This is Part 2 of a series to help chapters prepare for the upcoming year.
In September, I shared how chapters could avoid being in problem-solving mode by spending more time with upfront planning and even orchestrating how your board and committees serve professionals. Many chapters have annual one-day planning meetings in which the president invites the board, committee members, sponsoring organizations, and interested members to partake in critical discussions to revisit the vision and mission, conduct high-level analyses, and design goals and tactics for communications, finance, membership, programming, and public relations.
Strategic Planning Meeting
To prepare for the next fiscal year, boards typically have an all-day planning session (see Part 1 for details). Critical to the strategic plan are how your board manages finance, membership, and communications. Although many of the tactics carryover to the next fiscal year, your board needs to consider how these elements need to change to align to the chapter’s overall goals.
During the planning meeting, the VP of finance has two critical phases:
Phase 1: Your financial goals and gaps
Facilitate a discussion about the current financial state. Your purpose is to identify any financial gaps that to need to be addressed. Ask questions such as:
How much in financial reserves do you really need at any given time?
What revenue sources might be lower than expected? How would this affect the success of the chapter?
For the end of the next fiscal year, your board needs to know how much of a financial surplus or deficit it will have if the board continues to spend with current patterns. Things to consider are expenses such as:
- Technology fees (website and email services)
- Program events (estimating cost for typical attendance–cost per attendee, general facility fees, and equipment rentals)
- Approved planned purchases (example: purchasing a portable projection screen rather than renting one at a facility for your events)
- Current income (membership dues, sponsorship, and event fees)
- Current balance compared to projected balance at the end of the next fiscal year
Knowing this information will contribute to determining the new fiscal budget.
Phase 2: Budgeting
Some chapters do not consider creating a budget. Most just want to know if they are going to make it to the end of the next fiscal year. Boards need to think systemically and strategically to ensure that their finances align with the vision, mission, and the revised strategy for the upcoming fiscal year.
This might be just my view, but I really believe that chapters should not generate a substantial amount of revenue. I believe that a board needs to generate the minimal amount of revenue needed to support the growth and continued existence of the chapter. With this in mind, setting your financial budget is critical to determine the minimal revenue and reserves needed to support your strategies for growing and maintaining volunteering, programming, membership count, and outreach.
To help think about budget implications, here are some scenario examples that you might consider:
To grow membership, find out what barriers you have. Are your dues too high? Do you need to improve your marketing to the general public, educational institutions, government, or the private sector? Is it financially feasible to hire a local marketing organization to promote your chapter? Would you consider hiring social media marketers? With questions like these, determine the percentage of revenue and reserves your board needs to invest in growing membership and if you need to outsource your campaign to someone or a business that has deeper skills in doing this.
Given your chapter’s professional development goals, this might be the year that you choose to recruit some international speakers to address expressed developmental gaps. Your board needs to determine how much to budget toward speaker fees and expenses, promotions for special events, and additional facility expenses to accommodate a larger audience (if events are in-person and not virtual). What percentage of projected revenue and reserves should you dedicate to these events?
One of your strategic goals is to improve the image of your chapter. If you have face-to-face events, how can you prepare the room so that it looks more professional? Some chapters have purchased custom banners, created special check-in stations, or even created a library table for members to borrow books. What portion of revenue and reserves should you dedicate to this?
Your board may have chosen to address board burnout and a lack of new volunteers. Ask your board what you can do to decrease burnout. It might be decreasing the number events, but that has a financial implication. Your board should determine the tasks that lead to volunteer burnout. You may want to outsource some of these tasks. This could be event management, newsletter or journal publications, or even tax reporting.
When creating strategic plans, chapters may not think through the financial implications. As a past president of a chapter, I failed to require a formal budget. I did, however, realize that we were generating too much revenue at the expense of our members and not providing enough return on their investment. I believe that chapter boards need to consider this systematically to achieve their annual goals.