Hi, everyone - it's been a busy couple weeks for me, and I'm still catching up on life activities. Tonight, the OUSA Board of Directors had a teleconference meeting, and in a unanimous decision, passed the budget recommended by the Finance Committee which does not include funding for the Executive Director position for 2017. It took just about three months (and the transition period is starting in January), but we delivered on one of the initiatives from my candidacy for the Board. I thank Glen for his effort and wish him well in the future. This was ultimately in the best interest of the federation, and unambiguously - after seven years of deficit spending, we are broke. I'm looking forward to implementing our strategic vision for 2017, but it must be noted that the ED project heralded a financial decline for the federation. We burned through over $200k of operating reserves even as the federation and sport declined. I am frustrated this decision was not reached two or three years ago, and even given that this decision is made, the transition will be financially costly for OUSA. While I think an executive director can be valuable for an organization like ours, allocating half of our unrestricted money to fund one position is an overcommitment. I hope we do not forget this in the years ahead.
And yet, there were aspects of the meeting that I found hugely disappointing. After we passed the version of the budget from the Finance Committee which lacked funding for the ED, Greg proposed an amendment that "subsequent budget modifications increasing unrestricted spending in 2017 will be considered only if they primarily benefit OUSA clubs." There was some debate as to the wording of the amendment, as it's not entirely obvious what it means. The intent is that: (1) in light of our austerity measures and cutting the ED, clubs are taking a substantial hit in services provided to them (2) as our budget projection is fairly conservative, there may be additional unrestricted money available that still builds up our reserve, and (3) any additional spending should go exclusively to club programs. I find (1) - the claim that clubs will be taking some massive hit to their services specious; if anything, that's a necessary consequence of deficit spending. I would break down our spending categories into four areas: administration, membership, teams, and club services. My impressions from the discussion were that this was directly squarely at the teams - which incidentally are receiving $0 unrestricted this year, down from $16k last year and $24k the year before. I argued vehemently against this amendment, but it passed 7-4 with all four "coalition" candidates opposed. This frustrates me; if I had my way, the teams would receive some nominal amount of support. I would love to give the teams (primarily the senior and junior, as they are our flagship teams) enough unrestricted money to cover their WOC and JWOC entry fees and accommodation, but especially in light of necessary austerity measures, that's unrealistic. However both leaving them $0 in the budget allocation and utterly precluding them from any unrestricted money this year sends a clear message that they are not a priority for this board. Medals for US championships are receiving more funding from this Board of Directors than all the US teams, and that is absurd.
I had discussed granting small nominal unrestricted allocations to the teams in previous calls, and Boris called for a motion to grant each team $500 in unrestricted money - not enough to impact our bank account meaningfully, but with the intent of sending a message that teams were still important. Even this trivial amount failed to pass, 2-9 with Boris and I in favor and Alex abstaining.
The implication is clear: whenever OUSA has financial straits - due to hiring the ED (2009), releasing the ED because we spent all our money (2017), or acts of god - the teams will be cut because they aren't important to the leadership. This despite having teams as one of our four core organizational mission objectives. The teams have to do their own fundraising, in addition to training and either studying or having a job. Oh, and we expect them to write more ONA articles because our content isn't interesting enough, and naturally the teams aren't doing anything else. "Do it for the exposure!"
I'm not sure how many readers I have precisely, but my response to this is that if the Board is leaving the teams to rely on donations that we, the donors, have to compensate for the Board's lack of vision. My donations to OUSA will be going exclusively to the teams this year, and I encourage any of you who support elite development in the US to donate to the teams. People like Greg Ahlswede, Giacomo, Ross and Sam, Alison, all the juniors, and everyone trying to succeed on the competitive international stage and represent the country deserve our support. If the organization isn't going to do anything to support them, it falls to us. I refuse to cast this debate as a clubs vs teams issue; I want both to succeed. I intend to dedicate my energies in 2017 to communication with clubs and with the public, marketing, and publicity. I will however still advocate for the teams, as I think they are deserving of a few percent of our unrestricted funds even in light of our financial crisis - which is the consequence of seven years of mismanagement. Apparently my fellow board members disagree.