Every Thursday—usually right after lunch—I discover my in-box filled with a neat stack of papers, bound with a black clip that varies in tension, depending on the size of the pile (which can be up to an inch thick). The bundle contains checks—along with supporting invoices and other documents, a one-page cover summary, and a copy of the current balance sheet. It’s bill-paying day at RMHC.
Like every household, we have to cover the lights, phone, cable, insurance, and the seemingly endless repairs and maintenance. Like every organization, we face the added responsibility of payroll, benefits, health care, training, legal fees, and a host of other business-related expenses. And like every responsible non-profit, my signature on the checks is the last of many intentional steps we take to ensure that RMHC is a responsible steward to the thousands of individuals and organizations who put their trust in us.
Every bill is scrutinized by at least three (and often four) sets of eyes—a senior staff member who verifies and/or approves it, the Associate Director who authorizes it, and me when I sign it. While it often feels cumbersome, each step is part of an oversight process regarded as “best practice”—one that is reviewed quarterly by the board and annually by external auditors.
Over the years, I figure I’ve signed checks totaling more than $10 million, and authorized equal payments in other forms (including the monthly payroll). That’s a lot of signatures—and a lot of money. Because our “guest fee” is so modest ($20/night—not raised in 15 years) and because that nominal amount is reduced or waived for the many guests who can’t pay it, I’m intensely aware that all but a few pennies of every dollar expended represents the willing investment of a generous donor.
In that light, I value the lengths we go to ensure that the money is not only well spent, but also well shepherded. We owe that to our donors. And what puts it all in perspective are people like Krisanne Rice, who depend on the kindness of benefactors and the oversight of both board and staff members to keep the doors open.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fully put into words, Krisanne wrote recently, my thanks for the combination of staff, volunteers, and brick-and-mortar that kept this family from breaking apart…and I mean that from the depth of my soul.
Such soul-felt gratitude makes bill-paying Thursdays a lot more palatable!
Tom Soma, Executive Director