June 11, 2020

So, you need a budget…

Though this time is unique and challenging for AIAS chapters everywhere, budgeting and money management is as vital as ever to keeping your chapter on track. Budgeting in times of crisis can even help you to be more prepared for budget revisions, loss of revenue, and program adjustments in the future! That said, it’s time to begin one of the most crucial steps of your journey as treasurer, budgeting!

Where do I even start?

The first thing to know is that budgets are not the be-all and end-all of money – they are meant to serve as a snapshot in time for your chapter’s overall financial stability. Budgets come in many shapes and sizes. It is important to consider the benefits of creating a multi-level budget for your chapter that can span over a year, a semester, a month, or a single event. You may also produce extra money management files for your school, your chapter, Freedom by Design program, and any additional initiatives your chapter wants to tackle.

I’ve never had to budget before. What can I reference to begin?

A great place to start is by referencing any information you may have received from your predecessor during the transition period! This could include historical documents or previous chapter budgets. Other helpful examples can be found through reaching out to AIAS National Office as well as other chapters around you. Once you have a reference document, you can begin to assess the current money your chapter has in its accounts.

What would a typical yearly budget include?

A yearly budget should be a roadmap of your incoming and outgoing monies for a single year. A general budget does not need to break down event information or aspirational donor support. These tend to over complicate a budget and lead to an overestimation of income, which can cause hiccups down the road. This budget will be a living document that can and will change over the course of the year as your chapter develops.

You should start by listing out all of the fixed costs, which may include annual events, anticipated payments to your university, National dues, and any other recurring expenses. If you know the exact dates for these events, you can mark them in your budgeting and planning documents.

Next, document all expected income from fundraisers, donors, or administrative support and remember that not all incoming money can be timed or planned out. Surprises are to be expected and should be accounted for. NEVER count your dollars before they hatch!

Once your known income and expenses are charted, you can begin to prioritize your goals. The budget might show that you have more or less capacity for spending than you thought. A thorough budget accounts for emergency funds to cover unexpected expenses. The final step is to include “nice to haves” such as T-shirts, keychains, extra events, a members celebration, or any other opportunities should your chapter come into more money.

Who needs to access or view the budget?

When you have completed the budget, you should review the final product with your Chapter President and any other executive board members needed for approval. You also may end up showing the document to potential sponsors, donors, local AIA components, your university or other organizations and chapters. It is common to be asked of your current financial standing before funds are allocated to your chapter. Remember to uphold a professional appearance in all chapter documentation with proper formatting and graphic representation.

How can this budget help our chapter stay on track?

A budget should inform your chapter of all fundraising deadlines, hopeful donation dates, and timelines for reaching out to sustaining donors or sponsors. The treasurer, along with their executive board, can then make adjustments to the programming as needed. Something to acknowledge is that organizations may begin their fiscal year in different months and requests for sponsorship should be planned accordingly.

There is no need to stress out if a budget item has to change or a goal needs to shift. Budgets are revised every day by corporations and organizations of all shapes and sizes! It is critical to remember the goals that you and your chapter established at the beginning of your time as treasurer. If a shift in budget directly affects a priority goal, discuss it openly with the rest of your chapter and work together to accomplish as many goals as financially possible. It is perfectly acceptable to pivot money allocation and goals as needed, just be sure to discuss it fully and take note of each change in all documents related to financing and goal keeping!

Make sure to keep an eye out for future So You’re The Treasurer content! In the meantime, happy budgeting!