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Finance Committee Guide

Overview
By default, the Director of the Finance Committee will be the current UNAVSA Treasurer.  The Committee may not need more than the one member.  For the sake of efficiency and ease of communication, it’s not recommended to have more than two.  The duties of the Committee include (but are not limited to):

  • Creating and governing a master conference budget
      • Collecting budgetary requests from all committees
      • Approving/rejecting budgetary requests
      • Providing financial oversight and support to all committees
  • Managing payments received from attendees and sponsors
  • Managing payments distributed to the hotel and vendors
  • Reimbursing staff and VIPs for conference expenses

General Timeline

November – January

  • Coordinate with Executive Directors to negotiate hotel guestrooms, meeting rooms, A/V equipment, and catering
  • Prepare new Conference Budget template
  • Populate Pessimistic, Base, and Optimistic estimates for each committee
  • Collect preliminary budgets from each committee director
  • Review, revise, and approve budget items

February – July

  • Continuously monitor Paypal and the PO Box for incoming payments
  • Continuously revise and update Conference Budget with directors
  • Pay initial deposit to the hotel
  • Process Paypal refunds upon request
  • Order and purchase major items such as awards, fliers, program booklets, speaker gifts, t-shirts
  • Ensure that the Registration committee submits the final room list before the hotel deadline

After Conference

  • Review final hotel invoice and make payments
  • Reimburse gala entertainers, speakers, and other VIPs
  • Reimburse staff members
  • Finalize and report the Conference Budget
Responsibilities  (Detailed overview of responsibilities)
Creating and governing a master conference budgetThe main tool of the Finance Committee is the Conference Budget.  This file is typically an Excel workbook that tracks the revenues and expenses for each committee, and summarizes them in a single report.  The current version of the file has been used for at least three conferences, with slight variations in layout and formulas.
Assumptions

Many of the estimates and figures on the Assumptions tab carry over from previous conferences.  They may still require verifying against actual results and trends.Registration Fees: traditionally UNAVSA charges an Early Rate of $65, Regular Rate of $85, and Late Rate of $100.  Not listed are the Director Rate ($0) and the Staff Rate ($55).Registration %: UNAVSA typically assumes that 60% of attendees will register at the Early Rate, while 40% will register at the Regular Rate.Total Attendees: this is typically the only field that the Finance Director should adjust.  The Director should list an Optimistic, Base Case, and Pessimistic estimate for conference attendance.  These estimates will be most important in determining certain costs (such as t-shirts and program booklets) and in judging how much revenue is necessary to collect.

Attendee Demographics: UNAVSA assumes that 25% of attendees will be locals that don’t require hotel lodging, 25% will be locals that do require hotel lodging, and 50% will be national attendees that require hotel lodging.  These estimates will be most important in determining whether certain hotel contract conditions will be met.

Committee Budgets
Each committee will have its own tab in the Conference Budget.  As early as possible, the Committee Directors should submit Preliminary Budgets to estimate all the materials they may need and all the costs associated.  All purchases must be reviewed and approved by the Finance Director in order to qualify for reimbursement.  As planning progresses, the budgeted items and amounts will be continuously revised and adjusted.

Along the top of each committee budget tab is the name of the committee, the name of the director, and the name of each member.

Below that is the Committee Summary (row 8-10).  This section consolidates and displays subtotals from the subsequent sections.

The next section (row 12-19) displays initial rough estimates for committee revenues and expenses.  The Finance Director should list an Optimistic, Base Case, and Pessimistic scenario.  It would help to review and extrapolate data from previous conference budgets.

The main section is the Itemized Budget (row 21 and below).    Typically only the Registration and Sponsorship committees will have Revenue, while all committees will have Expenses.  Column A lists each revenue/expense item.  Columns B-D list estimated quantities and prices.  As mentioned earlier, these amounts will be continuously revised and adjusted as planning progresses.    Columns E-G will be populated with actual amounts as invoices and payments are finalized.  Column J helps track which items have been fully approved by the Finance Director.  Finally, Column K contains any helpful notes and reminders related to each item.

Output

The Output tab consolidates and summarizes the totals and calculations from the Assumptions tab and Committee Budget tabs.  This allows for a big-picture view of how all the revenues and expenses connect as a whole.

In the upper section, Column A lists the revenue and expense items by committee.  Columns D-E of this tab pull from the Actuals columns of each committee budget (Columns E-G).  Columns F-G of this tab pull from the Estimates columns of each committee budget (Columns B-D).

To the right of this section are historical amounts from previous conferences.  These serve as a reference for comparison, and can help guide financial decisions.

The lower section of the Output tab focuses on hotel rooms.  Previous conference budgets have mainly focused on the quantity of rooms booked, omitting the costs of rooms from the overall finances.  As a result, the Total Costs and Net Profit for previous conferences might be inaccurate.  The latest version of the conference budget template includes additional line items to address this.

Managing payments received from attendees and sponsors
The Finance Director should frequently monitor the Paypal account for payments received from attendees.  The Director should cross-reference and verify these data against the Registration Committee’s lists.  Any discrepancies should be investigated and resolved prior to conference.  It would be helpful to provide reports to the Executive Directors and Executive Board, with revenue breakdowns based on Early Registration Rates, Regular Registration Rates, Late Registration Rates, and VIP Rates.

The Director should also frequently monitor the UNAVSA post office box for any checks received from sponsors.  These should be deposited in a timely manner, and reported to the Sponsorship Committee.

Managing payments distributed to the hotel and vendors
The Finance Director should work closely with the hotel sales staff to arrange payment for guest rooms, meeting rooms, and catering.  In past years, a member of the Executive Committee would charge all such expenses to their personal credit card and receive reimbursement at a later date.  However, most recently, UNAVSA has charged the expenses directly to the organization’s debit card and checking account.  The Finance Director should pay close attention to all deadlines to avoid late payments.  The hotel typically requires a deposit prior to the conference.  Shortly after conference, they will send a full invoice for all expenses.  UNAVSA typically has a week after receiving the invoice to verify all charges and make final payment.

Other major conference expenses include attendee lunches, program booklets, speaker gifts, and t-shirts.  The Finance Director should be sure pay vendors in a timely manner.

Reimbursing staff and VIPs for conference expenses
All staff purchases must have prior review and approval from the Finance Director in order to qualify for reimbursement.  Staff members should submit a completed Reimbursement Form showing their mailing address, their signature, descriptions of the items purchased, costs of the items purchased, and the date of purchase.  Staff members should include their original receipts, however in certain cases electronic or scanned copies may be acceptable.

Certain VIPs, such as workshop speakers and gala entertainers, are eligible for reimbursement of expenses.  VIPs typically receive the following benefits:

  • Waived registration fees

  • Reimbursement for hotel lodging on the night of their performance/workshop

  • Partial reimbursement of travel based on distance

    • Up to $250 if traveling across three time zones (e.g. West Coast to East Coast)

    • Up to $200 if traveling across two time zones

    • Up to $150 if traveling across/within one time zone.

Like staff members, VIPs should submit completed Reimbursement Forms and copies of their receipts.

Lessons Learned

General tips and suggestions for negotiating with hotels

  • Ask if they’ll offer discounted/comped meeting rooms if we fill a certain percentage of the guestroom block.  For UNAVSA-7 the cutoff was 90% for free meeting rooms, with sliding scale of discounts going down.
  • Ask if we can set the guestroom block lower now and increase it later.  If you aim too high and end up not filling all the rooms, you have to pay the difference.  Also, if you aim too high, you might not meet your cutoff for meeting room discounts.
  • Ask if they have a discounted dinner menu.  For UNAVSA-7 they showed us a “secret” menu that was at least $10 lower than the original prices.
  • Ask if we’re allowed to use outside AV vendors or if we have to use theirs.  We compromised at UNAVSA-7: if we all our equipment came from outside then they’d charge us a heavy fee, but if we used 50-50 with their equipment, they waived the fee.  Also make sure they don’t charge us for electricity; some hotels give a good deal on equipment but then make their money that way.
  • Ask about about the cost for parking, whether we can go in-and-out, and whether there’s a loading dock for quick drop-offs.
  • Name-drop State Farm, Eden Center, BPSOS, and any other big donors that have given us money.  Let the hotel know we’re not just a student group, we’re a legit non-profit with real sponsors.  A nice way to bring it up could be to ask if we’re allowed to hang banners or have display tables for our sponsors.
  • Once you get negotiated numbers from a hotel, you should totally take them to other hotels and see if they’ll counter-offer.  They’re all competing for business, so play them against each other.

Reference

Past conference budgets are on Dropbox:
My Dropbox\UNAVSA (Conference)\Budgets

Past hotel contracts are also on Dropbox:
My Dropbox\UNAVSA (Conference)\Hotels

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