Australian Speech Science and Technology Association
Guidelines for SST Conference Finance and Accounting
The SST Conferences are run under the auspices of ASSTA and the funds belong to the Association, although the SST organising committee are responsible for their management. Under this arrangement, ASSTA provides the SST organising committee with seed money to get the conference started on a firm financial basis. The organising committee must comply with the accounting and auditing requirements imposed on ASSTA by the Incorporation Act. This requires the committee, on request from the treasurer of the Association, to present budgets for approval for all activities, and to present income and expenditure statements which give true accounts of all financial activities, as detailed in the Terms of Reference for the organising committee. In addition, the committee must return all funds to ASSTA when the conference organisation is wound up.
In addition to these formal requirements, ASSTA can also provide an informal body of experience from previous SST conferences that may be helpful in budgeting and accounting in the future. Some of this experience is contained in this guideline.
The SST conference treasurer should open a bank account with cheque facilities in a name such as "ASSTA Inc. SST-M conference", where "M" equals the numeric label of the year in which the conference is held. It is a good idea to find out what methods of payment will be acceptable to the bank for overseas attendees of the conference, and to include this information on the registration form.
Credit card facilities for conference delegates
The conference budget should account for the fees associated with operating a credit card facility if this is required. Fees include a number of small up front costs, including a joining fee (~$40); an annual participation fee (~$13); and an annual imprinter hire fee (~$16). In addition, between 4% and 5% will be charged on each transaction. Cards usually covered are Mastercard, Bankcard and Visa. Others cost extra.
The conference treasurer should apply to the conference bank for a Merchant Facility, indicating the need for telephone, mail, and "over-the-counter" transactions. This should be done several months before registration fees are expected to be paid. Full details on how to operate the facility will be given once approved. Briefly, the treasurer will be required to get authorisation on each transaction by telephoning the bank's credit card section. Before the conference, with mail and telephone transactions, this is relatively simple, but at the conference venue, someone on the registration desk must be capable of handling such transactions including operating the imprinter, completing transaction slips, telephoning for authorisation, and checking the "black-list". To complete the transaction with the bank several forms need to be filled out.
ASSTA is required to have its accounts audited yearly (as at 31st July) and to make an annual return to the Corporate Affairs Department in the ACT. The ASSTA executive will appoint the auditor, who will need access to the following SST conference accounting records:
a) bank statements
b) cheque book
c) receipt book
The ledger needs to record all income and expenditure and should be reconciled against the bank statements on a regular basis. This can be kept conveniently as a spreadsheet or a written account in a notebook. The SST conference treasurer should also prepare statements of assets and liabilities, and a summary of income and expenditure in the 12 months ending 31st July. It is a good idea to have a spare cheque book and receipt book so that the audit will not interrupt the business of the organising committee. A copy or print-out of the ledger is sufficient for the auditor.
Registration and Accommodation
Many conference accommodation venues (such as university colleges) require the conference organisers to keep records of bookings, to collect deposits at the time of registration, and to collect the accommodation fees at the conference check-in. The accounting procedures used need to be able to keep track of a high volume of these transactions during the conference itself, and it is a good idea to have access to as complete a list as possible of registrants and their current financial status. This should be computerised, although at some past SST conferences a printed list that can be updated by hand has also been used successfully.
The ASSTA executive require the SST conference treasurer to prepare a summary of all income and expenditure when the conference organisation is wound up. This should be by 30th June in the year following the SST conference as defined in the Terms of Reference for the SST Organising Committee. Full records of the conference must be sent to the ASSTA treasurer and must be kept by ASSTA for at least seven years. At the time of winding up, the SST conference bank account should be closed when all cheques written have been presented and cleared, and the balance sent to the ASSTA treasurer. In the past, the seed money for the next SST conference has been paid directly to the next conference committee. The amount and timing of this payment should be determined in consultation with the ASSTA treasurer.
Profit and contingencies
The ASSTA executive require the SST conference treasurer to prepare a budget early in the organisation of the conference. It is impossible to produce a completely accurate estimate of all expenses and income, but the conference budget is important in setting the level of the conference registration fees. The conference should be self-supporting and should aim to return to ASSTA an amount at least as much as the seed money provided plus 20% of the total budgeted amount. This 20% may be considered an allowance for contingencies, but the conference committee should be aware that ASSTA relies heavily on this income to keep membership fees to a very low level while providing a growing range of services to ASSTA members.
Major expenses such as the cost of the venue, invited speakers' expenses, printing of proceedings, publicity, and hired help need to be estimated carefully and quotations obtained early. Some of the variability can also be allowed for by making sure that charges for items like accommodation, the conference dinner, and student registrations cover their costs. For example, the minimum student registration fee should cover the cost of providing lunches (if they are to be provided by the conference), other refreshments and functions, and a copy of the proceedings.
Estimating income and sponsorship
The number of registrants and the amount of sponsorship need to be estimated. The number of registrants should be guessed conservatively on the basis of past conferences and allowing for any special local conditions (such as extra travel involved, or competing conferences). It is prudent to ensure that the number of registrants required to break even in a worst-case scenario should be well below the expected number. Sponsorship needs to be substantial, and needs to be committed early if it is to have any impact on the registration fees (for example, a $1000 sponsorship will only change the fees by $10 if there are 100 expected registrations). If a major sponsorship is envisaged, a written agreement must be reached before registration fees are determined. It is unwise to rely on less definite agreements as an expected sponsorship of $6000 fell through at a fairly late stage for one SST conference. (Fortunately, the contingency allowance and a higher than expected number of registrations allowed the organisers to cover this loss.)
Sponsorship can come in many forms including direct cash donations; funding special events - a welcome reception, for example; supplying or paying for items such as conference satchels or notepads; and sponsoring keynote speakers. Minor sponsors, whose sponsorship will bear no significant impact on the setting of the registration fee, may not be found until later in the two year schedule. However, be aware that major sponsors from government departments or the private sector must be contacted early during year one - their budgets are planned well in advance.
Infrastructure support may also be provided by the host institutions through committee members' departments. This may well cover photocopying or the cost of mailouts and so on.
Unless sponsorship is committed AND received quite early in the two year period, it should not be allowed to determine registration fees. The budget must balance without sponsorship.
Financial members of ASSTA should be charged a reduced registration fee for the conference. The ASSTA executive use the shareware program PC FILE to maintain a list of members and their financial status. A copy of this database (which is compatible with dBASE) can be obtained from the ASSTA secretary. The amount of the reduction has been $25 at past conferences.
New Researcher Award
The ASSTA executive have instituted a scheme to recognise the achievements of new researchers and encourage their attendance at SST conferences. For award winners, the executive will budget separately for travel to and from the conference, accommodation during the conference and the conference dinner. The SST organising committee should budget for up to three free registrations for the winners of this award. In the past, the awards have been sponsored by Cochlear Ltd. The operation of this scheme will be subject to the availability of funds.
National Lecture Tours
The ASSTA executive have instituted a scheme to support travel within Australia by visiting speech scientists at the invitation of Australian host institutions. It is hoped that speech scientists attending SST conferences will be involved in this scheme. In this event, ASSTA will meet expenses from a separate budget and the SST committee need make no commitments in this regard. The National Lecture Tour scheme will not meet any of the expenses required for invited speakers to attend the SST conference, but may be used to extend their itinerary in Australia. The operation of this scheme will be subject to the availability of funds.
International Advisory Board
The ASSTA executive have appointed an International Advisory Board to provide advice and assistance to the SST organising committee. One of the inducements offered to members of the IAB is free registration at SST Conferences in return for chairing duties at the conference. The SST budget should allow for these free registrations and the SST programme should make good use of IAB members who receive these. A list of IAB members can be obtained from the ASSTA Secretary.
The ASSTA executive maintains an insurance policy to cover public liability arising out of the Association's activities. This includes the running of the SST conferences. SST organising committee members are covered by the ASSTA insurance policy ONLY if they are financial members of the Association. Therefore, it is recommended that all committee members join the Association if they are not already ASSTA members. It should be noted that only public liability is covered. Committee members are not covered for personal injury, for example.
In the case of a financial loss
ASSTA's executive committee may direct some of its funds to meet debts incurred by the SST organising committee in the event that the conference makes a loss. This is dependent on the organising committee complying with the requirements to present regular budgets and statements of expenditure and income for approval as noted in the opening paragraph. In the first instance, liabilities of the conference should be met from funds held by the organising committee, including the seed money originally supplied by the ASSTA executive. ASSTA's funds are limited, and if fully expended would probably result in the winding-up of the Association. ASSTA members have no personal liability for debt incurred by the Association, including the SST organisation.
Accepted by Executive - 23rd July 1997
Based on the set prepared by the (then) President Peter Blamey and previously accepted by Executive
It should be noted that this set of guidelines is not a legally binding document but provides a guideline to practice.