ISBD Regional Chapter Newsletter - Leadership Corner

Managing Your Chapter Finances

By: Oscar Heeren, M.D., President ISBD Peruvian Chapter

Although we are trained to manage patients with bipolar disorder, most of us were never prepared to manage finances for an organization.  Facing that task can be a tricky situation.  My experience as a chapter leader can certainly apply to the Latin American chapters and hopefully will be of some use to the other chapters around the world.

Here are the points that I have learned to be very helpful: 

1.  Find a good accountant.  Probably in most countries, dealing with taxes yourself can be a painful and frustrating experience.  Make sure your accountant understands your goals and needs.  Otherwise you can be involved in a world of endless burocracy and paperwork.   In my opinion, it is probably best to create your organization as a non-profit.   In many countries you can pay fewer taxes with the non-profit designation.

2.  Make things simple by dealing with a bank.  Avoid having to manage cash.  Whoever manages the funds for your chapter needs to handle it easily and transparently.  Keep a record of each income and expense item the chapter makes.  In my experience it is better that the chapter itself keeps the records rather than delegating it to the accountant.  There will always be someone that will question how you are managing the money, or worse, that will think you are making profit from the organization.

3.  One of our main goals is to educate our colleagues and the public in general about bipolar disorder. In order to do that, we need to organize lectures, workshops, and meetings.  In order to do so we need money.  For most of our chapters (if not all) membership dues will not cover nearly enough of the costs of these academic activities. That’s where the pharmaceutical industry comes in.  Dealing with the industry requires all of our diplomatic skills. They are businesses and their main goal is to sell their products (as you would expect). They are big organizations, with compliance rules and significant burocracy. You have to sell your chapter as a product. ISBD is now known around the world as a serious and cohesive organization. I deal with each laboratory individually and make clear that investing in our organization is beneficial for all parties involved (patients, doctors and sales). The other fact that I found to our advantage is that they are used to competing against each other and they are always looking for an edge.  I make it clear that not all of the pharmaceutical industry will participate in our events, so I put them to compete against each other instead of against us. I have found out that they are very pleased to participate in a scientific meeting if their direct competition is not. Of course in order to do that you need to reduce your costs and be sure that you can manage your event without so many labs involved. That gives you an edge. If your meeting can draw a good number of colleagues the industry will be eager to participate the next time, knowing that it is “by invitation only”. 

-Finally spending a small amount of your budget on publicity is always a good idea. Advertising all of your scientific activities among your colleagues (clinics, hospitals, WebPages) will generate enough interest that you can guaranteed a good affluence of public. You can even use the pharmaceutical industry to advertise for you. They already have the resources and human personal to do it so why not use it in your favor. In my experience, if you choose only one laboratory, they will even feel “special” by making them your partner in marketing. At no extra cost for you, of course.

I am sure there are more qualified persons than me to write about managing finances, but I hope sharing some of my humbling experiences will help us all make our chapters more successful and strong.




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