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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: Depressing

in: iansmith; iansmith > 2016-12-19

Dec 25, 2016 5:48 PM # 
But, thanks for the clear update.
Dec 25, 2016 8:04 PM # 
Thank you for refusing to cast this debate as a clubs versus teams issue.
Dec 25, 2016 10:57 PM # 
Thanks for the interest, guys. I don't know how to try to persuade the current board that the teams - and their unrestricted funding - are important.
Dec 25, 2016 11:25 PM # 
Playing Devil's Advocate here, why is it important for OUSA to use unrestricted funds on the teams when they already get a lot of restricted funds? I assume things like "club services" do not have the same kind of dedicated stream from restricted donations.
Dec 26, 2016 12:00 AM # 
Hi, Cristina - that's a valuable role to play, as I think your question reflects the thinking of some. In response, consider the following:

1. It is part of the mission statement of OUSA that (item 4) OUSA's mission is to "Establish world-class competitive excellence within our national team programs." Assume OUSA gives $0 unrestricted to the teams; what exactly is OUSA doing to "establish excellence?" The ESCs are volunteers who beyond being part of the committee umbrella of OUSA are totally unaffiliated. In other words, at present, there is no difference between the current state of things and if the exact same people were completely independent of OUSA.

2. There isn't really that much restricted money going to the teams. For example, according to my numbers, over 2013-2015, the Senior Team received $10,678 in restricted contributions per year. Per my previous analysis, this is approximately enough to cover WOC entry and accommodation - not travel, other competitions, and so on. Getting into WOC seems to me the barest minimum of support we can afford our athletes, but that doesn't affect GSwede's quality of life (for example). It's certainly not enough to move the program forward. Even the Junior Team, which is much larger in scale and more development focused, has received in the neighborhood of $25,000 in restricted contributions over the past five years. Consider the extra expense of a Euro development trip. It still costs a ton of money for the athletes to participate at all.

3. On principle, the teams are the pinnacle of orienteering competition in the US. For me, the goal of being on the national team was a big motivator to participate in the sport when I started. What does the federation do if not support our teams? The teams do not exist without money; that money comes from a combination of donations and sponsorships, the federation and clubs, and the athletes themselves. If we want a good elite program, we need to input money, and if a good elite program is a priority for the federation, then some should come from the federation.

4. Over the past 5 years, OUSA's unrestricted income has averaged $220k. I'm not suggesting we throw all of that to the teams, but a goal in the neighborhood of 10% to the teams is achievable and reflects our national priorities. Clubs and the community receive a benefit from national team members. About seven of the OUSA Board members were once or currently are on the national teams. Some of the most committed and involved volunteers around the country were national team members. Encouraging their development and facilitating their participation will reap dividends for the entire community. Not to mention all the ancillary benefits to recreational and enthusiast orienteers of encountering national team members at their local races and in their clubs. The value gained by the community for a modest investment in the teams justifies the expense.

5. There are many donors and supporters - individuals and clubs - who have chosen to make the teams a priority. The argument that the existence of donors means OUSA has no obligation to support programs disincentivizes donation. Imagine if those donors stopped giving, and OUSA was given a choice between funding the teams from unrestricted funds and not having teams at all. Why should I give a dollar to a program if that means the Board is just going to reduce the unrestricted funding by the same dollar?

6. It is ridiculously hypocritical of OUSA to spend $700k on a paid position over seven years failing to meet its objectives with minimal oversight and then claim that giving support to athletes to the tune of a few thousand dollars per year is not practical or realistic or important.
Dec 26, 2016 5:11 PM # 
I recall that OUSA's nonprofit tax status is based on sending teams to international events, and that nonprofit status want available to national sports organisations otherwise. It's been a decade or two since I read this, so I may have details wrong.
Dec 26, 2016 5:39 PM # 
How about small grants from unrestricted funds to clubs to support their junior development, and to support their top athletes? Clubs could apply, starting their programs and/or top athlete results. Perhaps as matching funds. That way it's club support, as well helping development and top athletes. And doing it as matching funds would encourage clubs and their members to contribute to development as well.
Dec 27, 2016 2:17 PM # 
JimBaker, not sure that's the case regarding nonprofit status. USOF/OUSA is a 501(c)(3), so I think they could be entirely educational/youth development-focused and still have nonprofit status.

In any case, I'd like to push back on this notion that support outside of unrestricted funds doesn't count as support from OUSA. I would love to see OUSA have more unrestricted funds go to the teams, but I don't think the work done by the committees and volunteers is fundamentally different as far OUSA assistance goes.

Also, the notion that the teams "don't exist without money". The teams don't exist without people volunteering a lot of time and effort to make things happen. Of course people need to spend money, but the money doesn't matter if there's no one doing the legwork of major competition logistics, team trials and selection, uniform procurement, etc. I don't see much acknowledgement of the stuff that happens behind the scenes by members of the team (I'm guilty of this myself, admittedly) and that needs to change.
Dec 27, 2016 7:52 PM # 
OK, thanks for the clarification on the 501c.
Dec 31, 2016 4:25 PM # 
Another sense in which OUSA has a responsibility to teams is in that it is the national body for the USA and therefore sends teams to IOF's world championships. No other organization can select and send US teams, and if OUSA is claiming that right, then the organization has a responsibility to develop and support its teams.

I voted against unrestricted funding for the teams in 2017 because we don't have any money. All of the unrestricted money that we bring in, that we can avoid spending, should go toward building up our operating reserve. We are seriously in the hole, because of what I consider bad management by the Board over the last several years, and have been masking that by reporting our total net assets including the mostly inaccessible endowment, and Peter Gagarin's large donations to fund the junior program. I feel that any unnecessary spending is further mismanagement until we build the reserves back up. I also think that in 2017 we can give the teams more support in other ways - by being more transparent and clear about their funds, and by making it easier for them to do fundraising, and I also think the teams should spend down any accumulated balance in restricted and board-designated funds.

I disagree very strongly with the vote that was taken on giving all new spending to clubs; that pitted clubs against teams, with teams losing out. That was wrong on many levels.

I do think OUSA should be supporting teams from unrestricted funds, once we get back on our feet and recover from having overspent on the ED position.

I agree with Cristina that the teams get a lot of support from OUSA in terms of volunteers on the steering committees, logistics, team trials, uniforms and so on.
Dec 31, 2016 4:58 PM # 
Thanks Barb for the thoughtful comments.

The only part I don't really understand/agree with is the last paragraph. What does OUSA have to do with any of those things--aside from maybe the VP Comp? People who serve on the ESCs and do a lot of the team related heavy lifting aren't provided by OUSA. OUSA doesn't put on the trials, although you could argue that if the trials is an A-event, there is some tangential involvement, but in almost all cases the teams would piggyback off a production oriented at a broader crowd. Also uniforms--typically run parallel/independently of OUSA.

I guess I see these examples as pretty strained, and can't really come up with any others except other tenuous 2nd and 3rd order impacts.
Dec 31, 2016 5:22 PM # 
Thanks for the input, Barb - I certainly understand your argument about trying to rebuild our reserves, though I disagree somewhat. I think some areas of OUSA unrestricted spending have not been subjected to the same degree of austerity as the teams - for example, medals (wtf), ONA, and the completely unnecessary additional month of transition the Executive Committee settled on for the ED beyond the one month budgeted (2 + 1 pto + 3 severance rather than 1+1+3). That extra month alone will cost the organization over $6k, which is twice what Boris and I were asking for the teams.

But I agree entirely with your arguments about OUSA's responsibility to develop the teams and the club spending Amendment.

And to your and Cristina's point, I agree with Clem that it is misplaced to credit OUSA with the fantastic efforts by the ESCs and other supporting infrastructure. The innumerable volunteers who endeavor to orchestrate and organize the teams are incredible and generous in the efforts, but crediting the organization and the leadership for the efforts is just as misplaced as giving the organization credit for my restricted donation. People like Linda Kohn - who runs the senior team ESC seemingly labor so hard despite OUSA's support, not because of it. The strength of our volunteer administration is also an argument against Greg Lennon's proposal that restricted donations have a "finance and administration" surcharge that be siphoned off to the unrestricted funds.

While OUSA's leadership (of which I am a member) does impact the supply and allocation of volunteer resources, I see no evidence of any effort on behalf of the teams. Our approach is more laissez-faire. Financial support, which is the other main avenue of organizational investment, has repeatedly dried up due to mismanagement. I can only conclude that our budget, which I helped draft, reflects the priorities of the OUSA board.

This discussion thread is closed.