Committee Update

Finance Committee

Greetings from ISSTD’s Finance Committee!

As with the previous year’s update, in addition to the typical highlights, I want to offer you a bit more insight into how the Finance Committee functions within the Society.

You may not be aware, but, unlike most committees, which have formed over time because the ISSTD President and Board saw a need, the establishment of the Finance Committee was explicitly written into ISSTD’s Bylaws as a standing committee. This is because financial health is paramount to ensure any organization’s continued existence and growth. Within ISSTD, the Finance Committee serves an advisory role to the Board of Directors with the Treasurer being both the chair of the Finance Committee and an elected officer serving on the Board. Any time larger amounts of money are to be spent, the Finance Committee undertakes a review process of all supporting documentation for the expenditure, then offers a recommendation to the Board of Directors. The Board, which is ultimately tasked with ensuring ISSTD’s financial health, then evaluates both the documentation and the Finance Committee’s recommendation and makes a final decision. Only then may the CEO and Treasurer proceed with spending money or executing contracts associated with the expense.

The CEO, Treasurer, Finance Committee, and Board of Directors serve as a sort of ‘stepwise’ check-and-balance to one another. Separate but complementary policies that codify this system have existed since 2020 that guide decision-making on both large and small expenditures. With much larger expenses, such as those that accompany the development of a new educational program or upgrading technology, funds typically are not immediately allocated, but instead are written into the following year’s budget.

In late-August 2023, ISSTD CEO Mary Pat Hanlin and I met for our annual budget retreat and with the intention to develop a 3-year budget to align with the (still in development) 2024-2026 Strategic Plan. It’s a pretty involved—and intense—process that spans not only three full work days, but also evenings, as we tend to ‘talk shop’ virtually the entire time we’re together, in service of developing the best budget draft possible.

When we completed the draft budgets for 2022-2023 two years ago, it was relatively straightforward. This year, however, with attempting to develop a full three-year budget, we found that there were a lot of unknowns for 2025 and 2026. With that recognition, we created a full draft budget for 2024, a very ‘rough draft’ for 2025, and set aside budgeting for 2026 for now.

In developing the budget, we examined the current 2021-2023 Strategic Plan, and both historical and more recent trends, particularly in major revenue and expense categories. Over the next couple of months, the Finance Committee and Board of Directors will review, discuss, request revisions if needed, and ultimately approve the 2024 budget. (Although we may draft a multi-year budget, the Board only approves on a year-by-year basis. The subsequent years’ drafts are used to support goal setting.) Once the budget is approved, relevant information will be disseminated to committees associated with generating revenue or incurring expense. Committees and other groups within ISSTD may submit proposals to fund either short-term or bigger projects/initiatives that further ISSTD’s mission, according to established guidelines.

Again this year, I want to recognize the hard work that the Finance Committee and Board have done to steer the organization’s finances over these past six years of my tenure in this role, under what I would consider highly adverse conditions, particularly since 2019. 2022 was particularly challenging, attempting to emerge from pandemic conditions that arguably were just as much the present as the recent past. As I noted in my update last year, we remain on a long and circuitous path to re-establishing in-person events in a world that has changed considerably, and not uniformly from region-to-region, since March 2020. We do know, however, that we remain a vibrant organization with passionate, engaged members.

ISSTD introduced Regional Online Communities (ROCs) in 2020 to help members deepen local connections in the midst of a pandemic that necessitated physical distancing. ISSTDWorld, our network of online communities, and of which the ROCs are a part, has become in just a few years a mainstay of communication within this Society with a worldwide membership. We also know that our Center for Advanced Studies encompasses educational offerings, via both live videoconference and the Online Learning Center, that are unmatched by other, similar professional societies worldwide. Our virtual conferences, webinar series, and standalone virtual offerings, have reached far and deep into parts of the world that we could only have dreamt of connecting with just a handful of years ago. The EMDR therapy basic training has begun to set a new standard that is already seeing ripple effects in the broader EMDR training world. And, the continued high quality of the Journal of Trauma & Dissociation speaks for itself. All of this is primarily enabled by digital technology, and that technology costs money. The Finance Committee has played an integral, though by no means exclusive, role in making all of this possible.

In 2019, a newly enacted policy made a six-month Finance Committee rotation compulsory for all Board members serving the second year of their initial term of service. This was enacted to better ensure financial literacy, necessary for the Board to carry out its duties in a US-based not-for-profit organization. As of 2021, based on Board member feedback, that rotation was expanded to a full year, allowing Board members to participate in virtually all aspects of the annual budgeting cycle. They take this important experience back to their committees and to the Board itself, and this has resulted in a much more financially-aware and informed leadership.

The coming year will see the Finance Committee making updates to existing financial policies and taking on responsibility for the new Member Sponsorship program. These are exciting times for the organization, particularly as the final touches are made to the full 2024-2026 Strategic Plan.

Just know that the Finance Committee remains here, working behind the scenes to ensure that ISSTD remains both a prominent voice in the research and treatment of complex trauma and dissociation for individuals and the world-at-large, and a professional home for those of us who engage in this vital work.