Finance Council Starter-Kit: The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and HOW?

By: Audrey Henson, Financial Planning and Education chair
One of the greatest strengths of the Junior League of Washington (JLW) is we provide a community for all of our members. We build our community through different League committee placements that follow members all stages of her life. Some committees are focused on community outreach and voluntarism while others are more socially focused and connect JLW members with other members. While these committees differ in their purposes, they all require an operating budget. This is where the Finance Council connects the dots.
My 2017 goal is to educate fellow League members on the intricacies of Finance Council. Throughout the year, I will be writing several blog post regarding Finance Council, our dues, and the financial health of the League.
What is JLW Finance Council?
Finance Council (FC) is an in-League committee that oversees and manages the League’s budget and each committee’s budget. JLW has 45 separate committees falling under three primary categories: Community, In-League, and Fundraising. FC manages and approves over 45 separate budgets, and also manages the JLW’s financial investments (but more on that later). All decisions made by the FC are presented and approved by the JLW Board of Directors. 
Who is on the Finance Council?
FC is unique in the sense that many of our members serve dual roles in our League. The make-up and leadership of our Council are also chairs of their own committees. For example, the FC committee chair, Erinn Colaianni, is also the Treasurer of JLW at large. Frazier Schulman, Vice Chair of FC, is also Vice Treasurer of JLW.  Other members include President-Elect Aimee Soller, JLW Secretary Tracey Van Riper, Financial Planning and Education chair Audrey Henson, as well as various committee chairs.
You may be wondering “how do I get a ticket to this party?” If you are a dues-paying member of JLW, you are invited to the JLW FC meetings. In the spirit of transparency, we encourage members to stay involved with the financial on-goings of the League and to voice their opinions. We meet every third Monday of the month in the Loughborough House.*
*Please check the JLW calendar as the dates may be amended depending on Holidays.
How does it work?
Each year, committee chairs create a proposed budget for the following year. FC reviews and approves the budgets then combines each budget to present to the Board of Directors.  Throughout the year, there are times when chairs identify varying finance needs that may not have been budgeted or differ from the budget amount. When this occurs, chairs file a fund movement requests to FC and come before the council to further explain their request. These request are then reviewed and discussed to ensure that we are making the wisest finance decisions while ensuring our mission, vision, and strategic plan are always at the forefront of our decisions.
If I have my budget, why do I need to come before FC?
Unlike the federal government, our League operates on a “net-zero budgeting” philosophy. While this can be a challenge, it ensures the financial stability of the League and keeps us out of debt. Simple enough, right? Well, the tricky part of budgeting is that all line-items must be approved and not just the total amount. This means that while you may have an approved total budget, if you wish to move money around in your budget, it needs to be brought before FC through a fund movement request.
For example: Let’s say your committee has a $1,000 budget and you’ve line-itemed $500 for stationery and $500 for books. Your vice chair has received an in-kind donation for the stationery, and your committee no longer needs the $500 for that cost. GREAT job, vice chair!
Now your committee has a remaining $500 to work with. In the spirit of the League, your committee decides they would like to use the funds to purchase more books for Washingtonians! While your committee has stayed within their budget, they must get new line-item approved by amending the budget.
Pro-tips for your first FC meeting
Make the “Blue Book” your best friend. If you’ve been in the League for a while, you’ve heard of the Blue Book, but have you taken the time to read it? I joined Finance Council after just one year as an active member. Coming from Holiday Shops, I wasn’t as familiar with the Blue Book but I could name every florist in town. After my first FC meeting, it was very apparent I needed to familiarize myself with this Blue Book. For those of you who find yourselves in my shoes, the Blue Book is essentially the JLW Bible. You will find it on your JLW Portal under Resources. Inside you will find general information about the League, bylaws, rules and procedures, among other important documents.  When FC is making decisions, we also make sure we are aligned with the Blue Book.