Katarina Harju 2015 Q&A: Finances, Group 1

If elected to the board, will you push for a published yearly budget? What would you consider key items in a budget?

I think that a budget is one of those basic things that any organization needs to have, so I find it vitally important that we figure out a process to make a budget in time for every fiscal year. Once we do manage to make a budget (and repeat the same process every year) I see no practical reason not to publish it, and in fact making it public would be a good start towards demonstrating our accountability.

The key items would be things that are probably also rather obvious to include: our expected income (donations, interest, possible income from OTW merchandise) and what we plan to spend money on during the fiscal year (how much different projects need, changes to previous years costs). Of course, this means that developing a functional budget requires input from all the different committees.

A nonprofit’s board has a fiduciary responsibility regarding its assets, which includes making sure they earn a reasonable interest rate. In the past three years, despite our considerable reserves, our investment income (per the OTW’s tax filings and Annual Reports) has been, respectively, US$5, US$40 and US$18. If elected, would you hope we can do anything different about this?

I’m not that familiar with interest rates in US banks, but that does sound like very little for the amount of funds the OTW has had in recent years. If we adopt a surplus budget—which considering the OTW’s, and more specifically the AO3’s, rapid growth does seem most sensible—it would certainly make sense that the surplus would be able to generate more interest than what it has so far. Furthermore, with a budget in place it would be possible to invest the surplus while keeping sufficient funds for projected expenditures and keeping a healthy cash reserve in place.

Because we are dealing with donated funds, we have a responsibility to be careful with them, because of this and because of US tax laws we would have to make conservative passive investments. This basically boils down to the fact that we should start with moving some of our money into an account with better interest rates.

The latest three OTW fundraising drives had escalating goals: US$70,000; US$100,000; US$175,000 (October ’14, May ’15, October ’15). How would you define responsible fundraising in a fandom context? What does it mean for our finances?

Responsible fundraising to me means that we need to be transparent. We need to be able to tell people why we are asking for the amount of money we do, to show them what we plan to use money on and to tell them what the money has been used for. We can’t afford to lose the confidence of our donors. To keep hiking up the goal for each successive membership drive without ever giving a good explanation for why the goals keep rising seems to me like a good way of alienating our donors.

It’s important that whoever handles the finances and accounting (at this point our Treasurer and Board as a whole) communicates with the people in charge of fundraising (the Development & Membership committee) to ensure that the goals are set according to our needs. Having a budget would make this much clearer and easier.

There have been complaints in the past, particularly from AO3 committees, of some of the OTW’s service bills not being paid on time or being paid very last-minute—sometimes resulting in committees temporarily losing access to tools they need for their work. What do you think can be done to prevent this from happening in the future?

If the payments are recurring and consistent, then it should certainly be possible to look into some form of automatic payment. Other than that, all I can say is that we need to have someone reliable in charge of paying the bills and to make sure that there is some form of backup for that person, in case they are unavailable for whatever reason.