By Candice Nguyen
At the end of 2009, AAJA’s national office was left with a $207,000 deficit.
That loss created a sense of financial emergency, pushing officials to ask for help from individual chapters with suggested donations as high as $12,000. Some have balked at the quota, while others are giving more. Donation amounts were not arbitrary, said AAJA National President Sharon Chan.
“We assessed the individual chapters’ accounts to calculate how much they’d be able to contribute,” Chan said. National officials worked with accountants to create a formula that figured out each chapter’s share.
The formula took a chapter’s bank account divided by the sum of all the accounts. Then it multiplied that fraction by the fundraising goal, which according to Chan, is $115,000. Membership numbers also were taken into account. Larger chapters with bigger budgets paid more while those with less paid a smaller amount. A payment plan was available for those chapters who couldn’t pay outright, said National Treasurer Candace Heckman.
Heckman said she’s not able to release exact figures of total chapter contributions so far until today’s treasurers’ meeting.
“In the end, all the chapters understood the mission and paid that formula that we came up with because, in the end, all of our money is together anyways,” Heckman said.
Chapters have pledged a total of $79,380. More financially stable groups, such as Sacramento and Atlanta, supported this fundraising method.
“We didn’t have a problem with paying,” said Vino Wong, Atlanta Chapter president. “Nonetheless, it’s about unity. If the mother ship sinks, we all sink.”
Earlier this year, AAJA National asked the Sacramento chapter for a $25,000 donation, which Sacramento delivered. Judy Lin, the chapter’s copresident, said it only initially wanted to donate about $10,000, but decided to donate the asked amount instead.
The chapter’s 25th anniversary is in 2010. Yesterday, the Sacramento chapter was awarded AAJA Chapter of the Year. It was the second chapter, after Minnesota, to donate funds through their “Issue Challenge.” Sacramento Chapter Co-President Pamela Wu says, “Our chapter was financially healthy. Then again, our members didn’t have to just reach into their pockets, they could seek sponsorships to help our chapter.”
At the same time, other chapters met the request with confusion and concern.
“It was more of a mandate, not a choice,” said Jeffrey Ong, Arizona chapter co-president. “I disagree with the usage of the word ‘donation,’ and I expressed that. It wasn’t a donation because a donation is a willing donat on to a cause. This was an assessment, from our viewpoint. I just wish it was a little more straightforward.”
The New York Chapter is scheduled to pay $12,626 to AAJA National, a large sum compared to most other chapters. At New York’s board meeting last May, members discussed pitching to AAJA National the idea of being given the bid as host of a future convention once they pay the amount.
Two years ago, New York lost a bid to host the 2011 convention to Detroit.
“We would love to have the AAJA convention in New York, but we’re not using our payment as a bargaining chip,” says Sital Patel, New York chapter president. “It was just part of the larger discussion.”
On all levels, 2009 hit AAJA hard. However, Chan reassures members: “This is a one-time thing. This was an SOS during the worst time for our organization.”
Find Candice on Twitter @candinguyen