Saturday, January 23, 2016

FIC's Budget and Goals

Today I'll respond to a comment inspired by my blog of last week, Sprinting to the Finish Line.

The reader wrote:
What's the long range planning/goal setting process at FIC? It sounds like you've had a successful fundraiser, and you've just scrambled to figure out what you could do with the money. Seems a bit backward, frankly.

Also, is there any plan for FIC to develop an ongoing, sustainable funding source, or does it intend to continue with ad hoc fundraisers? And are FIC's budget and finances disclosed anywhere for the public to see?

I can see I didn't do a very good job of laying out the situation. Let me tackle these questions and comments one at a time.

FIC's 2015 Budget
Let's begin by painting the big picture. Here's the Fellowship's budget for last year.

Communities magazine                  58,500
Website                                           27,250
Events                                                      0
Community Bookstore                    30,450
Development                                  28,000
Office & Overhead                           1,000

Subtotal                                        145,200

Communities magazine                  51,389
Website                                           14,400
Events                                                      0
Community Bookstore                    18,660
Development                                   10,000
Office & Overhead                          49,079

Subtotal                                        143,528 

Net profit                                            1,672

o  FIC hosts events periodically, but not necessarily annually. While we participated in and supported a record eight community-focused events last year, we produced none of our own. Hence no money was spent in that category, nor was there any income. Others years will be different.

o  The Kickstarter campaign (which was the springboard for my blog, Sprinting to the Finish Line) was specifically targeted to help with Communities Directory—the print version is a line item under Community Bookstore, and the online version falls under Website. 

When we last printed the Directory in 2010, it appeared that there weren't enough sales of the book to justify printing it. That is, if we printed enough copies to get a reasonable price per copy, we'd be tying up the capital for too long. However, in recent years print-on-demand technology has improved to the point where that's now a viable option, and the viability of the project looks quite different when we only need to front the money to cover production labor.

o  While all of our programs make money when you look solely at direct expenses, we incur considerable indirect costs running a national nonprofit, including:
Executive Director salary
Accountant salary
Business Manager salary
Missouri office staff
Virginia office staff
Office utilities
Office supplies
Office rent
Board travel subsidies

Gross profits in the program areas need to be sufficient to cover Office & Overhead.

FIC's Development Strategy
One of the six main budget areas outlined above is Development, which includes membership, fiscal sponsorships, fundraising, and relationship building with people who like the cut of FIC's jib. 

It's worth noting that FIC did no fundraising its first 10 years, as we tried to make ends meet by just relying on user fees and people working as volunteers. Since 1997, however, we've changed our business model to purposefully include fundraising.

In general our Development strategy is to find a solid match between what we want to do and what a donor wants to see happen. We pair the donor's resources (money and connections) with our ideas and implementation know-how. It's a partnership. Though every conversation does not end in a good fit, we do pretty well.

We raise funds for our activities in a variety of ways: user fees, volunteer labor, earmarked donations, and general revenues (if there is a surplus in one area we may use it to cover a shortfall in another).
Because a) our policy is not to undertake a project unless we have the money in hand to do it well—or a clear pathway to it, and b) we have no shortage of ideas of good things to do (see long-range goals below), we are frequently in the position of trying to be creative about ways to increase revenues. On occasion we do so by running a crowdfunding campaign. (The one we just concluded in support of a new print version of Communities Directory is only the second one we've ever done.)

With crowdfunding you want to be as specific as possible about how the money will be used. That said, toward the end of the Directory campaign we had a special opportunity. We had already reached our funding targets and wanted to take advantage of the final days to see what would happen if we widened the pitch to support some of our additional funding goals. This was not done because we were confused about our needs or unsure how to use the money from the campaign. It was our being flexible about how to direct the money once the primary target had been achieved.

FIC's Long-range Goals I revealed a number of specific goals in Sprinting to the Finish Line:

o  Covering travel for our Executive Director to Mexico to make a public presentation to Alberto Ruz, winner of the 2016 Kozeny Communitarian Award.

o  Increasing travel subsidies for Board members to attend our semi-annual face-to-face meetings.

o  Seed money for future events.

o  Paying down debt on our new green office, that we moved into last spring. 

o  Helping to gather enough funds to hire a new Development Director.

Here are five more wide-sweeping ones as well:

—Hosting a summit among sister organizations that hold a core commitment to promoting community and cooperative culture—to explore developing greater cooperation among entities promoting cooperation (radical, eh?).

—Figuring out how to create and sustain a viable coalition of networks to form the newly christened Global Ecovillage Network of North America.
—Partnering with entities such as Transition US, worker collectives, and university sustainability programs to make common cause when it comes to pioneering sustainable practices.

—Puzzling out how to host events that are affordable to a wide range of our constituency, while at the same time providing enough income to decently compensate the core event staff.

—Doubling the paid subscriber base of Communities magazine to 2500.

While the Board talks about strategic goals and makes adjustments at every Board meeting, we conduct a major overhaul about once decade, which we are in the midst of right now.

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