From Your Executive Director, June 2021
Greetings friends and colleagues!
As Brian said, it's hard to believe it's the middle of June already. Time starts moving faster and faster the closer we get to the Annual Meeting it seems. We are so excited about the meeting and the prospect of seeing many of you in person in Salt Lake City. We know that many of you won't be able to join us in person, but for those that can we promise it will be worth the trip. And for those that can't, you can still participate in the meeting online. We'll do everything we can to make it as great an experience as possible, but there's nothing like being there in person, so we hope that if you're vaccinated, your country allows you to cross the border, and you have the funds to support it that you join us in person!
You'll see that we've opened up registration. We're running separate registration processes for in-person and on-line attendance. If you register for on-line then find you can come (or vice versa), just let us know and we'll adjust your registration. We've tried to keep fees in line with the last two years' meetings even though our expenses this year will go up considerably in order to provide the meeting in a hybrid format. Please consider encouraging your organization or institution to sponsor the meeting so that we can continue to keep costs down.
I wanted to take the rest of the space in this column to talk about ASIS&T finances. As many of you know, we've had some rough years. When I started at ASIS&T four years ago (can't believe it's been 4 years already!), I inherited a negative $280,000 budget. The deficit was caused by the costs of hiring a new exec, the addition of a new position to the staff, and losses from the Annual Meeting in Copenhagen. In spite of considerable cost reductions, we finished that year in the red by about $280,000. FY18 was a short year in which we still had the IA Summit, and we were able to reduce the deficit to $110,000. The following year, FY 19, we lost the IA Summit which generally netted about $200,000 in net revenue. In spite of that we finished the year with a positive bottom line of $41,000, though in the next year's audit we discovered an accounting error that should have put us in the red by about that much. We've now concluded the FY20 audit and show a negative bottom line of $54,000. The net result of all of this is an overall decrease in net assets since I joined ASIS&T of about $403,000. Like an aircraft carrier, it takes time to turn around the finances of an organization.
That's the bad news. Now for the good news. First, our total net assets at the start of this fiscal year were $2,241,807. This is our reserve fund. The purpose of a healthy reserve fund is to a) carry us through tough times, which it did, and b) to serve as a resource for future investment in the organization. The second bit of good news is that this fiscal year which ends in a couple of weeks is looking very good. In addition to running about $50k over budget on revenue, we anticipate a healthy return from our investments this year. We also applied for and received a Paycheck Protection Program loan in FY20. This loan was part of the US Recovery Act put into place to help small businesses survive the pandemic and keep staff employed. The loan of $101,000 was recently forgiven entirely by the SBA which means that we can recognize that money as revenue and do not need to pay it back. This will add considerably to our net assets for FY21. I'm optimistic that we can recoup a large chunk of what we've lost over the last few years.
Meanwhile, the Board is committed to making a significant investment in ASIS&T over the next few years with a view to growing products and services, and ultimately membership. At its June meeting the Board approved a $269,000 investment over the next 12 months. These funds will be used to launch Information Matters, ARIST, two new meetings, and a marketing campaign. While some of these initiatives may become cost-neutral over the next few years, and perhaps even produce a profit, we expect others will remain cost centers for ASIS&T long into the future.
Some members may look at these numbers and ask why they have to pay dues if we have so much money in reserves. Or why does the Annual Meeting cost "so much" if we have so much money in reserves. As the last few years have taught us, if we are not operating at break even (meaning our revenue meets or exceeds or operational expenses), then it is a matter of time before we go bankrupt. As we are coming out of a period of successive operating losses, we hope to have the luxury of operating at a break even into the future. If we do then we can continue to make investments that will justify your dues payments and enhance your meeting experience. If we can bring in enough non-dues revenue, through sources such as sponsorships and sales, then we can keep member dues stable and do things like offer free membership to members from Tier 2 countries which we started doing this year.
The bottom line (no pun intended) is that ASIS&T is financially sound and operating in the black. We have a healthy reserve fund that will protect us in lean years and fund new programs and services well into the future. I am optimistic about ASIS&T's prospects as we start to see the objectives in the Strategic Plan taking shape.
Stay tuned for more new about these developments and don't miss the Annual Meeting to see it for yourself!
All the best,