A letter from the MRA-NY Treasurer: Hilary Fischer

Show me the money!

It’s been an interesting time to be Treasurer of the Greater NY Chapter these past 18 months. As the largest of the Chapters in our national organization, the Greater NY Chapter has been fortunate to have had a level of financial security over the years. This has allowed us to grow and build on our local event programming platform and expand on our other member-focused offerings – all of which are subsidized by your membership funds. Now, with over 400 Chapter members, our Board has been faced with the task of continuing to effectively manage these funds in the most difficult economic climate we have ever seen without cutting back on our member services.

You may be wondering where exactly these member fees come from, so let me explain. The National organization distributes to each Chapter $35 annually for every member who chooses that Chapter as either their primary or additional Chapter at the time of membership activation or renewal. So, when you choose to become a member of the Greater NY Chapter and/or renew your commitment, we receive $35 from your membership dues to be used for your local member services. These dues are then allocated by your Chapter Board to fund the various services we provide to you as a local Chapter member.

We are a not-for-profit organization and our mission is not to “make money” but instead to invest the money we do have wisely in order to continue to offer our members the highest level of services we can at the lowest cost possible.

For those of you who are less familiar with our member services offerings, here is an overview of the annual services the Greater NY Chapter offers to our members:

• 3 Local Networking Only events – one in March/April, one in June and one in December
• 2 Local Education/Networking events – one in October and one in February. All Education is PRC Certified.
• 1 Joint Chapter Conference co-hosted with the Philadelphia Chapter in April. All Education is PRC Certified.
• 4 Chapter Matter Newsletters
• Chapter Member Roster
• Chapter Website – including presence on LinkedIn and Facebook. This is your go to place for the most current information about the Chapter.
• Scholarship Program – $2500 donation to the Educational Endowment Fund. The future of the research profession is dependent upon strong, well-educated professional researchers. To meet the needs of our growing profession, this fund was created by the MRA. Every dollar collected is used to award scholarships or to educate future researchers.
• Lunch and Learn events – these are free events for our Members, in order to provide additional opportunities for continuing education.

Every June we publish a financial report in our Chapter Matters newsletter, which gives our members an overview of our financial health and outlines where and how we spend your membership dollars. If you read this report in our June 2009 newsletter, you would have noticed a revenue loss for the 2008 fiscal year. And perhaps you wondered why that loss occurred, after so many years of financial gain.

First of all, 2008 was an interesting year for our Chapter in that we were the host Chapter for our National Conference in June. The host chapter is asked by National to sponsor an event on the Thursday evening of the Conference – the point of which is to offer some “local” flair. Our National Conference Event committee worked extra hard to organize this evening of dinner and dancing at the famous Tavern on the Green. Over 225 attendees spent the evening with us at the quintessential NY eatery and we were happy to see that everyone had a great time. But, that event was a heavy expenditure at a time when the economic slump was just starting and our surplus of funds was used to cover a percentage of costs in order to keep the ticket price at a reasonable level for the attendees.

In addition, we had lower attendance numbers than expected at our annual Holiday event in 2008. This was definitely an eye-opener to our Board and forced us to take a hard look at how and where we were spending our money. For those of you who are not aware, we typically subsidize a percentage of the cost of each of our events with our surplus funds in order to keep the out of pocket costs as low as possible to our members. This is why our members have experienced relatively few price increases, and even some decreases, to the various events that we host throughout the year.

So, you may be thinking to yourself – what exactly has your Board done to equalize this situation? I am proud of our Board for rallying together to streamline our expenditures over the past months – especially in a climate of falling membership numbers – and for making the hard decisions that needed to be made to keep us on track. Some of the highlights of our decisions are:

• Transition of our printed Newsletter to an e-Newsletter platform – which will save on print/mail costs
• Transition of our printed Roster to an e-platform – this is an ongoing process which will save on print/mail costs
• Upgrade of our web platform – this has given us the ability to manage the maintenance of the site within the volunteer base rather than outsourcing this process to a web designer.
• Close financial management of our Joint Conference event for 2009 – included the removal of multiple line item expenditures in order to streamline the total cost of the Conference.
• The relocation of our Joint Conference event to a new venue for 2010 – you will notice that the hotel costs are significantly less expensive than last year’s location
• Location choices for our local events – in order to keep the costs of these events as low as possible without sacrificing quality
• Transition of our Bank Account to a program better suited to our financial needs – e.g. no monthly service fees, etc.

All of the above has helped us to turn things around for 2009 – as well as put us in a good position in 2010. We will be reviewing our 2010 budgeting process in our next Board meeting on December 1 and we promise you that we will continue to focus on investing our funds in such a way as to benefit you – our members. We will also be reaching out to you for feedback on charitable donations and other philanthropic activities as our Board believes that it is important to give back not only to our industry, but also to our community.

Finally, we encourage you to join us in the front lines by volunteering for one of our many committees and becoming an active participant in our Chapter.

I wish you and your family a happy holiday season and we hope to see you at our Annual Holiday Gala on December 1.

Warm regards,

Hilary Fischer, PRC
Vice President, Compliance Director