AAJA heading toward balanced budget
By Elizabeth Gyori
AAJA’s budget may be back to black following a tough 2009.
After closing with a $207,000 deficit, officials said, the governing board and the national AAJA office instituted aggressive measures – some unprecedented – to balance the budget.
“We are moving toward a brighter future,” said Executive Director Kathy Chow. “This is a great sign that even in the end of deficit from last year, we were able to pay off our deficit with interest already.”
Although national officials said Friday there is currently no deficit, the governing board refused to release how much AAJA has raised thus far until today’s National Advisory Board meeting.
Last year, AAJA borrowed $154,000 from the endowment to cover the shortfall. The loan was paid back in full, with interest, said National Treasurer Candace Heckman, totaling $160,000.
One of the measures used to ensure fiscal stability was asking individual
chapters to contribute money to the national office. Several chapters contributed more money than asked for and
were happy to help out.
Ameet Sachdev, president of the Chicago group, said the decision to give the national office more was not a difficult one. The chapter contributed
“I think that if (chapters) are not using those funds for the local activities, then they should give back to national,” Sachdev said.
Another major change was starting a fundraising policy that allows AAJA to accept money from companies outside the traditional media industry.
And as media outlets evolved, AAJA officials revamped the parameters.
For practical purposes, the definition of media funding sources has broadened to include not only companies such as NBC, but also Microsoft, which creates
new media enterprises.
Furthermore, AAJA can now accept money from any company that
share’s AAJA’s diversity mission. Government and in-kind donations – goods and services given by companies – can add to the coffers as well.
“I think we have a good balance of being able to protect our members
from conflicts of interest, but still seek the funders we need,” Heckman said.
Other changes also have added up to a projected balanced budget. For instance, the national AAJA office in San Francisco will be moving from Market Street to the Hearst Building. National President Sharon Chan said the move will save the organization $35,000 in rent expenses.
AAJA also switched from Bank of America to the Bank of San Francisco because of lower credit-card fees. The Bank of San Francisco also gave AAJA a line of credit.
But Chan emphasized that the national office is waiting to see how the convention ends before celebrating. Typically, the annual convention funds half of AAJA’s operating expenses and with last year’s loss officials hope to break even in Los Angeles.
“We had the worst crisis in our organization last year, but it’s history and we’ve shepherded AAJA through it,” Chan said.
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