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Discussion: 2017 OUSA Budget proposal

in: Orienteering; General

Dec 15, 2016 4:40 AM # 
The 2017 OUSA Budget proposal was among the discussion points at the December 12 OUSA Board teleconference. Previously, the Board agreed to hold a discussion on the December 12 meeting, solicit feedback from the community, and vote on the budget and any modifications at the December 19 teleconference this coming Monday.

The OUSA Finance Committee, after numerous meetings in October and November, has proposed a budget to the Board of Directors for approval. One finding of the analysis by the finance committee was that OUSA has been deficit spending its unrestricted - or operating - funds at a rate of about $40,000 per year over the past five years. The amount of cash on hand that OUSA has is exceeded by the restricted and board designated money. That is, OUSA has committed or received committed money that is greater than the amount of money it has available. Assessing and addressing this issue has been the primary objective of finance committee, and one of our main goals has been to budget such that OUSA returns to a position of financial stability (see the Report on OUSA Financial status below).

Key points from the 2017 Budget Proposal:
0. The budget proposal more clearly indicates the distinction between unrestricted and restricted income and expenses than past accounting reports. The budget proposal only covers the unrestricted income; while we encourage and anticipate restricted donations (e.g. to the teams, to marketing, to specific programs), they will necessarily already be allocated by the donor. The programs and teams that receive those restricted funds will be able to spend them upon receipt.

1. The Finance committee prepared two budgets - one with funding for the Executive Director, and one without. In our budget, the ED version projects a $4,800 surplus of unrestricted funds, while the version without the ED projects a $35,000 surplus. The Finance committee recommended the budget without the Executive Director to the Board.

2. The Finance Committee is exploring online accounting software to enable more transparent and complete views of the breakdowns of restricted and unrestricted funds by program. This is in progress and has no specific motions brought before the Board presently.

3. The current budget is austere with respect to the unrestricted funds reflecting the priority of the finance committee to balance the budget and build up a reserve. For example, no unrestricted money in the two budgets is budgeted for teams, marketing for clubs, and junior development programs - all of which are strategic priorities as laid out by the Board of Directors, consistent with our mission statement. While the financial situation necessitates leaner spending than in the past, making some unrestricted allocations to these programs was discussed at the 12/12 Board call. Furthermore, if income exceeds our somewhat conservative projections, revisions to the budget can be made at the discretion of the Board throughout the year. Donations to the 50th anniversary fund (which are restricted) - to be used for marketing, club websites, and environmental and land access programs - will also be used in 2017 as part of broad Club Growth programs.

Finance Report Cover Letter
Report on OUSA Financial Status
Budget Proposal Cover Letter
2017 Budget Proposal

The JTESC rules proposals received a lot of attention and meaningful commentary on attackpoint and clubnet. I want to also draw your attention to the budget discussion, which will impact policy for OUSA in the year ahead. A lot of people have put considerable time and effort into the financial analysis and budget proposal, and your input will be valuable as the Board of Directors decides how to proceed for 2017.
Dec 15, 2016 5:24 PM # 
Thanks Ian. Very interesting. The whole 2017 Budget seems to hinge on the decision to eliminate the Executive Director next month...or not.

This has been a subject that has in the past, been extensively discussed on a/p and elsewhere. And most of those discussions have compared the original Strategic Plan to actual metrics as the years have passed. Do we have such an exhibit, updated for 2016?

Greg Lennon, in opposing the dismissal of the ED, makes some interesting points. And I'd like more information. Where can OUSA membership obtain details about the ED's performance? What has Glen been doing lately? Were goals established for him for 2016, and has he met most of them?
Dec 15, 2016 6:59 PM # 
One of the positives Glen has brought is sponsorship money paid to local clubs by local convention and visitor bureaus. When Glen makes an agreement with a state or local tourist bureau, there is a sponsorship payment directly to OUSA. Those direct payments have not been enough to acheive one desired Executive Director metric of the ED position paying for itself.

However, each of those payments to OUSA has been matched by a payment to the hosting local club. How does that benefit OUSA itself? Well, sanctioning fees for national events were significantly increased. So, much of that extra sponsorship income to local clubs has gone right back to OUSA through the higher sanctioning fees. Although this money doesn't show up as a direct result of the Exec Director's work, it is in fact an indirect result when those sanctioning fees end up back in the OUSA budget.

As an example, over the last several years, Orienteering Cincinnati has been a recipient of substantial sponsorship funding from local and state tourism, that is solely a direct result of Glen's efforts. And guess which OUSA member club has contributed by far the most total Sanctioning Fee dollars to OUSA over the last 7 years? (BAOC and GAOC are second and third). So, thanks Glen for bringing OCIN this support, which, while helping OCIN to host our annual national events in new and exciting places, has also contributed substantially to funding the OUSA budget in recent years.

I should add that Glen has also been very instrumental in working with land owners to get permission to use a number of areas where meets otherwise might not have been held. With the backing of local tourist bureaus (orchestrated by Glen), it has been possible to gain access to both public and private lands where owners might otherwise have balked at giving permission.

Bottom line, if we are to do away with the ED position, we need to look deeply at all that the ED has done and determine who will take on these activities or which ones we can do without.
Dec 15, 2016 7:05 PM # 
My comments are about the impact on clubs and other programs from *any* budget proposal, not just the proposed budget removing funding for the Executive Director position.

That (proposed) budget does significantly decrease the % of OUSA resources allocated to clubs, but my point is that without program based accounting, it's hard to understand impacts and make good choices. The Finance Committee is in general agreement about this, but the majority felt there just wasn't enough time to get a handle on program spending (which would have included looking at all spending, not just on the ED) since we are obligated to propose a budget before year-end.

Clubs provide the lion's share of income to OUSA, only some of which comes back to benefit them. As VP of Clubs, I do not want to see the % of OUSA resources devoted to clubs go down, let alone see the drop in $ going directly to clubs from event sponsorships (which while technically outside the OUSA budget, is important to clubs nonetheless). I'm advocating for making budget choices based on really knowing the impact of those choices. If we need more time to get that in place, as the Finance Committee believes, we should pass the $5K surplus "with ED" budget now and then modify it in 2017 when we can justify the changes - and when we can show that those changes are in alignment with our goals, and, are not coming at the expense of our clubs.
Dec 15, 2016 7:32 PM # 
@mikeminium: I think it is excellent that OCIN has benefited from the sponsorships brought in by Glen. If this had been the case for a large number of clubs, then the ED position would be paying for itself, and we would not be forced to have to make such a difficult decision.

Unfortunately, the total sponsorships that are being brought in are not off-setting the cost of the ED position, which has forced OUSA to raise sanctioning fees.

In fact, OUSA could pay OCIN the amount that was raised in sponsorships and still have a financial surplus if the ED position was terminated.

I agree completely that we need to make sure that the gains made by the ED do not disappear if the position were eliminated, and I also believe that a professional ED is absolutely in the future of this organization, but not until we are back in a state of financial solvency.
Dec 15, 2016 8:12 PM # 
Isn't it about time for "Sammy" to weigh in?
Dec 15, 2016 8:33 PM # 
Glen Schorr:
I think that Sammy is out orienteering. At least I hope he is.
Dec 15, 2016 8:40 PM # 
In fact, OUSA could pay OCIN the amount that was raised in sponsorships and still have a financial surplus if the ED position was terminated.

"Could" does not necessarily equate to "would"...

So, cutting to the chase, what exactly would be funded if we dropped the ED position, that would not be funded if we kept the ED?

Unless I misinterpreted something, it appears that the teams would not receive unrestricted funds under either scenario...
Dec 15, 2016 9:10 PM # 
As should be clear from the analysis done by the Finance Committee, over the past 5-6 years we have spent all of the ~$200,000 savings we had in the bank. Our annual expenses have been on average $40,000 more than our income. (I am leaving restricted funds out of the picture.) We simply can't afford to continue paying for the ED position. In fact, we need to have a budget surplus for a few years in order to fill in the hole, and get back to where we have a reasonable operating fund.

To repeat: we have been paying for the ED position not only with increased fees for clubs but also by spending down our bank account, and even borrowing from funds set aside by donors or the board for specific other purposes. We have run out of money.

Kris and others on the Board have been actively working to catalog and figure out how to handle the administrative functions currently handled by the ED, through volunteers and part-time staff. They are confident we will be able to move forward and even thrive, with some changes in how we operate.

All of this discussion is about unrestricted funds, which have been spent down. However, we do have significant donor-restricted and board-designated net assets. In 2017, there will be money for teams as well as for programs benefiting clubs. Thanks to the 50k fundraiser, for example, we have over $30,000 that will be available in 2017 for programs for clubs that we currently do not fund (things like mapper development, help with club websites, and land access). We will spend approximately the same as we did this year for other club benefits like insurance. We will not be able to pay for a full-time ED, but we are likely to be able to afford part-time paid staff, if necessary, to cover other projects of benefit to clubs.

We have benefited for several years from a full-time ED, and as reported in a recent ONA, we are better off as an organization in many ways. We just can't afford to continue with that model. I personally believe that we have the ability, as a community, to get through this difficult time, find ways to grow the sport, provide more value for clubs, bring in more income, and hopefully end up in a place, in a few years, where we can afford to hire more staff. But right now, we need to look, clear-eyed, at our financial situation, and make the right decision.
Dec 15, 2016 10:04 PM # 
Even if OUSA could afford the ED position--and the Finance Committee has done exhaustive work and has provided a recommendation that answers that question--it doesn't address the question of whether or not we have the right person filling the ED position currently. It is unambiguously clear to me that we do not. The passage of more time is not going to improve the matter.
Dec 15, 2016 10:30 PM # 
This is not a matter of what the ED has been doing or what direction he was given. This is purely a discussion of affordability and how resources are allocated. The question is: Can OUSA afford an ED at the level that we are paying one now? If we keep an ED, then it looks like we are projected to have $4K in surplus, assuming we bring in the projected amount of income. This is with no new money given to the teams, little funding outside of “lights on, ” but with $25K in spending on new club programs from the non-recurring 50th Anniversary Fund. If we choose not to keep an ED, then for 2017, we’ll have a surplus of $35K, again assuming we bring in the projected income. This could go towards building back up our operating reserves, money for the teams, for marketing, or for other growth programs, but in either case volunteers or a part-time employee would have to take on the higher priority responsibilities that the ED was doing, which fall equally into three buckets: club support, fundraising, and lights on/marketing/teams.
Dec 15, 2016 10:39 PM # 
Just to raise the question, is there a middle ground in which an ED could do some of the listed tasks above (for perhaps half the annual compensation), and volunteers the rest? How many hours of work are we talking for those tasks?
Dec 15, 2016 10:44 PM # 
Do we have expertise within our volunteer pool to cover ED responsibilities sufficiently, without effectively needing an almost full-time part-time employee or equivalent employees?
Dec 15, 2016 11:09 PM # 
The Finance Committee did not address or evaluate that; it was considered outside the remit.
Dec 15, 2016 11:21 PM # 
This community has a lot of information about what OUSA needs and even deserves from its management. It would be helpful if you would let us know.

For example, I had a great talk with Robin S the other day. There are quite a few mundane but reasonably time-consuming things like receiving and processing snail mail (including government correspondence) and email. There are a few boxes of papers and stuff that need to live somewhere. We haven't identified a resource to take those on.

What else?
Dec 15, 2016 11:42 PM # 
re Jim's question: no other significant expense categories were considered by the Finance Committee for complete elimination (other than the ED position), and, no effort was spent considering partial reduction of either the ED position or any other expense category.

This is another reason to support program accounting - and program reviews - before we make budget choices. We should be systematically and periodically evaluating all of our programs, including the allocation and accounting for restricted and unrestricted funds, and we should make sure we are returning value to our clubs and members.

If we choose to allocate our resources (financial or volunteer) differently, that's fine, but let's do it in a manner that (1) doesn't reduce the % of OUSA resources going back to our clubs (unless we also reduce what we collect from them), and (2) is based on a thorough ROI analysis, including regular performance reviews of staff and contractors.
Dec 16, 2016 12:50 AM # 
Possibly dumb question...

What's the "remit"?
Dec 16, 2016 1:20 AM # 
+1 to Swampfox. If the ED position is funded, new candidates for the position should be considered.
Dec 16, 2016 4:21 AM # 
The statements about whether other ways to save money were considered are not correct. The Finance Committee went over expense categories looking for possible savings. In the proposed budget, we completely eliminated all unrestricted funds going to the teams (over objections). We zeroed out several other categories. We had in-depth discussions about some key categories. We often decided to propose continued funding for things that we believe provide value to clubs or members (ONA, website, membership database). We have a record of these deliberations in the form of a recorded history of alterations to a shared spreadsheet showing the changes we made during and in between our Finance Committee meetings.

Partial reduction was not only considered; in fact, that is the proposal. The proposed budget would allocate approximately 50% of this year's budget on the ED role in 2017. This includes 2 months of work from the current ED plus funding for a part-time resource to be deployed in the most effective way possible, pending the outcome of the ongoing needs analysis.

If we choose to continue to allocate our resources as we have been, it will rapidly lead the organization into financial irregularities, and *then* we would surely be failing the clubs. What we owe to the clubs is not to continue paying for a resource they cannot afford, but rather we owe it to the clubs to stop this practice, and to manage their federation in a manner that is fiscally responsible. I don't mean to blame anyone personally, as the information was certainly available not just to the board but to all of us in OUSA via the published financial reports and the board meeting notes - so if anyone is to blame, we are all to blame. And we are all trying to fix it now.

As I explained above, the clubs are not going to suffer in 2017. There will be more money for some projects than in 2016 thanks to restricted 50k funds; and insurance, membership and other club benefits will continue to be covered as usual. Unrestricted funding of US team travel will drop to 0%, from around 6% in 2016 and 10% in 2015. In addition, both clubs and teams will have to bear the austerity of doing without a full-time ED; but people are working hard on how best to cover for that.

Finally, that we need both program (club benefits, member benefits, teams, etc) and fund (source of money, including whether restricted, unrestricted or board-designated) accounting is agreed by all of the Finance Committee. Within that Committee, we are making progress toward implementing an accounting and reporting system that makes it easier to manage the organization and get things done, while being more transparent. Nobody is fighting against this idea, that I know of. The need for these improvements does not negate the fact that we've been spending more than we have, while still not being able to spend on all the program activities that we want. We need to stop deficit spending and build back up our bank account to an appropriate level.
Dec 16, 2016 5:03 AM # 
>programs for clubs that we currently do not fund (things like mapper development,....

OMG, that should have been top priority all the way.
Instead burning money by paying to administrator at CEO level. Same failing mentality that doubled national debt in less than a decade.
Dec 16, 2016 5:53 AM # 
Thanks all for the feedback and inquiries. OUSA has several goals outlined in its mission statement, and the challenge of our time for the organization is to reverse this trend - the decline of club members, OUSA members, and national meet starts by 10-30% over the past 9 years. I wholeheartedly echo Barb's statement above.

In light of the current fiscal challenges for OUSA, both budgets given to the OUSA Board by the Finance Committee are austere, with $0 of unrestricted money allocated to teams and major growth programs like marketing and publicity, junior development, and club support. The Junior Team coach is funded by private donation, and the only money currently budgeted for growth programs is restricted, e.g. the 50th anniversary fund. The "With ED" budget projects a $5k unrestricted surplus only by stripping down the organizational activities to the barebones - insurance, ONA, and the upkeep programs that keep the lights on for OUSA like accounting, website, administration, and apparently medals. Under this budget, the only effort actually funded by OUSA and by revenues from clubs to address the growth problem would be the ED position itself, and there is no particular reason to think those efforts would be any more effective than they have been over these past seven years.

Even under the recommended budget without the Executive Director, 2017 will be a transition year. There are contractual financial obligations to the Executive Director, however assuming paid services of an Executive Director are not obtained in the year ahead, all other things equal, 2018 will have a substantial surplus. The goals of the Board of Directors broadly are growth executed via paid marketing and publicity; club support programs, instruction, and materials; and junior development. Teams, which under the current budget are receiving no unrestricted support, are also important to the Board of Directors. The precise implementation of growth efforts is being considered (and we welcome ideas) but to GuyO's point earlier, the ED and funding for growth and club support programs are mutually exclusive.

Several other options besides a boolean decision on the Executive Director position were considered, and as barb points out, the current proposal is a partial solution. I also disagree with Greg_L's position that we need to make a more comprehensive assessment of the value of our activities. The current financial picture and the financial consequences of inaction could be devastating to the organization. We have invested tremendous time and attention to establishing a clear picture, and we could invest countless volunteer hours slicing the data and constructing metrics to assess the value of every OUSA endeavor, but we have sufficient data to act.

The overhead ratio for OUSA hasn't been explicitly calculated (and the time allocations of staff are not publicly available, against my desires), but a substantial chunk of OUSA's unrestricted funds presently go to administration. In my view, this leaves far too little funds available to pursue the actual goals of the organization. I disagree that a paid executive director (even in a more limited role) is necessary or even clearly beneficial for our organization; the opportunity cost is simply too high right now. We need to focus on growing the organization, and once our financial situation is more stable and we have returned to healthy growth, paid staff will be feasible.
Dec 16, 2016 7:31 AM # 
Barb: How long do you feel it would take to (1) implement program and fund accounting, and (2) have a reasonably objective consensus on programmatic ROI under several budget scenarios?
Dec 16, 2016 2:54 PM # 
I am not seeing where revenue from sponsorships from Icebug & others is being put. Is that also going to local clubs?
Dec 16, 2016 6:35 PM # 
This is another reason to support program accounting - and program reviews - before we make budget choices. We should be systematically and periodically evaluating all of our programs,

Lets cut thru the BS. Anyone with a brain, an internet connection, and Excel knows that the ED program is the black hole in the room that has sucked the finances dry while producing nothing on the key metrics such as starts and revenue that were promised 7 or 8 years ago or whenever it was. All that has increased has been race fees to support this black hole, and I could have done that myself with a phone and a pen and zero compensation. Its great what it has apparently done for a particular Ohio club, but who cares? Can that be quantified against the overall expense over 8 years? Is it worth a possible liquidity event and negative ROI for the entire federation? Do we really need a "program review" to see that this thing was a failure? C'mon people, the emperor has no clothes. There, I said it cuz no one else would. Captain Obvious works in mysterious ways sometimes.

So, some say I'm always negative and never offer solutions. Not true; I've offered tons of solutions to improve the actual product (moreso than the ED, IMHO, all for free), and you can look for these posts if you want to, as well as the solution to defund this thing to save y'all some money. That's positive in my book. Not only that, I just offered a positive algorithm on Clubnet to manage the (putative) transition. And it will actually work and save a ton of money, and starts etc., will be unaffected.

So, I'll offer one more thing. I'll propose to do the present necessary ED tasks myself. I'll do this for 40K a year, 0 expenses except as follows (no , OUSA does not have to pay for my phone, as in the original ED contract as I recall it, and so on). As for expenses, all board meetings east of the Mississippi will be attended at my expense; all west at OUSA's expense (but no food; cuz I'd have to eat anyway).

Not only that, I'll log my time, and in the event that my effort comes in at less than 40K (using $15/hr), the difference will be split between the JR and SR teams. So, if the amt of effort I put in is 15K (which is where I expect it will be), the teams each get 12.5K.

This is a bona fide proposal, pending significant details to be contractually worked out. I can see how the board would want an individual other than me, but I encourage them to consider this, and similar proposals brought forward by other individuals, if they choose to do so.

This is a solution. What I posted today on clubnet is a solution. Others may post solutions, and I hope they do. Funding this black hole into federation illiquidity is not a solution.
Dec 19, 2016 1:45 AM # 
A reminder that the Board will take a vote on the proposed 2017 OUSA budget tomorrow night. If you have strong feelings one way or the other, reach out to board members and make your feelings known. Not all the board members read AP, but you can email board members directly or ask one of us to post a message to BoardNet.
Dec 19, 2016 2:55 AM # 
All board member email addresses can be found on the OUSA website. Look down at the bottom of the opening page and click on board members.
Dec 19, 2016 3:14 AM # 
Dec 19, 2016 1:04 PM # 
Greg asked: "Barb: How long do you feel it would take to (1) implement program and fund accounting, and (2) have a reasonably objective consensus on programmatic ROI under several budget scenarios?"

To answer #1: the timelines depend on the availability of the people who are figuring out how to do it. We've been focused on the 2017 budget the past few months; I'm guessing that changing our accounting system will be at least as difficult. Some of the things we need to tackle:

  1. Detailed description of all of our requirements for the new system, working backwards from the reports we need and forward from the day-to-day accounting tasks that Robin can best describe
  2. Decide all the buckets - create an updated chart of accounts, with all three dimensions: (1) regular income/expense/asset/liability categories, (2) program, (3) net asset = fund accounts for different restrictions and board designations.
  3. Decide our new accounting protocols
  4. Know exactly how each requirement would be met in the systems under consideration, and try it out with modified 2016 data, then decide on the best choice.
  5. Determine who is going to be responsible for each type of task in the new system; this decision is tightly related to the technology we decide on.

I think it would be a bad idea to make a decision about a new system without understand how we would meet all of our requirements.
It has become clear to me in the Xero and Aplos demos and trials that no system has everything that we want out of the box.
Also, it's become clear that regardless of what system we get, we need to do the work to decide on how we are going to do the accounting, and what policies and procedures we will have around it.
On the positive side, it's also clear that we can build a system (not just technology, but how we use it) that would make things easier for us in the future.

One of the solutions we should consider is continuing with Quickbooks, but with updated accounts and reporting.
Figuring out how to change the accounts in the current system should translate fairly directly if we end up deciding to go with a different system.

Second question: to know what value we are getting for investment in different programs is important. We can certainly look at the purely financial side of this question (eg how much money are we spending on programs for clubs, vs how much money are we receiving from clubs). That is easier than the more important conversation, which talks about non-financial value as well, and gets to how well we are achieving our mission. Looking purely at numbers, the ED position has been a clear loss financially. When we talk about the non-financial value we have gotten from that position, it would probably take us quite a while to get to consensus. I don't think it is a good use of our time to hash over the past, beyond making sure that we learn from it. Rather, I think we should look to the future and figure out the best way to get back on our feet and then invest in ways that will be more likely to provide both financial return and, above all, address our mission.
Dec 20, 2016 2:24 AM # 
On tonight’s OUSA Board of Directors call, the 2017 budget proposal that contained no financing for an Executive Director position was passed. The Executive Committee will meet this week to officially terminate that position due to lack of funding and will begin the transition plan. There is still much work to be done on fine-tuning the budget, but at least now we have a clearer picture of how much money we have to work with.

I would like to thank Pat Meehan and the Finance Committee for all of the hours they have worked in the past few months to help everyone understand the current situation. I would also like to thank Glen Schorr for his help and dedication as our Executive Director.
Dec 20, 2016 4:57 AM # 
I'd like to extend a sincere thank you to Glen for all of his work to help move orienteering forward in North America. I know precisely how much work it is to be an ED of a national orienteering association in North America and I'm grateful to Glen. It's been a pleasure working with him.
Charlotte, Orienteering Canada Communications Director (& former President and ED)
Dec 20, 2016 6:46 AM # 
I have followed this discussion with interest. I fully understand the dilemma that the O-USA powers that be found themselves in. Having served for years on the Council of a municipality that succeeded in becoming debt free (Nepean; not Ottawa) I know something of the travails of budgeting when wants and even needs exceed the ability to pay.
In the current situation I just hope the rumors are not true and that the new Board will now find ways to spend the liberated 'shortfall' on team travels and even team stipends.
But going way back up this discussion stack to Mike Minium's comments on Glen's work opening doors with local tourism authorities let me say that if you ever get to enjoy a national event or national championships in Florida I hope you will remember to thank Glen. He has opened doors that have some local counties asking us - actually asking the two clubs (soon to be three) to consider putting on national level events and that is something we are now considering. We would not even look at such a risky project given the currently high sanctioning fees, controller cost, etc. However with the prospect of local authority sponsorship and support more becomes possible.
(These funds from local tourist authorities are raised by that extra line of taxation on your hotel bill. They spend it on projects like this to keep the hotels fuller and thus paying more of that 'destination tax'.)
Dec 20, 2016 12:41 PM # 
Thanks to Glen for all his work. I have enjoyed working with him on the safety committee, doing PR for the juniors, and on the board. I especially appreciate his support for the juniors; he always asks me about Isabel and is directly encouraging to her. The outreach he has done in Florida, OCIN land and elsewhere is a model I hope we can learn from. I do hope to get to one of those Florida meets. Above all I appreciate Glen's professional demeanor and approachability. Thank you!
Dec 20, 2016 2:37 PM # 
Glen was also a big help to Rochester in securing funds from the local sports authority for a couple of our championship meets. He also helped us negotiate an agreement with USA Deaf to host The Deaf Orienteering World Championships. He was a pleasure to work with and also displayed a very positive attitude toward the sport of Orienteering. We will miss working and interacting with him. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.
Dec 21, 2016 3:26 AM # 
What's the reasoning behind ONA being essential spending? It's not an advert for the sport, there's little of interest there that hasn't already appeared on AP (meet stories etc), it takes less than ten minutes to scan through before it's appointment with the recycle bin. I can think of a million things that should be prioritized over ONA in its current incarnation.
Dec 21, 2016 3:38 AM # 
@Becks - there was discussion with both the Finance Committee and the Board about reducing or cutting expenses on ONA. The general consensus was that ONA as a vehicle has potential for communication with the federation membership. It definitely needs improvement, but we aren't ready to give up on that particular vehicle of communication. Speaking only for myself, it's not clear to me how the totality of the membership consumes it. Also, it may be that only small changes to ONA's structure, format, or content can dramatically improve its reach.

You make a good point, and evaluation of our communication strategy and ONA in particular is a priority for the Board going forward.
Dec 21, 2016 3:45 AM # 
I haven't read my latest ONA, nor much of the previous. Nix it, and spend the money on beautiful brochures for clubs to hand out, or adapting the website for mobile. Or just balancing the budget.
Dec 21, 2016 3:47 AM # 
I agree it's a good potential vehicle, but not as it currently stands. I'd prefer any of Jim's options to the current ONA.
Dec 21, 2016 4:15 AM # 
Before making funeral arrangements, I think everyone better check out the Nov- Dec issue.

Over the last years, I've been disappointed with ONA more often than not, but I thought this one was fantastic, a model for what ONA could be, starting with the cover photo, and running through many real-O features for experts and beginners.

I think this issue conveys a great image to any potential orienteer who happens to pick it up, and fine entertainment for the already convinced.

Thanks no doubt to numerous contributors, and some great maps and courses to report on.
Dec 21, 2016 4:16 AM # 
When did it arrive Eric?
Dec 21, 2016 4:21 AM # 
starting with the cover photo

Am I the only one who thinks... wait, no... never mind.
Dec 21, 2016 4:21 AM # 
I think I've had mine at least one week.
Dec 21, 2016 4:44 AM # 
Speaking of the cover, each issue should have an F18 runner on it, and then the whole federation would be busy selecting the top one around Christmas time.
Dec 21, 2016 4:46 AM # 
...yeah, who knew that orienteering could involve good looking athletes, actually running.
Dec 21, 2016 5:02 AM # 
yeah, who knew that orienteering could involve good looking athletes, actually running.

Everyone who's ever seen me out on a course?
Dec 21, 2016 2:05 PM # 
The problem with content for ONA is related to "getting" good content. The November/December issue had lots of people writing for it. Often, however, the editor gets few if any articles. If people want to see how people run courses with the maps that go with it, someone has to provide that content. Perhaps, the teams should assign one team members to write one of these articles for each issue. It would be good advertising for the teams and would be great for others to see. Also, the people who read Attackpoint and are active on it do not represent the entire OUSA membership. Also, if ONA is sitting on a table in your house and a non-orienteering friend comes in, they might be able to see what the sport is all about, especially if many people are providing good content.
Dec 21, 2016 2:36 PM # 
Also, please keep in mind when you make your comments, that there is a person behind that magazine that works very hard to produce each issue.
Dec 21, 2016 2:43 PM # 
I love getting ONA. I think ONA is a good way to reach older people like me who come from a world where you'd curl up with a magazine and really savor it. Maybe it's a good way for us to keep in touch with potential donors too.

I'd like to see all of the ONA articles also online, and be able to search for old articles that I remember vaguely from the past.
Dec 21, 2016 3:17 PM # 
I'm sorry, I don't agree that it's a good advert for the sport if friends come round. The last issue but one was almost entirely about joint problems - why would my friends in their thirties want to have a go after flicking through that?

I understand there is a person behind this but as far as I understand it, this person is paid to do this job. Please correct me if I'm wrong. You cannot put all the responsibility back onto volunteers to create all the content - we're already extremely busy trying to cope with our full time jobs/coaching/trying to keep our own fitness afloat. Our juniors have insane high school schedules that don't leave much time for writing about their exploits. And if the finances of the organisation really are that dire, then everything has to be critically examined.

I subscribe to The Atlantic, New York Magazine, and the New York Times. I'm not averse to curling up with a magazine. It's not that that keeps me from getting into ONA.

People often compare ONA to Compass Sport, but that's not a fair comparison. Compass Sport is not a vehicle for the National Federation, it's essentially independent (and quite often antagonistic to BOF). It's more comparable to Focus, and I'm sure that BOF would provide some copies for people to have a look at. This used to be a terrible magazine, but has hit a much better target in the last few years.

I don't think I have received the winter issue yet, and when I do I promise to give it a fair shot.
Dec 21, 2016 4:13 PM # 
Another point is that ONA is a member benefit. It is paid for entirely from OUSA membership dues, which it turns out are revenue neutral against all the various costs of running the membership program - except perhaps the A-meet discount from sanctioning fees.

Given that the members are paying for ONA in its entirety right now, if they were to stop receiving ONA as a benefit they may well want at least some if not all of their money back that is going to pay for it.

There is a lot of discussion right now about communication and outreach which will cost money and volunteer time. Contributing to ONA is a way to put in some volunteer time to that end without any additional cost.

The vast majority of the contributions to OUSA come from older members who read ONA. Perhaps reading more about the great things that are being done in US orienteering on a regular basis would encourage people to stay engaged and continuing or even increasing their contributions.
Dec 21, 2016 4:16 PM # 
Wow--for a split second when I clicked on that link, I thought it was the OUSA site.

Anyone remember O-Sport? That was a great magazine. I actually have kept those old issues.
Dec 21, 2016 4:40 PM # 
I bet there is some fraction of the OUSA membership who would not continue with their membership if ONA were discontinued. A minority I'm reasonably sure, but not zero. Lots of ONA members are not active on AP as was pointed out. Also, there are many people, including some who are very active computer users, who just find it easier / more engaging to read articles, look at maps with courses drawn on them, etc., with hard copies rather than on screen.
Dec 21, 2016 6:28 PM # 
Given the vote that has already occurred, I wholeheartedly endorse Randy's proposal.
Dec 21, 2016 8:31 PM # 
For the record, OUSA “pays” us a set amount per magazine and this amount is well below the actual cost of producing the magazine. In fact, each year we spend $1000-$2000 over what OUSA pays us. Over the years, the cumulative amount of this paid-in capital is well in excess of $25,000. Part of this is because we have not fully passed along price increases and have never raised advertising rates in the 16 years we’ve run the magazine. We feel that it is important to get orienteering out in front of people on a regular basis and provide a forum for communication to our members (the majority of whom are not AP regulars). Think of it in terms of your alumni magazine. We are not complaining, have been happy to do all this and view this amount as part of our donation to OUSA (both in time and money). And we’re sure that our volunteer time and money compare favorably to anyone’s, including any self-absorbed sparkle ponies who feel they are the only ones who are extremely busy.

Given that we are at our personal limits in terms of time and money for ONA, the new Board needs to determine what they want going forward and we need to see if it fits our interests. One thing that is certain, though, is that we are editors/publishers and not staff writers and the vast majority of articles need to come from the orienteering community and not us.
Dec 21, 2016 9:45 PM # 
I bet there is some fraction of the OUSA membership who would not continue with their membership if ONA were discontinued

If membership services like the magazine are consuming most of the membership fees, then people who don't want the magazine are subsidizing the reading of those who do. I appreciate that ONA isn't making money, but it's nonetheless a very large expenditure, and thus needs to be considered. Even if we lost some members, we could be better off lowering the membership fee and eliminating the magazine, and still end up with more for the federation. Probably a lot of people think that they are supporting the federation through their membership, and not realising that in fact the federation nets little toward its programs. A low volume print magazine is extremely expensive per capita, not at all like the higher or medium volume magazines one may get. I'd rather pay less for a membership and get nice brochures for the club, a better federation website for mobile, more support of entry level junior programs, or so forth.
Dec 21, 2016 11:11 PM # 
Something is being SUBSIDIZED?!?

Oh the HUMANITY!!!
Dec 21, 2016 11:16 PM # 

#sparkle pony
Dec 21, 2016 11:40 PM # 
@PGoodwin: I don't see that there will be much incentive for US team members to write additional articles for ONA in light of the recent budget allocations. Despite this, many team members regularly do contribute articles.
Dec 21, 2016 11:46 PM # 
I was given grants from my club as a Junior and one of the conditions of receiving the grant was an article for the club magazine after the trip. Substitute ONA and I feel that this might be a good way to incentivise articles in light of the budget.
Dec 21, 2016 11:56 PM # 
If the membership fee didn't include ONA the fee would be slightly more than what a typical club charges. Or more, to pay subsidies to the teams. I've never been on the US O team so don't see that as the primary focus of OUSA as an organization or ONA as a publication, though it's good to have an elite team and give them support as feasible. There are a lot of non-team OUSA members who support OUSA because we love the sport and want to continue have opportunities to challenge ourselves in different parts of the country.

I for one *joined* USOF because the magazine was a benefit of membership, back when it was published by the Bermans (who did a fine job as writers as well as publishers). I saw copies at the first A meet I attended in 1992 and was won over. It listed names of competitors at championship meets! (And still did until recently, I think.)

While the content level has diminished somewhat since the Bermans' era, I don't blame Donna and Steve. It's a niche magazine. It's hard to please everyone. I think it's fantastic that we actually have a US/NA magazine representing the gives us as an organization more credibility. Otherwise we're just a glorified club. Yes it would be nice if somewhere out there in US O land we could actually find a journalist who could produce more vivid and attractive content, but that's what we've been missing all along, isn't it? A publicist?

And the fact that what they get from OUSA is less than what the magazine costs to produce represents Donna and Steve's dedication to US orienteering. They deserve respect and thanks, not attacks on AP. As with so many volunteer organizations, don't criticize the volunteers unless you have a solution. Talk is cheap.

To that point, anyone who can bring the OUSA website into the modern (mobile) age is welcome to try! (I'm an content updater and editor, not a website guru or a writer.) I think randy's offer makes a good first step and think the board should investigate further.
Dec 22, 2016 12:47 AM # 
This, of course, is a major problem with discussing priorities in a semi volunteer organisation. Suggesting we spend differently is "criticism" of some volunteer. And so we spend huge sums without questioning. Like the executive director position, Orienteering North America has, over the years, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of an organisation for which that's an enormous sum, which leaves little for other things. Suggesting that we continue one thing, like ONA, is pulling the rug out from other initiatives. If there's a desire for growth, then changes will have to be made, even significant ones. Like former team coach Bob Turbyfill liked to say, insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.
Dec 22, 2016 12:56 AM # 
Jim, I appreciate your contributions to this thread so much. You crystallise what I'm thinking in an extremely coherent and yes, more respectful fashion.
Dec 22, 2016 2:11 AM # 
In response to the last two posts, I will state that I guess because I am an old fuddy duddy, I read all ONA issues through and through. It is also hanging around the house for others to see. If you take ONA away what does an OUSA member get? There isn't much left. A non-member has to pay a few extra bucks to go to a National Meet and may not really care about a ranking. I guess members would be supporting our sport. Also, in my case, as a life member, I will bitch if something that I thought was a part of membership is taken from me. ONA says that we are an organization. ONA has been less than 10% of the OUSA budget. An individual membership to OUSA has been around $40. This means that you are paying $4 a year for the magazine. If you read it for 10 minutes an issue (there are six a year and I spend a lot more time per issue), you are spending an hour reading it. This expense is not something to worry about.
Dec 22, 2016 2:34 AM # 
I'd be curious what value OUSA members feel they get from their memberships. While you'd have a selection/survivorship bias by just polling existing consumers who have demonstrated inertia in continuing as members, it would still be of non-0 utility to attempt to understand their utility so to speak. Has OUSA ever considered that or do they already know what the members want/value? A sort of Steve Jobs-type intuition?
Dec 22, 2016 2:42 AM # 
I'm not sure that the difference between membership levels is the right way to reflect what you are paying for the magazine because concepts akin to the aforementioned subsidy idea. Anyway, I hope OUSA figures out a way to provide real value to their members either directly or indirectly (my preference) through developing the sport.
Dec 22, 2016 3:17 AM # 
Like j-man writes, I'd like to see OUSA benefit me indirectly by developing the sport. For instance,
- support entry level junior programs like interscholastic leagues, JROTC, ARK style initiatives
- improve website, and website support for clubs
- assistance with social media promotion
- snazzy brochures
- help start new satellite clubs

The financials for Jan-Nov 2016 show 25,702 in membership fees and 17290 in ONA expense. The budget for next year shows similar. Well more than ten percent of membership fees, in fact the large majority.
Dec 22, 2016 3:55 AM # 
@PGoodwin, with 1275 members as of 2016, ONA costs about $16/member/year. I definitely agree that our list of benefits for membership is short, and we need to do a better job making OUSA membership attractive and appealing. I think ONA should continue, but ONA should be evaluated (and revised) on its own merits, not in the context of the other benefits of membership.
Dec 22, 2016 6:39 AM # 
The raw results of the 2010 USOF membership survey are posted in this old thread. Each question is on a separate sheet of the excel file. ONA questions start with question 12. Glen's executive summary of the survey results is available on the OUSA website here, and was also published in the June 2010 issue of ONA.

In 2010 there were 8 print issues for $24k actual ($27k was projected).
The 2017 budget proposal lists 4 color issues for a projected $20k.
Dec 22, 2016 9:40 AM # 
From Glen's summary (link in eddie's post):

"If Orienteering North America magazine were a separate publication where orienteers bought it separately from their USOF membership, 43% would pay $10 a year or less for eight issues, 35% would pay $10 to $15, 13% would pay $15 to $20 and the rest (9%) would pay more than $20 a year."

So OUSA is paying well more than our members value the subscription ($16 for four issues, versus a median of ten to fifteen dollars for eight issues, albeit six years ago).
Dec 22, 2016 3:17 PM # 
In response to previous posts, I will give a few answers.
In response to the call to support entry level junior programs like interscholastic leagues, JROTC, ARK style initiatives:
In the past year, there have been multiple attempts to help clubs organize interscholastic, JROTC and less so ARK initiatives. In working with Erin Schirm, these avenues were tried and for the most part the inertia of the bigger clubs wasn’t changed. They have their own programs, and most of them are very good active ones, but finding volunteers to start new programs was difficult. Local clubs must be able to find the manpower to do this and even when money was offered, there were no takers.

In response to the call to improve website, and website support for clubs
This is something that is a goal for a portion of the 50th anniversary fund money. Perhaps because the budget wasn’t finalized until recently, the specifics of this have not been worked out even though this is “dedicated” money to that area.

In response to the call for assistance with social media promotion
This is ongoing with Facebook and other programs but the burden seems to fall on a few people. Over time, the novelty of posting something on Facebook on a daily basis wears thin. The page gets old and stale if there aren’t frequent posts and news. Some clubs are doing other things such as working with social groups that “meet-up” and this is working for some clubs. The board is talking about getting a best practices program going but then people have to use these. There are lots of resources on the OUSA website for beginners but few clubs have pointers on their websites to these resources. It may be that if there is a generic website that all clubs build from, these OUSA resources will be easier to find.

In response to the desire for snazzy brochures
These are available on the OUSA website, they are customizable but they are not used much. Some people think that this kind of brochure is good, others think that they are waste of time. Other people have been asked to help in increasing the “snazziness” of these but there have been no takers.

In response to the call to help start new satellite clubs
This has been a focus of Glen Schorr over the years. New clubs have started but without a full time ED, it may be harder to have someone focused on this enough to really make a difference. I may be completely wrong about this.

And regarding ONA.….
There are lots of ways to analyze the worth of ONA. The 2010 survey indicated that the print version is not a dinosaur. The value of ONA can be done related to the total budget (which basically comes from membership of OUSA and clubs). It can be done by looking at OUSA memberships (but should also include some money from the Endowment Fund that was set up to pay for services into the future for life members). However, if I go to 2 National meets a year, each with 2 event days, I will save $16 (4 x $4). Why would I pay to be an OUSA member if there wasn’t something else that I got? Yes, I should support a national organization to help start and assist smaller clubs but the exact way that my membership dollars would help in that process is a little bit hard to fathom and, while it is probably politically incorrect, why would someone living in New Hampshire care about a new club forming in North Dakota? It should be noted that the Board has looked and will be looking at other membership models that may change the membership model on a national basis.

ONA needs copy, good copy, to be effective as a marketing tool. Ian indicated that because the teams aren’t getting money, they may not want to write articles for it. Well, I will say that the few team members who write articles on a regular basis (and they write very well) were not thinking about how much money the teams got when they wrote their articles. I have also written articles for ONA never expecting a payoff. With belt tightening all around, I don’t think that they will hold a grudge. Our team members all love the sport and those who write like to share their enthusiasm for it.
Dec 22, 2016 7:45 PM # 
why would someone living in New Hampshire care about a new club forming in North Dakota?

Because they haven't orienteered in North Dakota yet.
Dec 23, 2016 12:47 AM # 
I am a member of other national professional organizations, and renew not so much because of the carrot but for the stick. I'm not sure that OUSA has as much coercive clout as ones which lay some claim to livelihoods.
Dec 23, 2016 12:54 AM # 
Oh, OUSA could put a hex on your compass and you would never find your way. You don't join and you will get lost!
Dec 23, 2016 2:03 AM # 
Oh Oh! Has some tricky person just hacked PGoodwin's AP account?
Dec 23, 2016 2:54 AM # 
No. Just wondering what kind of stick we could use. While orienteers tend to eat good food, carrots might not be enticing enough.
Dec 23, 2016 3:23 AM # 
The stick is just for clubs...

Be part of OUSA or never get affordable insurance.
Dec 23, 2016 3:44 AM # 
Carrot... With your membership, get a nifty OUSA patch to cover a tear in your O uniform. Something that there will be need for each year. Extra patches for extra donations.
Dec 23, 2016 3:08 PM # 
Randy for ED. Make OUSA Great Again!

This discussion thread is closed.