It’s your turn to take a stab at running for treasurer. You’re excited, and you’ve got great ideas. You’re elected and can’t wait to shake things up in the best possible ways. You’ve completed training with the last treasurer. You’re sitting down to look at all of the information and numbers you’ve just been handed. Disappointment sets in. You see all of the hurdles you’ll have to go through and extra work that needs to be done. Just a few days ago, you were ecstatic to increase chapter collections and make this the best financial year yet.
So what do you do when you run into these problems and pain points? How do you solve the issues that have been at hand for, well, who knows how long? Here are some Common Treasurer Pain Points and how to address them without overwhelming your schedule.
1. Increase Collections
Chapter collections are the backbone of your organization. Chapter bills and event planning depend on members paying their dues. So, how do you get members to pay in order to keep the wheels turning?
The first thing you should do as treasurer is research how members are typically notified of their bill for the term. Are you sending a mass message out to members or simply making an announcement in chapter? Are their parents receiving a notification of the member’s bill? Collections will significantly increase if the parent is receiving the bill. Whether or not the parent is the one paying dues, having a member’s parent aware of the charges will serve as a great backup to stay on top of that member paying so you don’t have to.
Next, always make sure your chapter has some sort of financial contract for each member. Contracts keep members feeling accountable for the charges they incur. They are also helpful to have documentation if a member needs to be sent to a collections agency. While this is something that no treasurer wants to do, it is a last-resort option available to increase chapter collections. Keep a promissory note handy as well--these will let your members know that if they need a payment plan, they have the option to work an agreement out with you, while still being held accountable for their chapter dues.
2. Actives Not Paying on Time
Unfortunately, positive and negative reinforcement incentives are usually needed in order for members to pay on time. Late fees are the most commonly used, but they aren’t the most effective for every chapter. While late fees serve as extra income for the chapter, they should not be the only incentive you implement.
Social probation is almost always effective, since social events are the fun part of being in a Greek organization. If members do not pay their dues by a certain date, the treasurer can revoke the privilege of attending social events like formal or mixers. Remember that each member plays a part in those events coming to fruition. If members aren’t paying their dues, they shouldn’t be allowed to attend the events that the chapter and other members already paid for.
Additionally, prepayment discounts are a great positive incentive for chapters. Increasing dues by the amount you’ll offer as a discount will ensure that the chapter doesn’t “lose” money for offering a discount. When members don’t pay by the date you’ve set, you now have extra income for the chapter from slightly increasing dues.
Grade incentives are another great way to make sure your active members will pay on time while increasing collections. If members receive a 3.0 GPA or above, you can offer a small discount incentive for the next semester. Not only does this help your cash flow, but it’s also an incentive for members to keep their grades up throughout the term.
Lastly, having a raffle for free t-shirts or other merchandise is an easy way to reward your members who do pay on time. This is a small step towards positive incentives, especially if the chapter cannot afford to give something free to every member.
3. Inactive Debt
Old debt is a headache for all treasurers, whether you’re a seasoned veteran or new to the position. When members leave your organization without paying their part, it hurts the chapter in the long run. As treasurer, you should never count on the inactive debtors to pay their past bills when accounting for future income.
Approach inactive debt with realistic hopes. If the debt is more than two years old, the likelihood of collecting is minimal. Focus your efforts on the members you, or other executive board members, personally know. Depending on what type of contract you have for your members, you may be able to send some inactive debt to a collections agency. Again, collections should always be a last resort option--never a scare tactic.
Sometimes, it’s beneficial to bargain with inactive debtors. Agreeing to take off any late fees or fines, in return of payment for chapter dues, can be the deciding factor on whether or not a member is going to pay their bill. Remember that you’re not counting collections from inactive members in your future income or budgeting. Any money collected from these members is going to count as “extra funds” for the chapter. Some money collected is better than no money collected!
4. Manually Paying Bills
No college student wants to pay bills each and every month by writing a check. Most college students don’t even want to transfer money from one account to another. Setting up autopay with frequent vendors is a quick one-step process to make sure bills are getting paid on time. Depending on the billing service your chapter uses, there may even be a department dedicated to communicating with and paying different vendors. This is the easiest solution, since you’ll no longer get pesky phone calls from your utilities company or a food vendor.
5. Not Enough Money to Pay Headquarters
There’s no worse feeling than realizing you don’t have enough money to pay your national organization. Headquarters has the ultimate say-so in what happens to your chapter if they aren’t getting the money they’re billing you for. Prioritize these bills first. Nationals will almost always have a schedule of when certain bills are going to be invoiced to their chapters, whether it’s for initiation fees, risk management, or the annual chapter invoice.
Create a separate account or fund to house your chapter funds for national dues and fees. Think of the account as a savings account: Don’t touch it until you’re ready to pay a bill! This will also help with budgeting for your chapter. If you know the chapter is going to be late with a bill, it’s important to stay in touch with the appropriate contact at Headquarters. Communicating goes a long way!
6. Budgeting and Tracking
Budgeting isn’t easy or fun for anyone. Unless you’re an accounting or business major, creating a chapter budget can be a headache. While budgeting is just the beginning, tracking the budget and chapter’s spending should be a breeze compared to the prep work and organization of making the budget.
Always remember that your fixed expenses come first. These are things like National dues, rent and utilities. Then, use the previous year’s costs associated with any events that the chapter held. Those costs will be extremely helpful to calculate how much money to allocate each chairman. If you don’t put these things first, you could find yourself in a black hole of not having enough money left at the end of the semester.
Keep receipts and invoices, and always track where money is being deposited and withdrawn. Be sure to have at least one other person, like your chapter’s president or assistant treasurer, double check everything. This will ensure that the numbers you’re tracking are accurate, while also protecting yourself from any fraud/embezzlement accusations.
7. Communication within the Chapter
Keeping solid communication within the executive board is important, but too often, the chapter as a whole is overlooked. You should keep your members in the loop about where money is going and relating numbers back to them. For example, telling the chapter that you don’t have enough money for an event isn’t clear enough: Tell them that you still need three members to pay their dues in order to make an event happen. Putting things into perspective will ease the disconnect between the chapter and the executive board.
Don’t forget to utilize different platforms for overall communication with chapter events, upcoming campus events, or bills to increase chapter collections. Use apps such as GroupMe, GIN System, or a group email.
8. Collecting Donations
Collecting donations for a certain campaign or chapter event can be exciting and fun, as long as keeping track of those donations isn’t stressful. You can use different applications and companies for donations, depending on the purpose and goal amount. If it’s a big campaign that your chapter or house corporation is looking for, check out the work that Pennington has done in the past. For smaller projects, check with your billing company to see what kind of fundraising tools they offer as well. Sometimes, companies will offer a link that can be posted on any website or social media platform, or sent in a quick text to collect donations.
No matter what position you’ve inherited within your chapter, there will always be some sort of pain point. Always ask for an outside opinion or advice, even if it’s from someone at your national organization or the billing company your chapter uses. Your chapter may depend on your ability to ask for assistance. There is always more help than you realize!