The campaign treasurer is the most valuable staff person on a candidate’s road to elected office. This person handles the lifeblood of politics — money — and is the most directly responsible for keeping the candidate out of jail.

It sounds high-pressure, but both the federal and North Carolina elections authorities make it fairly easy to get trained to be a campaign treasurer. Here’s a guide on how to be a campaign treasurer.

The three big responsibilities of a campaign treasurer

1) Tracking donations. This includes keeping an accurate tally and collecting information on the donors.

2) Tracking expenditures. This includes keeping campaign and personal finances completely separate.

3) Making sure reports are filed on time. Software can help, but the deadlines are on you.

How to be a campaign treasurer for federal races

If your candidate is running for U.S. House or Senate, you’ll have to abide by the Federal Elections Commissions rules. That starts at the outset of the campaign.

In your political campaign committee’s statement of organization, you’ll need to designate a campaign treasurer. Your committee cannot raise or spend any money without a treasurer.

You do not need any special qualifications or experience to be a federal campaign treasurer. But this person is responsible for:

  • Signing and filing committee financial reports
  • Depositing donations within 10 days
  • Approving expenditures
  • Keeping an eye on donations to make sure they’re coming from legitimate people and in legal amounts
  • Maintaining a record of all receipts and expenditures

Usually, people will find a CPA to fill the role, but that is not required. A candidate is allowed to act as their own committee treasurer, but this is only reasonable for small campaigns.

Generally, campaign treasurers can stay out of trouble by making their “best efforts” to follow the law. But there are also standard rules campaigns should use. These include maintaining a separate bank account for the campaign committee and requiring multiple signatures on expenditures greater than $1,000.

Today, all of this reporting and bookkeeping is done electronically. There are numerous options for campaign treasurer computer programs. The big dogs of campaign management software — most notably NationBuilder and NGP Van — all include it.

If you’re going to be a campaign treasurer at the federal level, be sure to take these free online courses from the FEC.

How to be a North Carolina campaign treasurer

The rules for state level races are similar — but actually a little stricter.

People running for state and local office, including General Assembly, governor, city council and school board, have to abide by the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement’s rules.

North Carolina requires all campaign treasurers to take mandatory compliance training within three months of appointment and once every four years. This is generally done online, but there are twice-monthly in-person sessions in Raleigh.

The state also has a separate training program for new campaign treasurers.

All candidate committees must have a treasurer. A candidate can serve as his or her own campaign treasurer; however, a candidate’s spouse cannot, nor can a registered lobbyist.

In North Carolina, campaign treasurers must:

  • Keep up with report filing deadlines
  • Make sure donors stay within the $5,200 donation limit
  • Keep accurate track of all receipts and expenditures

North Carolina offers its own software to campaigns to use for reporting purposes. Here’s a 150-page manual that’s helpful for campaign treasurers in North Carolina.

Cover photo by Michael Vadon via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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