Post by Past-President Dominique Jolicoeur on her time as chapter Treasurer. 

Around this time last year, I recapped my term as President of IABC Ottawa. What a year!

I knew going into my final year on the Board that I had to continue to challenge myself in unexpected ways. But how?

I found my answer at 2017 Leadership Institute in Dallas. I was attending a session on financial management by Ginger Homan, who at the time was the Treasurer of the International Executive Board. Her passion for finances was contagious. I mean, her main key message:

“Finances are sexy.”

Agreed.

Following the session, I told my IABC Ottawa colleagues that I would be taking on the role of Treasurer for the Chapter. I already had an interest in personal finance. Why not apply this interest to a business context?

A year later, here are my biggest lessons to share with any communicator taking on a similar role:

Get a grip on internal controls

The first thing I did going into the season was develop a checklist of internal controls. Essentially, this is a set of guidelines that are followed to reduce the risk of misappropriation of funds – whether it is intentional or accidental. There are many times over the season that I went back to this checklist. Especially if there was any doubt on how to proceed with a financial related issue.

A few items on our checklist:

  • Require prior authorization for financial commitments over the amount budgeted.
  • Prepare a monthly financial statement and provide copies to all board members for review.
  • Produce a written copy of our financial policies and pass copies on to the next Board.
  • Set up our bank account so it requires two signatures on all cheques.

As Board members, we have the legal obligation to act in the best interest of our Chapter and these controls gave us peace of mind.

Develop a strategic budget

This was by far my favorite responsibility during my term as Treasurer. As a strategic communicator, I found that setting a strategic budget made a lot of sense. It’s all about looking beyond the numbers and digging into the organization’s strategic plan to align the budget with your objectives.

Our first step was to determine our objectives as a Chapter. Once each Vice President knew what they wanted to accomplish, it was time to sit down and determine how our budget would support them. Ginger’s session prepared me with the questions we needed to consider:

Are you budgeting to support the areas you want to grow?

Since leadership development was a priority again this year, we dedicated budget to the professional development of Board members.

Are you implementing programs that contribute substantially to the financial support of your chapter?

In an effort to retain our members, we dedicated budget to provide value add to our membership throughout the season.

Do you need to eliminate unprofitable activities?

We’re currently revising our awards program to create better ROI.

Share the knowledge

My main goal for the season was to share what I was learning with the rest of the Board. I did this in two ways:

Monthly reporting

Although I was sharing our financial reports with the team on a monthly basis, I noticed that there weren’t many questions being asked on our finances.

Perhaps I wasn’t tailoring the message to my audience?

Knowing that communicators are a visual bunch, I used the profit and loss report to create visual graphics of our revenue streams, expenses and actual vs. budgeted.

That did the trick! We started having more finance related discussions around the Board table. To take it a step further, our President added the update from finance at the top of the agenda so that we could take our finances into consideration during each portfolio update. Good call!

Bring in the advocates

The Board had identified finances as an area they wanted to develop. Upon hearing this feedback, I wanted the Board to experience Ginger’s passion for finances first hand since it was what got me there in the first place.

I invited Ginger Homan and Alain Legault to one of our board meetings to talk about financial management. Our Board appreciated the insight into IABC’s finances and I’m confident they find numbers a little more sexy after hearing from them.

I am by no means a financial expert. However, I’m no longer the communicator in the room saying:

“I don’t do numbers. It’s why I went into communications.”

Over the past year, I too have become an advocate for business and financial acumen within our profession. I look forward to continuing to build on this at the international level next season while serving on the International Investment Committee. My new role will become official at the AGM at World Conference on June 2.

Would you consider taking on a financial role on a Board?

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