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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: Wow (#4)

in: PG; PG > 2016-07-12

Jul 12, 2016 10:24 PM # 
What a disappointment. If I'd wanted to give money to fund all orienteering disciplines, I would have done so. That was not what my, nor your, I am quite sure, intent.
Something seems really broken. (And I generally am very laissez faire about OUSA stuff.)
Jul 12, 2016 10:41 PM # 
JTESC -- including Erin -- discussed possible uses for the marathon donations before he brought them to OUSA leadership. However, the idea to include other O disciplines absolutely did NOT come from JTESC.
Jul 13, 2016 12:21 AM # 
I have to admit that I was disappointed that some of the money didn't get used immediately, like to fund travel to JWOC. I also did not like the vaugeness of how the money was to be spent. Did it for Peter, more than I did it for the Junior Fund, and I am still happy with that. However, the outcome did make me reconsider how I donate since then.
Jul 13, 2016 12:50 AM # 
Peter, first of all, you have nothing to apologize for. You did a wonderful thing, another in a series of your creative and effective initiatives.

The ED and President, on the other hand, have a lot to answer for, quite possibly to the IRS. Only $241 was undesignated, yet they have apparently converted all the restricted donations to undesignated. I have a receipt from Glen stating that my donation would be used as I requested but, according to these reports, that hasn't been done. How is that even legal?
Jul 13, 2016 12:58 AM # 
My understanding of OUSA accounting, is that the restricted team funds are not actually being treated as restricted. Look at the financial statements, and you don't find the carry over team funds that are the sum of extra OUSA contributions and fundraising for each team as a separate line item. They are all in the single cash account. The team funds account for a substantial percentage of the OUSA cash on hand at this point, and not breaking them out as funds restricted to that purpose makes the financials look much better. I know at least the ski-o team has $10000+ in its "account" now since we only spend every other year.
Jul 13, 2016 1:17 AM # 
When I took over handling the OUSA sportident inventory, I did so after being told that the money raised for equipment rental would be set aside to replace and upgrade the equipment. So, for the first couple of years, my efforts resulted in a nice amount in the epunch fund...but then the epunch money was absorbed after the new accounting method, or whatever hocus pocus occurred. After that, if I wanted to spend money, then I needed to ask (beg) for money. Screw that. Let's just say that rental income was never the same after that.
Jul 13, 2016 2:58 AM # 
I suppose the advantages of funneling one's economic contributions to orienteering through OUSA are to benefit from its 501c3 status. PG knows more than me what the other options could be. I didn't contribute to this laudable effort, so I have no leg to stand on, but I salute it from top to bottom. I certainly have contributed to orienteering, but I've found my own channels.

Ultimately, and I'm in minority in most circles I travel--government doesn't really work for me. And, I'll admit, this aversion is due as much to personality defects as it is to rational consideration. But, I've experienced it at all levels, and it really, really doesn't suit me. This situation is clearly par for the course.

Crawling back under my rock...
Jul 13, 2016 4:12 AM # 
Wow indeed.
Certainly no apology necessary Peter. Instead, I offer another "Thank-you".
Jul 13, 2016 11:07 AM # 
It would have been great to have been able to provide more funding for the junior training trip to Finland this year. Only a few US juniors took part, and the cost was high, because of air fare, transport, food and accommodation. The purpose of the trip, which took place a couple of weeks before JWOC training started, was to prepare for next year's JWOC (2017), and run Jukola. It was broadly open to any advanced US junior. I did advocate for marathon money to be put toward this training trip, but was told that the money was not to be spent on the teams, but on development. Because of the cost, I think a number of juniors did not go on this trip. (Disclosure: I am parent of a junior and therefore stood to benefit, but I was advocating for the money to be used to help people who needed it more.) I felt that while it was fine to think about supporting local development efforts, that wasn't happening quickly and here was an opportunity to support some actual kids wanting to actually train and get exposed to international orienteering.

JTESC needs to take back control of its budget. We had control over how to spend the money we had a few years ago, but then it seemed to slip out and now central OUSA management seems to be deciding and approving all major junior expenses.

I spoke with Glen a couple of days ago, and he told me that the $22k would be spread out in grants over the next 3 years, and recommended that I not ask for the full $7k that might be available the first year, because they'd be more likely to spread the money around in smaller amounts. (He was suggesting that I apply for a grant to support Navigation Games, the new non profit here in Cambridge trying to get city kids to orienteer.)

This spring, Navigation Games has supported juniors on three trips. We did a fundraiser to send two teams of Cambridge kids to the Interscholastics in March, raising thousands of dollars. We raised funds to send Cambridge kids to Boston Sprint Camp. And we ran an online fundraiser to send a track team to National competitions (in track); not orienteering, but trying to curry favor with the local track coaches. One of the purposes I had in mind in starting Navigation Games was to provide financial support for young athletes to travel. I have been thinking perhaps Navigation Games could do fundraising for the national US junior team, with money going directly the same year to travel costs, in proportion to need and/or training seriousness and/or orienteering community involvement. Goal would be that juniors who train hard all year don't have to pay to represent the USA at national and international competitions.

However, I'd prefer to see OUSA taking this on.

Peter, you are amazing and awesome and I completely am a 200% fan of yours. Thank you for your support of orienteering, which has completely made possible and influenced the entire course of my involvement in orienteering the past 5 years, and Erin's salary is only the start. There are so many things you have said that influence my orienteering life. Some random examples: keeping my head up & looking around for controls (opportunities). Come up with an idea and just do it (I think of that A meet you put on with Ali & Alex a few years ago in W MA for example). Rational, clear-headed, no-nonsense, get-it-done approach to everything. How open you are telling the stories of your struggle with cancer, or your struggle with, what was it, anger on the golf course? Just looking head on at yourself and deciding to change something. So many things, so many things.
Jul 13, 2016 6:58 PM # 
Thanks so much for sharing your views and information, Peter; I have been curious during the ED thread what your thoughts were on the matter. I really appreciate your tone on the matter - that we can and should find solutions and answers to these questions and find a way to move forward constructively rather than cast aspersions or apportion blame.

I am very grateful and impressed by your marathon fundraising effort. It's wonderful to see the community come together, and the subsequent mismanagement of the money does not diminish the magnanimity and value of the fundraising.

A few questions come to mind:
1. I think you need an ED.
I want to back up and make sure I understand; why do you need an ED? Is it that the national federation, without a paid supervisory position, won't get anything done? To borrow Clem's libertarian outlook, what is the role of OUSA? I see at least two options: the first is a minimalist organization that provides insurance, coordinates funds for the national teams, and provides a few club resources and knowledge sharing. The second is much more proactive, with national advertising and marketing, coordinates events, and liaises with businesses and government.

3. Nothing (well, almost nothing) ever gets done by talking about it on AP.
Wholeheartedly agreed. What tangible outcome should we pursue? A petition with N signatures to the BoD to release the current ED and change the role? A push to get entirely new membership on the Board? If the current leadership is incapable of changing, we need new leaders, right? I think after six years and $600k+ on this ED experiment, the body of OUSA is sufficiently dissatisfied that we have quorum on changing this.
Jul 13, 2016 9:31 PM # 
The risk of burning down your house is that being homeless sucks.

I've determined we have gotten the government we deserve in orienteering (or, the best we could expect) and that throwing the bums out may feel good until we realize that it's hard to do better.

Orienteering isn't exactly suffused with high EQ executives or visionaries (not that those are sufficient for a highly functioning organization.) We have a surfeit of socially awkward smart people. Beneficial in organizations, too, but not as your only building block.
Jul 13, 2016 9:35 PM # 
And if you care what I'd like as a starting point for my OUSA government--provision of public goods would be great.
Jul 14, 2016 5:08 AM # 
I should start by saying that when I donated to OUSA 15 months ago as a result of PG's awesomeness, I didn't know I would currently be sitting in a room in Switzerland coaching the Junior Team when this discussion came up. So red what I have to say knowing I have an obvious bias.

I made a donation to the Junior Team, and I am dismayed about the suggested use of these funds, particularly the emphasis on non-elite junior orienteering. While I am a big advocate of both, the Junior Team is by nature an elite venture, and that was why I donated. Yes, you build your elite by development, but by focussed, top driven, strong programs, not by wishy washy uncoordinated grant applications. Erin already has a full time job in his current position - where is he going to find the time to travel to support these training days? This is not a clear development plan, it's a cop out.

We need to get together to do something about this - make our discontent shown, but also offer a clear plan for how to make the best use of this incredible donation. We made it, we should be able to direct it. Erin and I have been talking all week about what we would do given funds, and we have some ideas. I'm not willing to put them out here without having him next to me while I write. They are all about team coherence and would cost a fraction of the money available, leaving plenty to think of bigger goals (which Erin also has ideas for, that were shot down).

Final question - is the ED contract at will?
Jul 14, 2016 6:34 AM # 
Jtesc needs to be the governing body again, where we are in tune with our coach, and spending a lot of time on conference calls going through ideas, wording, logistics. It is frustrating to then see things vetoed or as mere suggestions. Although I sometimes think "why bother", my hopes for the future of US juniors under Erin's guidance as well as great coaches like Becky and Boris make me stay 110% behind their efforts and ideas.
Jul 14, 2016 6:51 AM # 
A couple of weeks after the marathon, I (as JTESC Chair) asked Peter if he had any thoughts on how to spend the money; he offered the following...

"I enjoy seeing more juniors at events, and I enjoy seeing them get better."

To me that sounds like junior training and development.
Jul 14, 2016 11:44 AM # 
I'd think it would be pretty easy to get a petition together to express displeasure (outrage?) at the handling of the funds, signed by all of the people who donated during the marathon effort. (Well, all but one, excluding the largest donor who kicked in half of the money, but it's not clear that she knew she was doing that anyway.)
Jul 14, 2016 1:13 PM # 
I agree with Guy. As someone who gave (a little) of the money, I agree that the money should be used for the juniors (as designated), that it should have been put to use more quickly, and that it should be used for something significant. I disagree with the notion that it be used purely for the top juniors (JWOC or National Team). It's easier to raise more money to support the kids going to JWOC, let's use this money for the kids who want to get there.
Jul 14, 2016 1:36 PM # 
With all due respect, Cristina, donations that were made for the Junior Team are restricted funds that are to be used for that purpose. OUSA has tax-exempt status, which it seems to be risking by planning to appropriate funds donated for a specific purpose to distribute as the ED and President see fit. Peter's marathon fundraising was quite clearly for the Junior Team, though donors were free to direct their donations where they chose, and the updates from Robin in Peter's log showed the majority of the money as being given for the Junior Team. I don't know how you designated your donation at the time, but mine was clearly for the Junior Team and I am not at all happy that it's sitting in the bank all this time later while the leadership vetoes proposals by the Junior Team Coach and makes vague plans to use it for purposes other than the donors' intentions.
Jul 14, 2016 1:51 PM # 
This is distressing that such an awesome act by an incredible person would be followed (fouled) up by such incompetence. Our donation was for the Junior [Foot-O] Team; our expectation was that the funds would be used by the team last year (but given the incredible generosity of the donors, rolling some into 2016 would have been reasonable). I know that this will affect our future decisions on donations.
Jul 14, 2016 1:57 PM # 
Some further thoughts --

1. Questions have been raised about what the marathon funds were intended to be used for.

When Erin was originally hired, it was mainly due to three things: his availability and interest, Barb's enthusiasm and organization efforts, and my access to family funds that were reserved for charitable purposes. An opportunity presented itself and my opinion about it was, as has been true at other times in my O' life -- just do it. So we did.

As time went by, I loved seeing the progress. I loved seeing more serious young orienteers at events. In a sport with an aging participant base, I loved that something was being done that totally focused on the juniors. All that is still the case.

If you asked me at any time what I hoped would happen as time went by, I would have said that I hoped that the best juniors would get better, and also that there would be many more juniors near or at the level of our best ones. So better and also a broader pool.

2. Throughout this whole experiment with the junior coach, I have hesitated to dictate anything about what he should be doing. Personally, I didn't really want the level of involvement that would entail. Been there, done that, enough in my life. And I have felt that for a competent organization, a donor that gives them flexibility is some to be treasured.

So when it came to the use of the marathon funds, I had no wish to dictate. They still asked what my wishes were. My response was along the lines of the above -- I hoped to see both more and better competitive juniors. And I also said that I thought there could be better uses than just paying all the expenses of the JWOC team (and that's the 2015 team), all the money just for that. It would be nice to do something that had impact on a longer term.

To the extent that donors desired and expected the funds to go specifically to elite (meaning either just the JWOC team, or the wider Junior Team, or the wider Development Team, not sure which?) -- then blame me for that not happening, don't blame the federation. It didn't occur to me to poll the donors, for example, or set up some sort of advisory group, or whatever. I just basically gave my "broader and better" opinion, said I didn't want to get more involved, and forgot about it.

Again, to the extent any of the funds have seemed like they were not going to be spent as you wished or expect, blame me.

Up to a point.

3. My first complaint in my log posting of a couple days ago was that way too much time has passed in which nothing has been done. This is absolutely true. And ought to be embarrassing. Really embarrassing.

I also wrote, "Proposals by the Junior Coach had been essentially vetoed by the President and the ED. I'm not aware of any involvement of the Junior Team ESC." I cannot quote chapter and verse on these two sentences, but I believe there is a lot of truth in them, and neither is a good thing. I may have more to say about this at a later time.

4. My second complaint was that now, 15 months later, the Board minutes reflect what appears be almost a panic to get rid of the money — quick, somebody come up with some ideas, and don’t worry, pretty much anything can be eligible. MTBO? Trail-O? Seriously?

To say that I, and I suspect many of the other donors, feel disrespected (and pissed) is quite the understatement.

5. OUSA has always been an organization run by volunteers, and so I’ve always cut folks a lot of slack. As I do with the current volunteers at all levels of the organization.

But we also have a professional Executive Director, and I think it is reasonable to hold him to higher standards. And in my view he comes up way short. I have asked more than once about the things organizations normally do -- evaluations, goals, priorities, reports on accomplishments and problems -- and got nowhere enough times that I just gave up. By all appearances he will be ED as long as he wishes.

I don't know what the answer is. I don't know what the job should look like. I just know that the return on investment we are getting is terrible. To anyone who wants to take this on, more power to you. Just remember that posting on AP almost always accomplishes nothing.

6. Regarding the future of the Junior Coach, I would like to keep it going, but the last 15 months has left me wondering how to proceed. To the extent that Becky and Andrea and hopefully many others get and stay involved with making good things happen -- and sometimes not waiting for permission, just doing it -- then my enthusiasm and willingness to continue writing checks will certainly be increased.

As I get old, as I no longer have the desire or the ability to run around in the woods, as I no longer wish to take on the responsibility and the stress of organizing events, I thought that I could get a lot of pleasure and do some good in the process by writing some decent-sized checks to the federation and the sport that has brought me some wonderful experiences over the years.

I really distresses me to think that I was wrong.
Jul 14, 2016 2:15 PM # 
With all due respect, Cristina, donations that were made for the Junior Team are restricted funds that are to be used for that purpose.

Absolutely, and nothing I said goes against that. I would just rather see the money go to helping with the development/regional teams than with the National/JWOC team. A pilot program involving a part-time paid coach and increased resources for one Regional Team, for instance, would be a fantastic use of the money. Using all of it to pay for travel and JWOC expenses seems like a misguided use of the money, IMHO.

All that said, I think when people give to a restricted fund they are also trusting the people in charge of the program to do with it what they think is best. It should be up to JTESC and the coach, and if the majority on JTESC disagreed with me of course I'd go along with using the money how the rest saw fit.
Jul 14, 2016 2:28 PM # 
My view from JTESC:

We had some discussions about what to do with the money (starting on April 27th last year), and admittedly we did not quickly unify around a single idea -- we were still sending emails around about it two months later. (And I will admit now to having some pretty bad ideas, but it was brainstorming...) The consensus seemed to be to use it for something bigger than regular travel expenses, but there little agreement beyond that. Then one day we were informed that the money was to be spread out over several years and it seemed out of our hands.

We did a few things wrong: we acted too slowly, and we let the Board dictate to us about distribution of the funds. We screwed up.

It's not too late to make things better, though.
Jul 14, 2016 2:46 PM # 
Yes, we're more in agreement than not, Cristina. I just was reacting to the idea of retroactively changing the direction of funds that were donated specifically for the (existing) Team.

My expectations for the money, though, are probably most in line with Becky's posting above. I'm not against any of the money going for development, but it should be focused development, as Becky said. And I would trust the coach and JTESC to make the best decisions on using the money. In fact, that's exactly who I thought would be making the decisions.
Jul 14, 2016 4:05 PM # 
Another POI...
As per the Rules -- G.2.2.a, specifically -- JTESC "is responsible for the development of junior-age orienteers in the USA."

This includes both numerical and competitive development

Therefore, our budget, which includes all "Junior Team" donations, can be spent on the teams -- for training and offsetting the costs of travel -- and on development --promotion and other activities aimed at increasing the number of junior orienteers.
Jul 14, 2016 4:41 PM # 
Ah, I think I see that there's a disconnect. When a JTESC member sees "Junior Team funds", we think "money for all the junior things that we have". When someone in the general O public sees "Junior Team funds" they think "JWOC Team".

@Guy, I guess JTESC should work on communication.
Jul 14, 2016 6:01 PM # 
If I get word that any of that money goes to Trail-O (or, to be fair, any of a number of other non-Junior things that I might be more interested in), it won't be pretty.

I'm with Cristina, btw, in that "Junior Team" doesn't necessarily mean "JWOC Team".

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