What To Look For In A Campaign Treasurer
by Natasha Smith, User Experience and Communications Manager, National Democratic Training Committee, @traindems
Every campaign needs a treasurer, whether it be for a small-town city council race or a Senate election. But choosing the wrong person for the job can be enormously costly. Here we’ll break down the three kinds of treasurers that you can hire and why or why not you’d want to bring them on your team.
But before we get into the different kinds of treasurers, let’s talk about what a treasurer does (or is supposed to do). Treasurers, along with their candidates, are usually the people financially and legally responsible for the campaign. If something goes wrong, the treasurer and candidate will be held accountable…not the campaign manager.
There are three main duties that are under the treasurer’s domain, the first of them being monitoring contributions. Campaigns survive on money, and it’s the treasurer’s job to stay on top of incoming donations and ensuring that they are being properly filed and reported to the Federal Election Commission.
The second task is tracking the money. Campaigns are run like businesses, and businesses typically have money flowing in and out of the bank account. Your treasurer must can stay on top of your funds down to the very last cent. This includes small things like being aware of processing timeframes for banks and deadlines for filing receipts with federal and state governments.
The third duty entrusted to a treasurer is being responsible for compliance. Perhaps the most complicated task of a treasurer is ensuring that all contributions are following the strict regulations of campaign finance. Before your campaign can even start raising money, you need to register with the FEC and qualify as a political committee. There are certain limits on contributions your campaign can receive depending on what state your race is in — your treasurer should be aware of both state and national fundraising laws.
With all the nuances with campaign finance, it’s best to have a specific person designated to oversee the three tasks stated above. Now that we know what a treasurer does, we can break down the three kinds of treasurers you might consider for your team.
The Working Treasurer: This is the picture-perfect treasurer. This person will be able to handle cash flow, stay on top of contribution laws, and stay organized when it comes to your financial situation. The ideal treasurer may have some experience in accounting or other jobs that work with money and is good with numbers. If you can find a treasurer who is self-sufficient and reliable, congratulations — that’s a diamond in the rough.
The Symbolic Treasurer: chances are, this person isn’t going to bring much to the table as far as work ethic goes. But having a recognizable name in your campaign could be beneficial. Building up your “street cred” by having a campaign veteran on your team can make you look like a more viable candidate in the eyes of some voters. Don’t be too quick to write this kind of treasurer off. Do keep in mind that you or someone else will likely have to do the brunt of the work as a Deputy Treasurer.
The Problematic Treasurer: we all have that one friend (or maybe more than one) who just cannot keep on top of his or her finances and maybe even filed for bankruptcy in the past. This person can’t seem to read a calendar and won’t ensure that your finance reports are filed on time. You certainly do not want the one time you get media coverage to be due to a treasurer scandal! And you do not want to spend precious campaign funds on fines.
With the three basic types of treasurers outlined, you can go forth and choose the right treasurer for your campaign.