By Jerry Ford • SFA Interim Executive Director
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Jerry’s column for the 2016 CornerPost, SFA’s annual report. To read the entire column, click here to download the 2016-17 CornerPost.
Previously, I wrote about my perception that SFA is at a crossroads, and how the decisions that we make now will have a great impact on whether we will continue to be effective and relevant as we move into the future. Today, in the final installment, I write about where we go from here.
As we move forward into this new sustainability landscape, what are our resources and risks?
The first risk is that we’ll run out of money. The majority of our funding comes from grants, and we have no new grants in the pipeline. As I pointed out above, the entire milieu is changing, and if we are to continue as an organization we must also change.
So, if we’re still relevant – and I believe we are and will be for a long time to come – how do we continue to be financially sustainable? We must stay true to our core values while changing our practices and strategies to adapt to this changing world. Stated simply, we should develop “earned income” – money that we make from our own enterprises – and rely less on grant funding.
And this brings up a second risk: inaction. We must start right away: If we don’t develop more income streams, we’re could run out of cash in 12-14 months. Yes, we will continue to seek grant funding, but we should be very focused and particular about it. And, at the same time, we need to get creative about other sources of revenue.
SFA has a bevy of assets and resources available to us:
- A great board of directors
- Chapters and Networking Groups
- Dedicated members
- Successful events
- Programs that could be modified to be “profitable”
- Solid infrastructure
Plus, we are a nimble, adaptable organization: When we see an opportunity, we can quickly act on it.
If SFA’s earned income paid for at least our basic operating costs – if such income streams became more than half of our revenue – then any grant funding would be extra. I know this is possible because at least one of our sister organizations is doing it.
At the October board meeting, I gave a homework assignment to the board members: come up with an idea for SFA to generate earned income. I’m now also asking for such ideas from you, our members. Personally, I believe that we can make our events more profitable. I also think that we can redouble our efforts with individual fundraising. What is it worth to each of us to help ensure that SFA continues and thrives? Are there philanthropists who would support our cause?
Finally, I believe it’s time to reinstate the practice that Chapters (and, now, Networking Groups) share in the cost of services provided to them by the association: database, insurance, staff time, website, promotion, and so on. At the October board meeting, I submitted the core of a proposal for a cost-sharing plan, and you’ll be hearing more about this in the next few months from your Chapter Delegates and other board members.
I’m looking forward to hearing your ideas and reactions to all this. And I’m looking forward to working with our new Executive Director in the exciting and challenging times ahead.