How is STC doing today?

[Revised 12/2/2009–sfj]

I spent last Friday and Saturday at the STC Board meeting. This year the board has been meeting virtually at least twice a month and sometimes even more frequently, but this November meeting was the only face-to-face meeting the Board has had since the May conference.

The board actually met in two groups (we called them “pods”): one in the New England area and the other at the STC offices near Washington, DC. The pod approach was a pilot to see if the advantages of a face-to-face meeting could be preserved without the full expense of flying everyone to one location.  I live about a half an hour south of the New England pod location, so I drove up both days; several other board members drove too. This pod pilot saved the Society about $15,000 in travel expenses. I think the experiment was worth trying, but full face-to-face meetings with all participants in one place allow a deeper ability to clarify points and resolve issues. We’ll have to re-think this approach.

A number of our agenda items related to STC’s financial situation. As many of you might remember, STC needed to raise nearly half a million dollars to stay solvent through the end of this year, and chapters were asked to send back surplus funds.

Things are looking better than they did this summer. We are waiting on some funds from chapters (in the form of CDs that are maturing this month and next), and we’re still working with a few chapters on some unresolved issues, but we have gotten a substantial amount of money, and checks continue coming in. Non-dues revenue is actually running ahead of projections, thanks to hard work by Membership Development Manager Stacey O’Donnell and others on the staff.  Our investment portfolio has been reduced due to the decline in market value and the need to draw out some funds to pay the bills, but the market is rebounding nicely. Also, while it’s very early yet, the renewals are coming in. We’re watching the numbers closely, especially renewal rates.

There are still unresolved questions. By the end of 2010, chapters will be out of reserve funds, and the Society won’t have much in its portfolio either. STC has a recovery plan that includes working closely with chapter leaders to establish parameters on rebuilding reserves. Zero-based budgeting is going to continue, for both the Society and its communities, and that will be an adjustment for us all to make. (It’s a lot more fun spending money than raising it.) We also want to pick back up with important strategic initiatives that we had to set aside to deal with the fiscal crisis (certification, anyone?), even though we have no money to speak of to invest in them.

But on the whole, I felt very good driving home from the meetings. We started planning STC’s future, which is a great relief after months of wondering if we would even have one!

Published by Steven Jong

I am a lifelong technical communicator, a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication (STC), a former STC board member, and chair of the first STC Certification Commission. I occasionally blog about these and other topics.

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