Letter from Linda
Good for All
by Linda Oestreich, Region 5 Director-Sponsor, and STC Fellow
The past few days have seen a flurry of activity on the STC Presidents' Listserv regarding who pays for what to support chapter members who go to the STC Annual Conference. The Tieline newsletter for March 2002 addressed that issue in an article called, "Appropriate Use of Chapter Funds." I've received a few e-mails from chapter presidents here in Region 5 to get my opinion on this situation, and so was spawned this month's topic!
Ed Rutkowski, from the STC office, responded to the listserv with some actual quotes from that Tieline article. I repeat some of what Ed said here:
As with all questions regarding Society expenses, this one raises the issue of whether the return on the chapter's investment primarily benefits the Society, or whether it primarily benefits the individual. Please note that Article 4 of STC's Articles of Incorporation states that "none of [STC's] net earnings shall be distributed to or enure to the benefit of any private . . . individual."
As explained in the article, chapters may subsidize a chapter president's travel to Leadership Day at the Annual Conference "because the training obtained at Leadership Day would benefit the chapter. Many technical sessions at the conference also focus on chapter leadership duties, so funding conference registration for a chapter leader who attended these sessions would also be acceptable.
"However, simply funding a valuable volunteer's travel to the Annual Conference (without his or her attending Leadership Day or a number of STC-related sessions at the conference) would not be acceptable, because information learned at the conference would primarily benefit the individual."
So, what does this mean? It means that if a chapter and its administrative council believe that subsidizing costs for a member to attend the conference will benefit the chapter and the Society, by all means, do it. It also means that a chapter should not pay for a member to attend the conference as a "gift," with no strings attached.
If the member you send returns with information, leadership skills, and added connection to the STC community he or she belongs to, and that benefit is returned to the chapter in a more experienced and better informed volunteer, then it is not enurement, but a wise distribution of funds for the good of all. And remember, if you do choose to support a member who attends the conference, please do not reimburse expenses such as food and drink. To meet the STC policy, chapters may only subsidize or reimburse transportation, lodging, and registration fees.
As an administrative council, make wise decisions. You know your membership. You know those who will return and share their experiences and lessons learned to the community. And by so doing, the rules are followed. Subsidizing an incoming or current president, subsidizing someone who is receiving an honor, subsidizing someone who has been of long-time service—all these cases are valid if those people return to the chapter and provide value to the membership.
The money in your treasuries belongs to the membership—not to the administrative council, not to the president, not to the treasurer, but to the members. Insist that you receive receipts for funds expended. Pay for something that is recordable—the conference fee itself, perhaps. Some of the presidents who responded to the listserv noted that they require their chapter leaders who go to share a room or to do other things that will limit the expenses to the chapter.
Not every chapter will be able to afford the same level of subsidy. Don't put your treasury in jeopardy, but if you have the budget, use it. Don't hoard your funds. As that Tieline article also says, "weigh the benefit to the individual against the benefit to the chapter in the context of your chapter's financial robustness."
In this time of unemployment and severely reduced employer support, I believe that the chapters who can help should help. And, certainly not a small thing, this particular year will be an important one for your leaders to be there. Transformation will be spoken about at Leadership Day, in the halls, in the sessions, and at the lunches. The more your leaders know about it, the better they will be able to question it, understand it, help define it, and support it. So, reach into your treasuries and offer that support. But do it with wisdom. Support only those who will, in return, support your members.
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Copyright © 2002 Houston Chapter,
Society for Technical Communication
P.O. Box 42051, Houston, TX 77242-2051 | 713-706-3434