SEJ financial policies

Originally approved by the Board of Directors of the Society of Environmental Journalists on March 13, 1999 and subsequently revised. Date of latest revision: January 13, 2007.

This document is intended to incorporate and supersede all previous financial policies of the Board and the organization. The policies are binding on SEJ employees and board members in their official actions. Exceptions are allowed only if approved in advance by the Executive Committee with a report to the full Board at the next regular meeting. Throughout this document, where duties are assigned to the Executive Director, it is understood that the Executive Director may delegate such duties to other employees or to consultants and other non-employees. However, in all such cases, the Executive Director shall retain full and sole responsibility for ensuring that the delegated duties are properly carried out.


A. Policy on acceptability of income sources
B. Policy on fundraising by university and host sponsors and co-sponsors of SEJ Events
C. Policy on expenses
D. Financial controls and reporting
E. Investment policy
F. 21st Century Fund Endowment Fundraising Policy
G. Tax status policy

A. Policy On Acceptability of Income Sources
From current practice, 3/14/98 finance committee draft policy, and 4/5/03 and 3/20/04 board amendments.

1. Direct program revenues, including membership dues; conference registrations; cash from sales of subscriptions and other merchandise; mailing list rentals in print, electronic or other form; and similar forms of earned income as may be identified and approved by the Board, are acceptable.

2. Grants from charitable foundations, educational institutions and media companies are acceptable if given for unrestricted use or purposes consistent with the organization's strategic plan.

3. Gifts or bequests from individuals may be accepted by the Executive Director without Board approval if there are no restrictions on their use and their value is $10,000 or less. Prior Board approval is required for restricted gifts from individuals and all gifts from individuals of more than $10,000.

4. Gifts from non-media corporations, government agencies, and other organizations (other than charitable foundations, educational institutions and media companies) are unacceptable unless explicitly approved in advance by the Board. This prohibition shall not apply to matching gifts provided by corporations or other organizations through established employer matching gifts programs, nor shall it apply to in-kind gifts from such corporations, agencies or organizations, including speaker time and travel, documents, admittance to facilities, local transportation to or within facilities and nearby areas, or to revenues received under paragraph A(1), but it shall apply to food and drink donations. SEJ members attending shall be advised prior to the event if such an entity is covering the cost of admittance to facilities, or of local transportation to or within facilities and nearby areas. SEJ will advise any interested participant of the per capita costs.

B. Policy on fundraising by university and host sponsors and co-sponsors of SEJ Events
Adopted by the SEJ board January 12, 2002 and amended January 28, 2006. Please see related Policy Regarding SEJ endorsements, Co-sponsorships and Partnerships for Journalism and Environmental Education Programs.

1. SEJ welcomes and appreciates partnerships with universities or other educational institutions for national and regional programs.

It should be understood by all parties that, while working cooperatively with host institutions, SEJ's board, volunteer leadership and staff are to remain in control of all conference programming, including agenda, invited speakers and session topics, and that no outside funding sources may be represented as sponsors or co-sponsors of SEJ events, without prior approval of SEJ's conference board representative and Executive Director. These funders may be listed in programs and/or on unobtrusive signage as contributors to and/or supporters of the host institution, but any such messages must be approved in advance by SEJ's conference board representative and Executive Director.

SEJ understands that these institutions may at times need to undertake their own fundraising efforts to meet their partnership commitments, and that in so doing these institutions are not bound by SEJ's internal policies governing the solicitation of grants and sponsorships.

SEJ requests, however, that when seeking outside financial support, hosts, sponsors and co-sponsors make every effort to seek a balance of sources. For example, whenever possible, corporate and/or government support should be balanced by support from environmental organizations, individuals and/or other institutions.

C. Policy On Expenses
From current practice and 1995 board policy document.

1. SEJ will pay long-distance transportation, local ground transportation or lodging, but not more than one of the three, for board members attending board meetings when reimbursement is not available from the board member's employer or another source. Board members shall make every effort to minimize SEJ expenses for travel, including selecting the lowest fares available and making reservations at least 21 days in advance. No airport transfers shall be paid. SEJ expenses shall not exceed $1,500 per year per board member for travel to board meetings, unless the SEJ Board approves a special exception in advance of travel. SEJ shall not pay for board member travel or lodging for the SEJ annual conference. Meals for board members may be paid as part of a board meeting when board business is conducted.

2. For SEJ staff and contractors, all reasonable and acceptable travel expenses will be paid for assigned business-related trips. Acceptable expenses include transportation, hotel, meals, telephone and sundries. Meal expenses and mileage reimbursement shall be limited to the per diem rate set by the Internal Revenue Service. One safe arrival phone call is permitted. Otherwise, only SEJ-related calls, using the most economical calling method, will be covered. Hotels and airlines used shall be economical, clean and safe. First class travel and accommodations will not be reimbursed.

3. Reimbursement requests for SEJ staff, contractors and board members must be filed within 90 days of the conclusion of the trip. Reimbursement requests must be sent to the SEJ headquarters with receipts attached.

4. No alcohol purchases shall be made or reimbursed by SEJ.

D. Financial Controls and Reporting
Amended by the SEJ board July 19, 2003; January 28, 2006; and April 28, 2007.

1. The Executive Director, in consultation with the Treasurer and Finance and Fundraising Committee, shall prepare an annual budget for the organization that provides for such programs and support services as are outlined in the current strategic plan, which shall form the basis for all SEJ spending.

2. The annual budget shall be considered and approved by the Board of Directors prior to the beginning of each fiscal year in a format created by the Executive Director and approved by the Finance and Fundraising Committee.

3. The Executive Director shall provide each board member with a quarterly balance sheet and narrative report on actual and projected income/expense and cash flow, with any significant variances from the approved budget identified and explained. The Executive Director shall provide detailed income/expense spreadsheets, cash flow spreadsheet, and all bank/investment account statements, as back up to summary narrative reports, to any board member at any time by request and at least quarterly to SEJ's Treasurer.

4. During the budget year, any significant change of income or expenditure shall be reported by the Executive Director to the Treasurer. For the purposes of this paragraph, a significant change shall be one which, in the opinion of the Treasurer, would significantly alter the annual plan of operation, or which would result in a change of more than 10 percent from the total amount of the organization's approved budget. Any such report shall be prepared by the Executive Director, in consultation with the Treasurer, and submitted by the Treasurer for review by the Board of Directors at their next regular meeting.

5. An Audit Committee, appointed by the board, shall arrange for and oversee an annual independent audit of the organization's financial statements. The Committee shall be composed of three members, at least one of whom shall be a board member other than the Treasurer, and one of whom shall be a non-board SEJ member. Committee members will serve staggered three-year terms. The chair of the committee, who will be the primary liaison between the committee and the Executive Director and the auditor, must be a board member. The Committee shall meet at times and in the manner of its choosing, but should make every effort to hold one in-person meeting per year with the Executive Director and auditor, within current budget constraints.

The Committee's work shall be guided by SEJ's Accounting Manual, and its annual duties shall include:

  • review of all new laws, regulations and best practices regarding nonprofit sector finances and audit procedures;
  • selection of an independent auditor, and determination of the auditor's compensation, in consultation with the Executive Director;
  • entrance and exit conferences with auditor, and other conversations as needed;
  • review and determination of acceptability of audit, Management Letter and any other supporting documents provided by auditor;
  • ensuring the completion of the audit by August 15 of the following year;
  • providing a written report on and copies of the finished audit, supporting documents and management's response to the full board by December 15 of the following year;
  • approval of any non-audit services to be provided to SEJ by auditor/auditing firm;
  • advising the Executive Director as needed on possible revisions to the SEJ Accounting Manual.
As part of the audit process, the Executive Director shall prepare a written response to all substantial questions, suggestions and comments offered by the auditor and Audit Committee, which shall be included in the Committee's report to the board.

The Executive Director shall also arrange to have the audit report and the Committee's report posted on SEJ's Web site in a timely manner and shall make a printed copy of the audit and Committee report available upon request.

6. The Executive Director, in consultation with the Treasurer, shall file all necessary forms with local, state and federal tax agencies.

7. The Executive Director and her designees shall have the authority to sign all checks of the organization. For all checks in amounts greater than $5,000 the Executive Director shall provide a copy, and an explanation, if the purpose of the check is not obvious, to the Treasurer within 30 days of their having been written. The check copy will include an acknowledgment and approval line, which the Treasurer shall sign and return to the Executive Director within 30 days, for filing with relevant bank statement.

E. Investment Policy
From finance committee discussions prior to 7/98 board meeting, current practice, NCNB sample guidelines, and 7/04 board amendment.

1. All SEJ operating funds shall be invested for maximum income consistent with the organization's cash needs and full protection of the investment principal. Examples of acceptable investments include treasury bills, certificates of deposits, and demand accounts such as checking, savings or money market accounts.

2. All SEJ endowment funds shall be invested in a manner designed for long-term growth and income. Fund management will tolerate moderate risk and strive to achieve its goals through a diversified portfolio of investments. The portfolio shall be selected by the executive director, in consultation with his/her chosen licensed investment adviser(s) and the SEJ board treasurer, and may include index mutual funds, bonds, government securities and certificates of deposit. No individual stocks or mutual funds other than index funds may be held, except any stocks donated to the organization, which must be sold within six months of receipt of the gift.

3. Full discretion, consistent with the principles above, is delegated to the Executive Director in consultation with the Treasurer and Finance and Fundraising Committee to determine the mix of assets, selection of securities and timing of transactions unless otherwise determined by the Board.

4. All investment portfolios and results shall be reviewed monthly by the Executive Director, quarterly by the Treasurer and at least annually by the Finance and Fundraising Committee.

F. 21st Century Fund Endowment Fundraising Policy
Adopted January 24, 2004, St. Petersburg, Florida; amended March 20, 2004, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

1. Principles:

Fundraising for SEJ's 21st Century Fund Endowment shall be guided by the following principles:

SUPPORT FOR SEJ'S MISSION: SEJ may solicit and accept donations to its endowment from any and all individuals who support SEJ's mission to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of environmental journalism, without regard to their opinions or positions with respect to environmental issues.

Consistent with its long-standing policy, SEJ will not solicit or accept donations from any advocacy group, non-media corporation or government agency without the explicit prior approval of the SEJ board.

INDEPENDENCE AND INTEGRITY: SEJ shall retain full control over the use of income from the 21st Century Fund. The organization will accept no conditions or restrictions, express or implied, on any donations to the fund, and reserves the right to decline or return any donation which, in the opinion of the board or the board's designees, may conflict with these principles or otherwise damage the integrity of the organization.

TRANSPARENCY: Solicitation, review and acceptance of all donations to the 21st Century Fund shall be conducted in accordance with these Guidelines, which will be considered among the organization's governing documents and be readily available to all members of the organization and general public. No anonymous donations will be accepted.

Investment and management of the funds shall, likewise, be conducted in accordance with a set of governing Endowment Financial Guidelines.

DIVERSITY OF SOURCES: So as not to be, or appear to be, overly dependent on donations from any particular sector or type of individuals beyond the journalism community, SEJ shall strive to raise at least 25% of its 21st Century Fund from SEJ members, founding and other former board members and other journalism leaders, and to raise the remainder from a broad array of individual donors.

RECOGNITION OF DONORS: In return for their support, all donors shall be acknowledged graciously, thanked appropriately and kept apprised of the ongoing activities of the organization.

2. Purpose:

The 21st Century Fund is SEJ's general endowment. The purpose of the Fund is to secure the organization's future by providing a vital layer of protection from the uncertainties of year-to-year fundraising for the operating budget. The Fund's proceeds will be used to help fund core operations (including staff and program costs) as well as special projects deemed by the board to be of great importance to SEJ.

3. Fundraising

a. ACCEPTABLE SOURCES OF FUNDS: SEJ may accept unrestricted donations of any amount to the 21st Century Fund from individuals who support SEJ's mission, without regard to their opinions or positions with respect to environmental issues. SEJ may also accept unrestricted 21st Century Fund donations from foundations. SEJ will not accept gifts to the 21st Century Fund from non-media corporations, government agencies or advocacy groups unless explicitly approved in advance by the Board.

b. CONTROL OF FUND: SEJ shall retain full control over the use of income from the 21st Century Fund. The organization will accept no conditions or restrictions, express or implied, on any donations to this fund. This principle shall be included in all written and verbal solicitations, and/or acknowledgements, and shall be acknowledged in writing by all donors of $5,000 or more.

c. RIGHT OF DECLINE AND RETURN: SEJ reserves the right to decline or return any donation to the 21st Century Fund which, in the opinion of the board or the board's designees, may conflict with the organization's independence or otherwise damage its integrity.

d. BALANCE OF DONORS: SEJ shall strive for an array of individual donors to the 21st Century Fund, so as not to be, or appear to be, overly dependent on donations from any particular sector, ideological perspective or type of individuals beyond the journalism community.

e. REVIEW AND APPROVAL PROCESS: Solicitation and review of prospective donations of $5,000 or more, including review of any unsolicited donations of such size, shall be carried out by an Endowment Committee appointed by and responsible to the SEJ board, in concert with the Executive Director and other appropriate staff members. The board may also authorize others outside the organization to solicit such funds on its behalf, provided that such persons work in concert with and are subject to the authority of the Committee. No donations of $5,000 or more may be accepted through any other channels or processes.

The size of the endowment committee and the terms of its members shall be determined by the Board, but the Committee shall always include the current Board President and Treasurer. The Executive Director shall serve in a non-voting capacity.

Prospective donations of $5,000 or more must be approved by a majority of the Committee. The Treasurer and President each have the power to veto any prospective solicitation or donation. All prospective donations of $5,000 or more shall then be subject to the review of the full Board.

Donations of less than $5,000 need not be pre-screened, but the Board reserves the right to reject or return these, as well as larger donations, for any reason and at any time.

f. DISCLOSURE OF DONORS: SEJ will accept no anonymous donations to the 21st Century Fund.

The names of all donors, and the relative levels of their gifts, will be compiled and updated annually and will be made available to anyone who asks. SEJ members shall be informed, at least annually, of the availability of the list.

As under current practice, each year's IRS Form 990 (which includes a listing of all donations of $5,000 or more) shall be posted on SEJ's website and a paper copy made available upon request.

g. CORPORATE MATCHING GIFT POLICIES: Many companies offer programs that match employee contributions to quality charitable organizations. As a 501(c)(3) organization, SEJ is eligible to benefit from these matching gift programs.

All letters of appeal and other materials, including web-based information, prepared for the SEJ 21st Century Endowment Fund should ask prospective donors to check with their employer, or spouse's employer, to see if it participates in a matching gift program.

Donors who work for companies that match gifts must obtain a "matching gift form," usually from their human resources departments. The forms must be completed and returned to the appropriate company department for processing.

Matching corporate gifts to the SEJ 21 Century Endowment Fund will be applied to the individual donor's contribution. Employer matching funds shall be acknowledged as such, consistent with Section F, 3, f above.

As noted under, F, 3, c, above, SEJ reserves the right to decline or return any donation to the 21st Century Endowment Fund.

4. Management, Investment & Spending
Existing language — from revision approved by board 7.03. Amended by the board January 13, 2007.

a. MANAGEMENT: The 21st Century Fund shall be managed and reported to the Board and Independent Auditor by the Executive Director with reference to two internal bookkeeping accounts: "21st Century—Donor" (funds contributed by individual and institutional donors) and "21st Century—Internal" (funds transferred from SEJ's operating budget by action of the Board). These funds may be co-mingled in a single investment account, provided that strict accounting records are kept and reported, to identify dollars considered to be within each category.

The "21st Century—Donor" account is a permanently-restricted account. Donations deposited in this account may not be transferred to another SEJ account. Only the interest, dividends and/or realized capital gains from this account may be used by the organization.

The "21st Century—Internal" account is a board-restricted account. Interest, dividends, and/or capital gains from this account may be used by the organization. In addition, by action of the Board, assets transferred into this account may be drawn upon to help pay for endowment fundraising-related expenses, or returned to SEJ's general operating accounts.

b. INVESTMENT: Assets in the 21st Century Fund shall be prudently invested to balance growth with protection of the principal of the underlying assets, consistent with the policies stated in paragraph E, Investment Policy, above.

c. DISSOLUTION: Should SEJ ever cease to exist, the Board at the time of dissolution shall donate the assets of the 21st Century Fund to another journalism education organization or academic institution in support of programs to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of environmental reporting.

G. Tax Status Policy
From SEJ attorney Gail Ross, memo 3/26/93.

1. To preserve the organization's 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, the Board through its strategic plan shall ensure that the organization is operated exclusively for qualified exempt purposes, including charitable and educational purposes, and that no more than an insubstantial portion of the organization's activities are devoted to the furtherance of non-exempt purposes. Examples of non-exempt purposes might include a members-only job bank or health insurance program, or other activities that result solely in a private benefit without serving an overriding public interest.

2. No part of the organization's activities may constitute intervention or participation in any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office. No substantial part of the organization's activities may consist of political, lobbying or non-exempt purposes as defined in paragraph G(1) above.

3. The organization shall offer no guidance to donors about the deductibility of their gifts other than to inform them that SEJ is a 501(c)(3) organization, gifts to which may be tax deductible under U.S. tax laws.

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The Society of Environmental Journalists
P.O. Box 2492 Jenkintown, PA 19046
Telephone: (215) 884-8174 Fax: (215) 884-8175

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