problem Like…The Dues Process
When it comes to processing dues, there might be hiccups at both the national and chapter level. These challenges will undoubtedly impact your time, budget and ability to prepare for the future. But they can be solved. It’s just a case of communication.
Ensure that you connect with national regularly, to identify problems and discuss solutions. If your organization has a national and chapter task force, consider joining it. Use these meetings to share any pain points you’ve come across as a chapter leader, and the potential impact of these on members. Talking is key to running a smooth dues process, at either the chapter or national level.
Making Life Easier for National
When running your chapter, never lose sight of the challenges that national might be facing. Most problems for national concerning chapters stem from a lack of organization or communication, so ensure you’re doing all you can to alleviate this.
If automation is available, make sure you’re sharing member data and information effectively. Report back on who has joined, paid and renewed in your chapter. Chapter leaders can and should work with national to create a data file or template including any required fields that should be shared. Consistency is key, so a template is a great way to ensure everyone’s on the same page. Data sharing helps national better understand chapter membership and retention, which can only benefit you further down the line.