Archive for July, 2012

Tech Savvy Tools for Chapters

Websites, Twitter, Facebook, E-Blasts… There are two schools of thought when it comes to tech tools and journalism – either you love ’em or you hate ’em.

In a recent conversation with Regional Directors, I realized SPJ is all over the board on this one. Some chapters choose to promote events almost exclusively through the use of technology, while others prefer the pen to paper approach. Neither is better than the other, of course, but in order for chapters to effectively reach members, it’s important to understand and implement both types of networking.

To make your life a little easier, I’ll try to post some tools  – software, websites, gadgets – on the Leading Edge more frequently. Hopefully at least one tool will be helpful in better communicating with your members and communities.

Be sure to share your own ideas by leaving a comment, or telling us how each of the tools worked (or didn’t) for you.

An amazing tool for chapters to use with their board. A feed keeps track of conversations without long email trains, calendars keep everyone in sync, files can be shared and stored, host virtual meetings and conference calls for FREE and group messages can even be sent via text. Best of all, it’s user-friendly.

Short for “If This, Then That.” There are a ton of channels (or actions, as it makes more sense to me) from Facebook to email, to small social networking sites, to phone and email.

Users pick a channel (example – Twitter) and an action associated with that channel (example – a new follower) and then another channel (example – Twitter) and another action (example – tweet “Thanks for  connecting! Find out more information about SPJ and join us today!”). Did I lose you?

Basically, you can set Twitter to automatically send a thank you note and links about joining, programs, your chapter website, every single time your Twitter has someone new follow it.


This is a simple, easy way to schedule things (meetings, programs, etc.) for multiple people. Create an event, ask people to note which times work for them and view the time that’s compatible for the most people. Finally, we can get rid of those 50,000 emails back and forth with no end result, right?

Finance feedback

Earlier this week, you received an email with some financial “best practices,” collected and compiled by chapter leaders from across the country. In case you missed it, here it is again:



As a board member it is your legal responsibility to keep tight oversight on chapter funds – even if you aren’t the treasurer.

By understanding and implementing some of the following recommendations, you can greatly decrease your exposure to misappropriation of chapter funds and other problems.




  • Require two signatures on all checks. Designate another officer/board member or two as online banking administrator(s) to routinely review the account(s).
  • Circumstances may dictate that only one person, the treasurer, sign the check, but having a separate online banking administrator or two is still highly recommended.
  • Require officer approval of any expenditure over $25; board approval of any expenditure over $100.
  • Income and expenditures should remain separate in your records. If you receive $100 for a pizza party and spend $50, you received $100 and spent $50, not received a net of $50.
  • Avoid credit/debit cards; they are too easily abused.
  • If a card is necessary, check with your bank to see if you can restrict the card’s use for large expenses only. For example, more than $100 but not more than $500 or only for bills above $500.
  • Have the treasurer transfer funds from the chapter PayPal account to the chapter’s general checking account after each event for which the PayPal account is used. Have someone else monitor the account.
  • If the board votes on a money matter directly affecting a board member, that board member should recuse themselves, even leave the room to allow a full and frank discussion.
  • When depositing funds in the chapter bank account, use a “For Deposit Only” rubber stamp on the back of checks. No individual should sign a check made out to the chapter.
  • One person should fill out a deposit slip. Someone else should actually make the deposit and return the slip to the person who filled it out.


The treasurer maintains the following financial records:

1.)                A paper check stub for each check written, or copy of self-duplicating check.

2.)                A computer record (Excel or Quicken) of each check written, with a detailed breakdown of specific amounts for various purposes.

3.)                Electronic and printed copy of each monthly bank statement.

4.)                A file of receipts, each notated with the check number for payment

5.)                Information needed for financial section of the annual chapter report to national.

6.)                The chapter’s federal (and state, if required) tax records, including Employer Identification Number and letter verifying tax-exempt status. SPJ chapters typically are subordinate entities of the national organization and are tax-exempt nonprofits, typically under Section 501(c)(6) of the IRS code. Some chapters are 501(c)(3). Know the difference.

The treasurer prepares and/or files these reports:

1.)                Monthly report to the chapter board, detailing income and expenses.

2.)                Financial section of annual report to national.

3.)                Annual Form 990, EZ 990 or E-card 990 with the IRS.

4.)                Any state or local forms required of nonprofits and tax-exempt organizations.

We recommend keeping critical records in a single three-ring binder as well as on your computer.


  • Create a budget, using the last 5 years of expenses as a guide. Plan for the worst year.
  • Examine whether you’re on budget each quarter. Spending/fundraising over or under?
  • Monthly treasurer’s report should discuss the state of the budget. Do you need an

emergency fundraiser or cut back on spending?

  • Scholarships are an ongoing commitment. Do your best to have 10 years of funds on hand.


The annual report to national headquarters of your chapter’s activities requires a brief synopsis of your chapter’s finances.

  • Appoint a committee of three to review the financial section of the annual report and have its members sign a statement attesting to its accuracy.
  • The three reviewers should include the chapter president (or designee), a member of the board who is not an officer and a third party with some financial experience (e.g., a local financial reporter, a senior accounting major or local accountant willing to provide pro bono service).
  • The regional director will review the annual reports and verify with at least one member of the review panel that the chapter’s finances were reviewed.

After she had a chance to look it over, Liz Enochs, the President of the Northern California chapter, had a few important thoughts. Here’s what she had to say:

On this:
One person should fill out a deposit slip. Someone else should actually make the deposit and return the slip to the person who filled it out.

That item strikes me as impracticable. It’s challenging enough to get one person to go to the bank and make a deposit — having to coordinate w/yet another person seems like an unnecessary obstacle.
Here’s what our chapter does: We have two signers on our account – the president (me) and the treasurer. Anytime I make a deposit I have our bank email a copy of the deposit slip to myself and the treasurer, and if further explanation is warranted, I email that to the treasurer.
On this:
Require officer approval of any expenditure over $25; board approval of any expenditure over $100.

I understand the sentiment, which is that oversight and constraints are needed, but that has to be balanced against the possibility of nickel-and-dime approval requirements turning things into a bureaucratic nightmare. Rather than following a specific-dollar-amount mandate from national, I would say the important thing here is for the full board to be involved in monitoring finances and setting limits and guidelines on how chapter money is to be spent.

Do you have thoughts you need to share? Post a comment here! We’d love to hear from you.

We’ll show you ours…

Our desks, that is. And we want to see yours.

SPJ is now on Instagram (@spj_pics) and we’re giving you a behind the scenes look at everything SPJ. So this week, we’ll be posting pictures of our offices at SPJ Headquarters in Indianapolis for you to judge, love and critique. Then, show us your desks – whether you’re a freelancer, broadcaster or working in a traditional newsroom – we want to see it (before you tidy up)!

Hashtag your office pictures #spjdesklove on Instagram before 4 p.m. on Friday, July 27 and the office with the most likes will be featured on our Facebook page and win a fabulous SPJ prize!

Tony, SPJ Creative Director, likes a little Batman to get him through the day. #spjdesklove

Linda, Director of Membership, recently made a shoe purchase… Crocs, anyone? #spjdesklove

Money, money, money

Doesn’t that just make you want to sing? Free money! Well, kind of.

SPJ knows that your chapter is bursting with great ideas for interactive, energetic and unique programming. We’re sure your ideas about diversity, ethics, access and advocacy are brilliant. And because of that, we want to make sure those ideas translate into real-life, amazing chapter programs.

So – we’re offering your chapter some cash. Up to $500, to be specific.

Check out all the details about Chapter Grants and apply for the first cycle – the deadline is Aug. 8 so start getting those ideas together. As always, if you have questions, email Tara Puckey, Chapter Coordinator.


Poker and ethics?

Looking for a program to stick on your chapter’s summer schedule? Think about Ethics Hold’em. SPJ student board member Gideon Grudo just wrapped up an incredibly successful run of the classic game of cards – with a twist.

Here’s what SPJ member and Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky had to say about the event:

Summer is slow at student newspapers, but Gideon and the University Press EIC Ryan Cortes and the Florida Atlantic University newspaper adviser Dan Sweeney hosted more than a dozen folks.

FAU adviser Dan Sweeney deals everyone in at one of the two poker tables set up in the University Press newsroom on July 6. Photo by Michelle Friswell, University Press.

Ethics Hold’em was created in 2007 by SPJ South Florida and funded by a national SPJ ethics grant. In a nutshell, it’s Texas Hold’em played with specially printed decks – the face of each card contains an entry from the SPJ Code of Ethics. Some entries are repeated and if you find a match, you win extra chips.

Koretzky nailed the bottom line:

Hopefully, you’ll learn by osmosis.

If your chapter is interested in playing Ethics Hold’em, Grudo has extra decks at the ready, along with the rules. He’ll even chat with you about the details, so contact him with questions.

Ante up, folks.


SPJ Buzz over Breakfast

Are you an adviser? Do you love SPJ? Are you also pretty fond of food? Great! We’ve got what you need.

This August, we’re hosting a breakfast at the 2012 AEJMC Conference just for SPJ advisers. We’ll feed you, encourage you and answer some of your burning questions about SPJ on your campuses. Topics will range from fundraising to leadership, navigating campus rules and regulations to programming ideas. We’re even going to send you home with a doggy bag of resources to take back to your campus.

So if you’ll be in Chicago enjoying the conference, why not join us? Check out the details below, mark it on your calendar and RSVP right away – it’s first come, first served and spots are limited so don’t wait.

Who: SPJ Advisers

What: The scoop on everything SPJ campus chapters, plus food

When: Saturday, Aug. 11, 7-8 a.m.

Where: Chicago Marriott

RSVP to Tara Puckey at (317) 927-8000 ext. 215 or

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