At Spring Ago­ra Kraków there will be two can­di­dates for the posi­tion of Finan­cial Direc­tor of AEGEE-Europe: Oğuzhan Ayhan and Luca Bisigh­i­ni. Next to hav­ing been Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Ankara, Oğuzhan also already gath­er Euro­pean-lev­el expe­ri­ence in the Audit Com­mis­sion. Check out his inter­views answers!

Gun­nar Erth: Oğuzhan, how would you describe your­self in five key­words?
Oğuzhan Ayhan: In five words I can say: ambi­tious, deter­mined, per­fec­tion­ist, strate­gist and geek.

You are run­ning against Luca, one of the most active AEGEE mem­bers with a huge online pres­ence. Why did you decide to run nev­er­the­less?
I do respect Luca’s can­di­da­ture and I believe he would make a suc­cess­ful Finan­cial Direc­tor. But I believe in myself and my exper­tise as well! I was elect­ed as a mem­ber of Audit Com­mis­sion twice. I held the man­date as the trea­sur­er in the AEGEE-Ankara board and was then elect­ed as pres­i­dent. This work in an insti­tu­tion­al­ly estab­lished local equipped me well to ful­fil the tasks of the Finan­cial Direc­tor. Above all, I believe it is up to the Ago­ra and its del­e­gates to com­ment on the chances of each can­di­date. Com­ments oth­er­wise would be anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic which is against the val­ues of AEGEE. There­fore, each can­di­date should be treat­ed on an equal basis. I am sure we are on the same page in this regard. Many suc­cess­ful activists have com­mit­ted to their ideals while many peo­ple thought they had no chance to make a dif­fer­ence. Only thanks to them the world is a bet­ter place today. And I am deeply com­mit­ted to the val­ues AEGEE rep­re­sents. Being elect­ed or not I dare to put my can­di­da­ture for­ward!

You wrote that your work as Audit Com­mis­sion­er pre­pared you for the task as Finan­cial Direc­tor. Which are the typ­i­cal finan­cial mis­takes that CDs make — and how does your expe­ri­ence help pre­vent them?
Togeth­er with the Finan­cial Direc­tor, the role of the audit com­mis­sion is to ensure that AEGEE-Europe has a robust finan­cial sys­tem which is account­able and trans­par­ent both towards our mem­bers and towards our stake­hold­ers. The key to pre­vent any risks is good coop­er­a­tion, trust and team­work. You can count these as my sug­ges­tions as mit­i­ga­tion tools. Finan­cial report­ing in account is a com­plex task. There­fore, list­ing a num­ber of mis­takes would not real­ly serve to pur­pose of this inter­view. I am hap­py to dis­cuss this issue fur­ther bilat­er­al­ly if there is any inter­est!

The income side of AEGEE has been dete­ri­o­rat­ing in the past years. You want to find new funds from cor­po­ra­tions, oth­er foun­da­tions as well as spon­sors. Can you name three con­crete sources that you want to tap into?
The fund­ing streams change as Euro­pean pol­i­tics evolves. The shrink­ing sources of income stand as a prob­lem for many non-gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies. The first step pri­or to tag­ging poten­tial donors is to work on a long-term fundrais­ing strat­e­gy which would be reg­u­lar­ly updat­ed. For instance, we could con­sid­er organ­is­ing a work­shop with expe­ri­enced AEGEE mem­bers and for­mer CD mem­bers to do a donor map­ping activ­i­ty. By doing so, we could reach out to alter­na­tive donors in addi­tion to tra­di­tion­al donors. In sum, I am propos­ing a map­ping activ­i­ty which would enable us to name more than three sources. Allow me to high­light that the fund­ing has nev­er been an easy top­ic for youth organ­i­sa­tions. How­ev­er, AEGEE has a high­ly trust­ed image and a well-estab­lished finan­cial man­age­ment sys­tem in place, which is a high mar­ket­ing val­ue I would pro­mote along with our strong the­mat­ic focus­es.

Pre­vi­ous Finan­cial Direc­tors saw fundrais­ing as part of their per­son­al job, although accord­ing to the CIA it isn’t. What will be the focus of your per­son­al fund-rais­ing efforts? Or will you just advise oth­ers who do the FR task?
My ini­tial focus would be the over­all man­age­ment of the finan­cial strat­e­gy that includes tasks such as prepar­ing annu­al bud­gets and project bud­gets, mon­i­tor­ing of the expen­di­tures and the fore­casts, pro­vid­ing expen­di­ture reports and car­ry­ing out finan­cial trans­ac­tions in com­pli­ance with inter­na­tion­al stan­dards. Tak­ing into account the key role of any cash flow for the afore­men­tioned tasks, I would def­i­nite­ly be a Finan­cial Direc­tor who close­ly works with col­leagues respon­si­ble of fundrais­ing. I believe suc­cess­ful fundrais­ing requires a team effort; we need input from our projects and work­ing groups, we need inputs from our advo­ca­cy efforts as well as a good rep­re­sen­ta­tion how we ensure finan­cial trans­paren­cy and account­abil­i­ty. In sum, high­light­ing that the role of Finan­cial Direc­tor in this regard should be a team deci­sion, I am ready to put my expe­ri­ence for­ward and sup­port our fundrais­ing efforts.

You also want to train anten­na mem­bers in finan­cial man­age­ment. What will peo­ple learn exact­ly?
Many NGOs face prob­lems that hin­der their devel­op­ment due to inef­fec­tive finan­cial man­age­ment at project lev­el and organ­i­sa­tion­al lev­el, which results in fail­ure to oper­ate in har­mo­ny. As a mem­ber of the Audit Com­mis­sion I have observed the need for such a train­ing at first hand. This is why I aim at devel­op­ing a train­ing pro­gramme avail­able for local trea­sures as well as Euro­pean lev­el project man­agers and trea­sur­ers. This would pro­vide them with in-depth knowl­edge on basics of finan­cial man­age­ment that includes: bud­get­ing and bud­get man­age­ment, man­age­ment of cash and bank, inter­nal con­trol sys­tems, grant man­age­ment and finan­cial report­ing in line with AEGEE-Europe reg­u­la­tions. Such a train­ing would also func­tion as an invest­ment for future can­di­dates for Euro­pean Bod­ies such as the Audit Com­mis­sion and CIRC!

Will these train­ings be week­end events, online tuto­ri­als or in anoth­er for­mat?
There are many ways to do it. We can either use in-house sources to organ­ise a train­ing that would be com­posed of both face-to-face and online ses­sions or we can use a part­ner with plat­forms that offers online learn­ings. The def­i­n­i­tion of fundrais­ing is not lim­it­ed to cash. I believe receiv­ing free access to respect­ed uni­ver­si­ties online cours­es would be an equal­ly valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to AEGEE. Why not enable our mem­bers to take a free online course from Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty? We are liv­ing in the age of tech­nol­o­gy. We should make the best use of it.

You want to decrease the CD expens­es and oth­er AEGEE-Europe expens­es. Which bud­get lines will you cut exact­ly?
Allow me to high­light that decreas­ing CD expens­es does not nec­es­sar­i­ly mean cut­ting from the bud­get lines. What I have in mind are more alter­na­tive meth­ods that will allow us to increase the qual­i­ty of liv­ing while reduc­ing our expens­es. It is about find­ing alter­na­tive resources, hav­ing a green­er CD house and many oth­er meth­ods that would allow us to have a cost effi­cient man­age­ment. I wouldn’t agree to any pol­i­cy with neg­a­tive con­se­quences.

The net­work is shrink­ing, there­fore the income. Which gen­er­al big mea­sures must does AEGEE need to do to secure long-term finan­cial sus­tain­abil­i­ty for the next 10 or 20 years?
I already men­tioned the neces­si­ty of a long-term fundrais­ing strat­e­gy which would be reg­u­lar­ly updat­ed. The Euro­pean pol­i­tics is evolv­ing in a dif­fer­ent direc­tion and AEGEE is not exempt from the con­se­quences of the chang­ing pol­i­tics. Acknowl­edg­ing that long-term sus­tain­abil­i­ty is a very ambi­tious term even for pri­vate com­pa­nies and inter-gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies such as the Unit­ed Nations. The first thing to do is plan­ning ratio­nal­ly and start think­ing out of the box and take the advan­tage of being a very big net­work with years of expe­ri­ence with all colours of Europe in it!

Additional questions from the network

Ques­tion 1: Can you elab­o­rate your knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence in the field of eco­nom­ics, main­ly financ­ing and bud­get­ing?
I was trea­sur­er of sev­er­al projects in my local. Also, last year I was inter­im board mem­ber for about nine months where I was main­ly trea­sur­er. Also, I am mem­ber of Audit Com­mis­sion. These expe­ri­ences gave me the knowl­edge of financ­ing and bud­get­ing. Apart from my AEGEE career, I took econ­o­my class­es in my uni­ver­si­ty and start­ed my sec­ond degree in eco­nom­ics.

Ques­tion 2: Based what hap­pened with­in CD 55, how would you pre­vent res­ig­na­tions with­in the team?
Team­build­ing is real­ly impor­tant. From my expe­ri­ences in my local, if there is no team, peo­ple start to give up their duties. In AEGEE-Ankara we try to make the new mem­bers feel in their fam­i­lies. This can be applied in CD also.

Ques­tion 3: Some of AEGEE’s income is labeled, mean­ing cer­tain grants AEGEE gets are only able to cov­er cer­tain costs. Does this con­flict with your pro­posed spend­ing cuts?
Decreas­ing CD expens­es does not nec­es­sar­i­ly mean cut­ting from the bud­get lines. What I have in mind are more alter­na­tive meth­ods that will allow us to increase qual­i­ty of liv­ing while reduc­ing our expens­es. It is about find­ing alter­na­tive resources, hav­ing a green­er CD house and many oth­er meth­ods that would allow us to have a cost effi­cient man­age­ment.

Ques­tion 4: What will you do with the mon­ey that is being saved with the help of the bud­get cuts?
If there is any saved mon­ey, it will be used for new projects and for the good of the net­work.

Ques­tion 5: What do you think about the Anten­na Cri­te­ria pro­pos­al pro­posed by CD?
I can answer this ques­tion from the per­spec­tive of the Audit Com­mis­sion and from the per­spec­tive of the pres­i­dent of an anten­na. The finan­cial reports don’t show any­thing, most of the locals just send the reports to be sent. We can’t say any­thing about the finan­cial sta­tus of the locals. I think it is the same for the oth­er reports. As a pres­i­dent I would say, the change in the Euro­pean events from once every two years to every year is need­ed. By this way, locals will try to stay active and orga­nize more projects. This would help us to stop the shrink­ing of net­work and expand it with our impact. Our main task should be to acti­vate con­tact anten­nae and upgrade them to anten­nae and let them stay in that posi­tion. How­ev­er, there are also some neg­a­tive points in the pro­pos­al. Delet­ing the local train­ing cours­es from anten­nae cri­te­ria and delet­ing the send­ing of mem­bers to Ago­ra and EPM will affect our net­work in a bad way. If the locals in the periph­ery of the net­work would orga­nize a statu­to­ry meet­ing, the num­ber of par­tic­i­pants would be real­ly low. The same for the Ago­ras. Also, not send­ing the activ­i­ty plan and activ­i­ty report would make the CD unaware which local is active or dead. So, if the pro­pos­al would pass, the bureau­cra­cy would be gone, but it would cre­ate a huge infor­ma­tion gap between locals and AEGEE-Europe.

 

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