From the President, JALT Financial Team report

From the President

First, I would like to give many thanks to everyone who was able to join us at JALT2013 in Kobe, and special thanks to everyone who worked on the conference team. Thank you!

As any attendee to a JALT conference can imagine, it takes the collaboration and dedication of hundreds of JALT members to make the conference possible, let alone a success. To be sure, there is a lot of behind the scenes work, from working with the site personnel, reading proposals for presentations, working on the publicity team, coordinating with the company that builds the display area, managing the interns, and setting up the registration system, just to name a few of the many areas of responsibility that JALT members voluntarily shoulder. Another area that is critically important to the success of any event such as JALT2013 or PanSIG 2014 (10-11 May 2014, Miyazaki-shi, <pansig.org>), and to the functioning of JALT and its constituent Chapters and SIGs, is the treasury function.

For this issue’s JALT Focus column I thus asked the JALT Director of Treasury, Oana Cusen, if she could introduce the leaders of the JALT Financial Team. So, without further ado, and starting with Oana, let’s meet and hear from our stalwart members of the Financial Team!

JALT Financial Team

Oana Cusen – Director of Treasury

I first joined JALT in 2003 as an undergraduate student in Hiroshima. I was very fortunate to meet a fantastic group of JALT members and officers in the Hiroshima Chapter, and I briefly served as recording secretary for the chapter. Later I moved to Kyoto, and when I attended my first Kyoto Chapter meeting, I was asked if I wanted to become treasurer as the previous treasurer was unwilling to continue. I was a little stunned (and I am sure many treasurers have had similar experiences), but I wanted to help the organization that had already given me so much support in Hiroshima. After two years as Kyoto Chapter treasurer, I was asked by Kevin Cleary to take over the position of Chapter Treasurer Liaison. A little while later I also served as treasurer for the PanSIG conference. In both of these positions I had a chance to learn how JALT works at a national level, and I was truly inspired by the hard work and dedication that so many put into it.

Since being elected as Director of Treasury three years ago, I have seen it as a crucial part of my job to communicate with all JALT officers and raise awareness of the jobs that treasurers do. Without them, JALT could not function as an NPO. Money issues can be delicate, and the paperwork involved can be tedious, to say the least. But one thing I have learned is that having a good treasurer is crucial to the running of Chapters and SIGs and JALT as a whole. 

The past three years have been a whirlwind of learning experiences, challenges and some successes. But what I have enjoyed most is working with the JALT team and the way everyone pulls together to create the “magic” of JALT. Despite their often extremely demanding day jobs, JALT volunteers always seem to find the time to put a little bit extra into JALT to help themselves and others grow professionally. 

Hideko Hayakawa – JALT Central Office accounting secretary

Before joining the JALT Central Office in June 2010 I worked for a trading company as an accounting manager, and before that, I worked for a Japanese bank. In the beginning, working for JALT proved to be a steep learning curve as I had to get used to not only the JALT system, but also to the pressure of using good English since I was working with English teachers for the first time. Another big adjustment I had to make was to switch my mindset from working with professionals in the business world to working with volunteers in a non-profit organization.

In the three years I’ve worked here, I’ve come to realize that JALT is different from other Japanese companies in many other ways. First, JALT does not have a top-down structure with a CEO or a general manager dictating things. All decisions are made by a group of JALT officers, which makes it much harder for JALT to go in the wrong direction, financially, or otherwise. Also, I feel that JALT is more similar to a unit of government than an actual company, as everybody’s wisdom is pooled together—people are elected, they change to different positions, and some people stay, so there is institutional memory.

Something else different about the way JALT operates is that JALT can count on a steady source of revenue, since members pay their membership dues and attend conferences regularly. Other NPOs might need to ask for support from sponsors, while regular companies may need to ask for loans from banks or raise capital on the stock market, but this is not the case with JALT. However, as the revenue we can count on is limited, we have to manage it responsibly, and I am very happy to be part of the team entrusted with making sure JALT remains financially viable.

Richard Hodson – Financial Steering Committee chair

I was a “paper member” of JALT until I moved to Nagasaki in 2005, and started attending the small but friendly meetings here. When I became chapter treasurer a few years later, I was fortunate to have a predecessor who was not only well organized and efficient, but also prepared to guide me through the transition. Helping your successor and leaving things tidy for them is one of the most important jobs a treasurer can do! 

My background is in literature, so I think it must have been simply the fact that my accounts were tidy rather than any great financial skill or knowledge on my part that led Oana to ask me to serve as an examiner for the first time in 2010. When Oana was elected as Director of Treasury, I took over her position as Chapter Treasurer Liaison for two years, during which time it was very enjoyable to be part of the team responsible for producing two comprehensive manuals for treasurers and examiners, which we hope will be a helpful and accessible resource for years to come.

Since October last year, I took on the position of Chair of the Financial Steering Committee (FSC), the committee responsible for drafting the JALT Budget, which occupies a dauntingly large spreadsheet. I still have a lot to learn, but fortunately, the members of the FSC have a wealth of experience regarding JALT finances among them. I hope that with their help I will be able to make a more effective contribution both in this position, and as a chapter treasurer and examiner in the coming year. 

Leigh McDowell – Chapter Treasurer Liaison

When I was asked to be an officer for my local chapter in 2009, I was happy to help out in any way I could, which meant I got to be the chapter treasurer. I managed to get us through that financial year with no “Leigh-man shock”. The next year got easier, and the one after that, and I found myself appreciating the objective qualities of balancing the books, and the organizational skills that came with the job. I met people who became mentors and good friends and inspired me to do more. In 2011, I volunteered as an end-of-financial-year internal examiner, and again in 2012. This gave me a wider-angle view on how chapters work. I took on the role of Chapter Treasurer Liaison (CTL) in 2012. I saw what the people before me were doing, the systems they were developing and the progress they were making, and I wanted to help keep that moving ahead.

As CTL, I monitor the chapsig-treasurers list, I co-chair the internal examination committee, and I sit on the committee that oversees the Development Fund. It is as much a learning experience for me as it may be for the treasurers I work with, but it’s pleasing when my own experience can help others do their jobs better. In my short time as CTL, I’ve worked with the financial team on two new handbooks (one for examiners, and one for managing donations and co-hosting events), a review of the current examination system, and the introduction of the pair-treasurer system. In addition to this, I worked as the JALT2012 Conference Treasurer in Hamamatsu, and again at JALT2013 in Kobe. The value of having good treasurers in JALT cannot be overstated, and I hope the work I do helps increase that value, along with our appreciation of it.

Scott Petersen – SIG Treasurer Liaison

If I am reappointed at JALT2013, it will mark my fourth and final year as SIG Treasurer Liaison. The job has proven difficult at times, but educational since in helping others, I have had to sharpen my own thinking about the mechanics of the job.

I was one of the founding members of the Hiroshima Chapter back in 1977. I was brought onto the chapter committee as reporter. I could not take on more since I was living at the time in Matsuyama and only came to Hiroshima once a month. After moving to Nagoya, I joined the Nagoya Chapter and eventually was asked to be treasurer of that chapter. Since this was the time before computers and Excel (at least for me), I had a hard time learning the job. I remember having to telephone the then-National Treasurer Aleda Krause for help at times. After that I served as president of the chapter before taking a year off to return to the US. After returning to Nagoya, I eventually joined the Material Writers SIG, where I have been concentrating my JALT efforts for the last several years, including being the SIG’s treasurer.

During the last three years, the Financial Team has been working to streamline the bookkeeping process of JALT, although much remains to be done. Furthermore, as several SIGs have been formed in recent years, we need more members to serve as treasurer and there is an increased need for training. The job has been, and continues to be, challenging. But we appreciate the chance to help JALT function and look forward to continuing to serve you.

 

Kevin: Many thanks, Oana, Hideko, Richard, Leigh, and Scott! We really appreciate your leadership and how you are applying your hard-won experience in the financial area. One thing I would like to note is that Hideko is a credentialed bookkeeper and her expertise has made it possible for us to do all our bookkeeping in-house. Even more important than the cost savings realized from taking care of our own books is that we are able to tailor our system to our needs, which has helped us immeasurably in managing our finances.

To our other Financial Team leaders, I note that you came to the treasury function armed only with common sense and an organizational ability, not any special background in finance or accounting. However, you were soon able to comprehend the system, communicate clearly with others about financial matters, and find ways to improve the way we do things. Thanks to your hard work we have completely transformed the treasury system, and I look forward to the continued improvements you will propose and help implement.

Unfortunately, space does not allow us to introduce the other key members of our Financial Team, all of our hard-working Chapter and SIG treasurers, but rest assured that your efforts are greatly appreciated as well. Many, many thanks for your hard work! The JALT treasurer role has never been as well-defined and supported as it is now, but we still look forward to getting ideas for new approaches from you, as well as seeing you step up to leadership positions when the time is right.

In closing, I am reminded what a JALT member said at an Executive Board Meeting (EBM) a few years ago when we were discussing the benefits of volunteering for JALT: “JALT gave me the chance to do things I wasn’t qualified for.” Indeed, we are glad to accept volunteers for what they will be able to do, not just for that which they have proved proficient. That is, your professional development opportunities in JALT are not limited to language teaching contexts. Accordingly, if you are interested in volunteering for the Financial Team or for any position in JALT, please let us know by sending a message to volunteer@jalt.org and we’ll see what we can do to help you find a place within JALT’s volunteer community. To all JALT members, thank you very much for your membership, and we hope to see you at a JALT event soon!

Kevin Cleary, NPO JALT President

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