By Aaron Parkman
Garrett Langley was a financially inexperienced freshman when he took on the role of treasurer for Sigma Chi. Now the treasurer of Interfraternity Council (IFC) and a fourth-year EE major, Langley has worked since spring to make a go of the “Best Financial Practices” seminar that took place this past Monday. Representatives of every fraternity came together at the seminar to discuss the successful financial practices of non-profit organizations.
Hosted by the Honorary Accounting Organization (HAO) and Interfraternity Council (IFC), the seminar focused on the role of student leaders in their organizations’ finances. Topics of interest included risk management, income statements, account structuring, budgeting, bookkeeping, balance sheets and cash flow analysis. Targeting primarily fraternities because of their large budgets, speakers emphasized discussion of finances within organizations to promote financial awareness. The seminar was partially fueled by Langley’s past inexperience. He recalls the learning curve he experienced when going from “not even balancing (his) own checkbook” to “balancing a half million dollar budget.” In general, he says, “While students never lack desire and motivation, many lack experience in financial management.”
Langley hopes that this will be the first of a continued series of seminars held once per semester to update and reiterate the strategies taught. By partnering with the HAO, Langley hopes to make the seminar a service project that can be continued and expanded in the future. Bonnie Meier, HAO director and Rachel Chamberlin, HAO vice president both partnered with Langley in organizing and speaking at the seminar. Meier and Chamberlin, both members of Alpha Chi, agree that student leaders will benefit tremendously from the initiative.
Chamberlin, Langley and Meier attribute the quality of the seminar largely to Shawn Fowler, a Tech alumnus and current partner at Frazier & Deeter, a prestigious Atlanta-based accounting firm. According to Langley, the four met this summer to go over a proposed presentation and came out of the meeting with a much more informative product. “He took what we had, and related it…to business,” Langley said.
The three are also assembling resource material to assist student leaders in implementing the best financial practices. The material will include helpful financial tips and will be in a user-friendly checklist-style format, available soon through the HAO website.
So far, the initiative has received a positive response, having been presented already to fraternity presidents at a meeting last week. “Presidents were coming up to me after the meeting and saying ‘Garrett, we need to get together with you sometime this week and talk about how to make this stuff happen,’” Langley said. According to Meier, there has been very little negative response.
Langley also said that he was looking forward to seeing more involvement from non-Greek organizations. “It’s the same presentation, but it’s a totally different perspective [in non-Greek organizations],” Langley said. Working with much smaller budgets, non-Greeks will use the strategies on a smaller scale.
One especially pertinent topic at the seminar concerned the difference between bank account balance and real cash balance, which is caused by un-deposited checks. To help manage this problem, Langley suggested implementing QuickBooks software, which enables users to compare separate income and expense accounts within the program. At a cost of $180, Langley says that QuickBooks will quickly pay for itself by eliminating errors in balancing incomes and expenses.
Risk management and the establishment of a risk management fund was also discussed. In theory, the fund can be a simple savings account, separate from an organization’s checking account, in which 10 percent of the organization’s income can be set aside for emergencies. Surprises such as leaks in the roof, kitchen fires or broken windows are expenses that can be paid for through a risk management fund.
After receiving a positive reaction, Chamberlin, Langley, and Meier are hopeful that their initiative will continue to gain momentum and that when they graduate others will carry it forward.