Let’s say you’re the fraternity treasurer for your chapter. Now, let’s say you don’t like to toot your own horn, but you’re a budgeting mastermind, a genius in your own right. You’re just naturally good with numbers. You’re well into the core classes for your finance degree, so this job should be a cakewalk, right? There is absolutely, positively no way anything can go wrong. This whole fraternity treasurer gig basically does itself.
Now let’s say something goes wrong. Because it can, and, often when you least expect it, it will.
How? Why? What the heck happened?
Mistakes happened. Mistakes do happen. And mistakes will happen in the future. Step one for a fraternity treasurer in managing the chapter budget is to cast off your hubris and realize you’re human, and even with help from other officers things don’t always go right the first time.
One common budgeting mistake is under-budgeting in a way that doesn’t leave room for miscalculations and changes other chairs might make later in the semester. Another is not taking into account the budgeting mistakes or successes of past semesters. Also, a treasurer might accidentally over-budget to the point where dues are so unreasonably high brothers aren’t paying and not seeking an outside perspective on chapter budgeting.
Fear not, though, oh Icarus of fraternity financial management. We here at OmegaFi are here to help you answer the question, You Got It Wrong, Now What? Tips and Tricks for Treasurers Managing Budget Mistakes.
Side note: Icarus is that Greek mythology dude who flew too close to the sun and his wax wings melted, sending him plummeting to his demise. We’re pretty sure you knew this already, since you went to middle school. Our point is that we really don’t want your budget to suffer the same fate as the wax wing wonder boy.
So if You Don’t Want to Plummet into the Ocean, Budget for Future Mistakes
Once you realize you don’t have enough money because of under-budgeting, or being unable to collect enough dues to cover over-budgeted chapter activities, financially managing your fraternity chapter might seem like an impossible task, a disaster scene where everywhere you look is another patient to triage. What’s more crucial to fix immediately, and what can the chapter afford to lose, or push back a semester or two?
Of course housing costs, insurance, national dues and initiation and new member costs need to be covered. There needs to be a certain percentage spent on recruitment or else the effects down the line can be detrimental to the chapter’s livelihood.
But successful fraternities know that financial management of both successes and mistakes needs to take into account not only the present, but the future as well. That means not just switching out for a cheaper caterer for formal or cutting intramural flag football, but figuring out what went wrong and planning for these kinds of financial errors in the future.
The fraternity’s president and chapter treasurer, along with the chairmen whose activities ended up being cut back due to budgeting mistakes, need to come together and plan for not only extra wiggle room in future budgets, but also some kind of growth of savings. Crunch the numbers on what percentage of membership dues are being collected on time, and if additional fundraising might be needed in the future.
But we must warn you, oh treasurer who is starting to understand that being Icarus really sucks, of one important rule about how you manage future budget mistakes.
Fraternity Financial Management Means Understanding the Past
Once you’re in the hole, certain non-crucial items in the budget are going to be cut or scaled back. It’s just the reality of the situation. If Tim wanted fancy gold silverware for the formal, he should have eaten with something other than a spork and figured out what that actually costs. If Joe was going to get all upset for falling short on a 5k t-shirt order, he should’ve done more planning.
If you have savings, you might need to dig into the coffers a little bit to cover the essentials. But you don’t want to be smashing a piggy bank every semester, and end up with a bunch of broken bits of porcelain and not much else.
If there’s a trend in coming up short when managing the budget, look to past budgets and treasurers to see if there’s a trend. What aspects of fraternity finances are being consistently mis-managed? Why? What can be done to correct the trend? Potentially you’ll need to seek doing business with more affordable vendors or to better prioritize costs when it comes to certain chapter goals.
Also, watch for trends in constantly coming up short with alumni fundraising goals. Can alumni engagement be improved into the future?
Past, Present and Future: An Outside Perspective on Budget Mistakes Can Help
It’s important to have a network of people working on managing the chapter budget, and fraternity finances rely on a group effort. This means that the treasurer is working in conjunction with the president and other officers, a financial committee, national advisors and others.
But aside from those already in the inner circle, who can help?
Well, honestly, any professional financial management opinion can be helpful to your fraternity. This can come from professional alumni in related fields, from professors of finance on campus or from any other licensed specialist.
Luckily for the tender-footed new treasurer who’s finding his way, and for the chapter he represents, there are experts and financial advisors trained to guide you away from these pitfalls and toward a strong financial future. With the help of fraternity financial software, OmegaFi is one such group of experts dedicated to making sure fraternity chapters acquire the tools and expertise to build and manage successful budgets year in and year out.
We hope that these tips and tricks can help a wayward treasurer get back on track to manage the occasional budgeting mistake, as well as to avoid making the same missteps in the future.
Have you grappled with managing budgeting mistakes in the past? How did your chapter work through them? What kind of plan did you make going forward? Enlighten us in the comments below.