Hard to believe another few months has passed since the last (April) newsletter. As indicated then, a key focus of the Board has been taking stock of the impacts of the last few years on the Society’s financial situation (e.g., COVID, year delay of the Florida conference, stock market performance). Our Treasurer, Dee Allen, has been tirelessly working with our former Treasurer Katie Moore, Marsha Flood from Talley Management Group (who manage the Society’s accounts), Danette Harfst from Harfst and Associates (who manage the Society’s investments), and other committee chairs and myself to assess and summarise the SMM’s financial situation over the last four years, as well as our expected revenue and expenses through to the end of 2023. This was presented to the Board at our recent Board Meeting (6 July).
To summarise briefly, the operating budget of the Society has run at a net loss over the last four years and is expected to do so again in 2023 (~$1M operating loss over five years). To cover these losses, we have had to successively draw down on the unrestricted funds in the Society’s investment portfolio (i.e. liquidate assets). On current projected expenses and revenue, there will be no unrestricted funds remaining by this time next year.
As the Small Grants-in-Aid of Research (SGIAR) program is funded through these unrestricted funds, we cannot launch the 2023 round until financial issues are addressed. As the Society’s ‘named’ and Conservation awards are funded through the Society’s restricted investment funds (that can only be paid out to awardees), they have remained largely unaffected by the Society’s cash-flow issues, but of course are subject to fluctuations in the stock market. With the downturn in the stock market in 2022, a decision was made to delay the Conservation fund call-for-proposals until mid-2024.
The Board will reconvene in a month to develop a financial plan and strategy to address the current situation. At its most basic, this will need to include a strategy to minimise our current losses, grow and diversify our revenue base, and grow our unrestricted funds back to a point where they are investments with a spending policy (i.e., not to be continuously drawn down). We will keep the membership informed of the steps we will be taking to improve the financial situation of the Society.
One immediate way our Society can improve its bottom line is to encourage all lapsed members to renew their membership. Current membership is running at about 70% of what it usually is. (If you are receiving this newsletter, your membership is currently active. An early renewal of your membership will be added onto your existing membership.) We will be initiating a mail-out shortly to encourage renewal of memberships, so if you have friends or colleagues whose memberships have lapsed, please encourage them to re-join! If you are a longtime member, please consider becoming a lifetime member of the Society to save yourself money over time and to help the Society through this challenging time.
On a more positive note, I want to thank all the members who participated in the recent SMM Science Communication meeting. Over the coming weeks we hope that this re-badged ad-hoc social media committee will begin to develop a strategy to consolidate and improve the coordination of the Society’s various scientific communication platforms and products (e.g., web pages, e-mails, social media, podcasts, conferences, and the broader virtual environment) with a dedicated team who are innovative and media savvy. The intent will be for the committee to help us more strategically and consistently communicate the work being done by our committees, garner more attention from the general public about our work and the work we support. It is hoped this can be part of the solution to broadening the financial support for our Society (support through sponsors, donations, legacy giving, etc)!
More good news – the Perth 2024 SMM Conference Team continue to advance conference planning and I am pleased to announce a sneak preview of the Perth 2024 SMM logo below! The official conference launch with website and prospectus is anticipated to occur in the next couple of months, so stay tuned!
Thanks again to my SMM team and to all our members for their contributions to our field. Our Society remains strong!
President, Society for Marine Mammalogy