Volume 80 | Issue 5
September 2012

ACUI Leaders Answer Questions about Current ACUI Finances

Mark Guthier & Dave Teske

In an effort to provide members with the most direct and transparent information possible regarding our financial picture, the ACUI Board of Trustees and Central Office staff address many of the most frequently asked questions. 

Q. How are ACUI finances organized?

A. The finances of the Association are separated into four funds: the ACUI Education and Research Fund, regional funds, investment fund, and operating fund.

The ACUI Education and Research Fund program team raises money through individual and corporate contributions to fund research and scholarships for the Association.

Each region has its own account, which is self-funded from income from regional programs.

The investment fund enables the Association to separately track investment profits before they are allocated to the other funds in accordance with established procedures.

The operating fund is the Association’s general fund. ACUI operates with revenue from a variety of sources including membership dues; registration fees from programs and services; sales from ACUI Procure (the Association’s buying group); management fees from the Campus Safety, Health, and Environmental Management Association (CSHEMA); and corporate involvement. The ACUI operating fund is separated into seven cost centers: Association Operations, Conference, Seminars and Institutes, Publications, Corporate Partnerships, Other Programs and Services, and Business Operations.

Q. Are each of ACUI’s cost centers financially self-sufficient?

A. Of ACUI’s seven cost centers, Publications and Other Programs and Services break even; the Conference, Corporate Partnerships, and Business Operations areas turn a profit; and Association Operations and Seminars and Institutes project losses. The sole funding source of the Association Operations cost center is membership dues, which cover about 70 percent of the actual costs to service memberships. The budgeted deficit in that cost center is $304,210 for 2012, which will be subsidized by the profit from other cost centers.

Q. How is ACUI’s budget set each year?

A. The Board of Trustees has responsibility for approving annual budgets for the three Association funds as well as monitoring progress on the investment fund. The ACUI Education and Research Fund and each region develop their own budgets with an expectation of a positive net.

As for the annual operating fund, each year the board provides budgetary parameters for the operating fund to the executive director, who serves as treasurer of the Association. She and the Central Office staff work to develop a preliminary zero-based operating budget, which goes to support the identified work for the year within ACUI’s strategic plan. The Finance Committee of the board then reviews the draft budget and provides feedback and further direction to the executive director. The full board approves a final budget each December for the following fiscal year (which is based on the calendar year). Then, the executive director creates quarterly financial statements that include revised projections based on actual income and expenses. Upon reviewing these current figures, the Board of Trustees subsequently approves a revised budget following the conclusion of the first, second, and third quarters. In addition, for each fiscal year the board reviews and approves an audit, performed by an independent accounting firm that specializes in not-for-profit organizations.

Q. How are gifts to the ACUI Education and Research Fund used?

A. These contributions are used to fund scholarships and research germane to the college union and student activities field. Just this year, the Education and Research Fund Program Team has been successful in raising the funds necessary to fully endow all of the ACUI awards and scholarships. The fundraising efforts in the next few years will focus on growing the funds available to sponsor research and other important initiatives of the Association.

Q. Does ACUI have reserves?

A. Yes. ACUI has been working to meet a goal of having 50 percent of the annual operating income in reserves (approximately $1.3 million). Our policy is to contribute 5 percent of net revenue each year until the goal is met. Currently, ACUI has approximately $482,000, or 36 percent of our goal, in reserves. All of the reserves and available operating cash are invested under the guidance of a financial advisor in compliance with our investment policy. The Board of Trustees distributes income from the investment fund to the other funds as needed.

Q. Do dues pay for staff salaries?

A. Each of the seven cost centers of the Association is assigned a certain percentage of the overhead and staff salaries based on job responsibilities. The Association Operations cost center, which is where membership dues reside, pays approximately 54 percent of the overall staff salaries and benefits. These percentages are reviewed on an annual basis during the budgeting process.

Q. Conference registration rates seem to rise each year. Why?

A. The annual conference is an important revenue source for the Association. As costs to produce the annual conference increase, ACUI must raise the registration fee accordingly to maintain the level of revenue we expect the conference to make. From time to time, the annual conference is held in cities that are more expensive than others. To obtain the best possible room rates for members, the annual conference sites are selected many years in advance. Large cities are typically selected as their facilities can accommodate the conference under one roof. The registration rate for the 2013 conference is the same as 2012.

Q. Overall, what is the current state of ACUI’s finances?

A. Fifteen years ago, the Association was operating with a structural deficit. Through the leadership of the Board of Trustees and the hard work of staff and volunteers, we have turned that deficit around and are now well on our way to meeting our reserves goal. In fact, at the close of the most recent fiscal year (2011), we were able to return $120,585 to reserves. Looking ahead, the Board of Trustees is working to grow our annual net income so that ACUI can continue to develop the necessary programs and services to support its members in their campus community building efforts.