Greetings from ISSTD’s Finance Committee!
It appears that I inadvertently missed offering an update on the Finance Committee in August 2021. I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere. In past updates, I primarily have discussed a few prominent areas of focus for the Finance Committee. This year, 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 and thus 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.
Speaking of the budget, when I last wrote about the Finance Committee for this column in August 2020, I said we would focus upon the following in the coming year:
- The development of 3-to-5-year budget projections that integrate with ISSTD’s Strategic Plan using measurable progress/achievement benchmarks;
- Revising the current budget structure to improve strategic planning and better reflect how ISSTD serves its members (that’s you!) today; and,
- Further developing interrelationships amongst different ISSTD committees with budget (revenue and/or expense) responsibilities to ensure closer adherence to ISSTD’s annual budget.
In 2021, ISSTD CEO Mary Pat Hanlin and I met for our annual budget retreat and did indeed develop the remainder of a 3-year budget that aligned with the by-then completed 2021-2023 Strategic Plan. From that process, we gleaned that the policy and procedure developed in 2020 achieved its goal to create ‘guard rails’ to ensure responsible yet pragmatic spending and cost containment practices (as described earlier in this article). The hoped for “organic process for collaboration amongst different groups and committees [that] seamlessly integrate the Annual Budget into discussions about new and expanded programming”, as I described in my August 2020 Spotlight report, now exists. As with all things, the form this process has taken continues to evolve as we establish ‘best practices’ within the organization.
It happens that, as of this writing, Mary Pat and I just met for our 2023 budget retreat, during which we devoted about 30 hours to the task of revising our already drafted 2023 budget, as well as laying the groundwork for the first year of a 2024-2026 budget that will align with an as-yet-undeveloped Strategic Plan spanning this same period. This is accomplished by examining the current Strategic Plan, and both historical and more recent trends, particularly in major revenue and expense categories. Over the next two months, the Finance Committee and Board of Directors will review, discuss, request revisions if needed, and ultimately approve the 2023 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.
I want to recognize the hard work that the Finance Committee and Board have done to steer the organization’s finances over these past five years of my tenure in this role, under what I would consider highly adverse conditions, particularly since 2019. 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.
ISSTD’s annual elections will soon be upon us. If re-elected, the 2023-2025 term will be my last as Treasurer. We will then be looking ahead to what follows. Regardless of how the future unfolds, the Finance Committee will be there, behind the scenes, helping 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.