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November 07, 2005

Executive decision -- what would you do?

This question was posted to ASAE & The Center's Exec Sec listserver last week by Mark McSweeney of the National Chimney Sweep Guild. I thought it was an interesting predicament, and typical of what one might see on the CAE exam.

Each year, our organization prints the year-end P&L in our magazine for the membership. Every once in a while, I get a request from a member to send them a copy of the annual P&L. As that is already public information, I do not having a problem doing that. However, for the first time (10 years in 2 different organizations) a member is asking me to send him a copy of the current fiscal year budgets for our 2 organizations. As those are management documents developed and monitored by board and staff, subject to modification throughout the year, I am uncomfortable sharing them publicly. Particularly in this case, this member is trying to gain this information to attempt to micromanage the board. Do others out there provide budget information upon request? If not, do you have a "politically correct" way that you let members and others know that sharing these management documents is not appropriate?
Most of the advice Mark received in return was to politely deny the request, and to let the association's chair know about your decision (either before or after the denial). This is a textbook situation, and the advice given above is sound, but I think the line separating management documents and disclosed information may be getting fuzzy as organizations become more and more transparent. Is it possible that within a few years, many associations may begin publicly disclosing their budgets?

1 comment:

Shawn Z. Lea said...

Yeah, if you don't want to disclose your budget to a member of your own organization, I would guess you're not quite ready for the World apres-Sarbanes-Oxley.

Our budget is attached to board minutes. Minutes are available upon request to members.

I sympathize with the member-as-rabble-rouser theory, but I would want to know what the member's beef was and if it was legitimate or not. Either way, the association and the board would need to address it. Not giving him the budget would only make he or she scream louder I would guess, not shut them up.