I described our financial adventures over the last year in an "Early Renewal Notice" sent out last December to subscribers who had not yet renewed for 2000, but I am reprinting the description here, with an update, for those who have not seen it yet.
"Why we are asking for renewals before the current volume is complete: All through 1999, it was hard to tell just what our financial position was, because of rapid turnover in the position of administrative assistant, for a variety of reasons: illness, retirement, a sudden move to another town, and so on. The reports I rely on to guide management decisions never came through, the 1998 financial records were lost, and for weeks at a time there was no one to do payroll or bring the books up to date.
"In the fall of 1999, it looked like both our bank accounts (savings and checking) were running low for some reason. I studied the subscription and financial databases and finally found some answers. First off, 40% of the individual subscribers had dropped their subscriptions since 1996, the year I increased prices from S35 to $45. The price had been too high! In addition, staff hours and other expense items had not been cut back after the Alkaline Paper Advocate was discontinued. We needed a budget.
"To get us on an even keel again, I decided to lower the subscription price for individuals, and invite dropouts to resubscribe; also, to get a periodicals mailing permit, which would cut postage to a fraction of its usual cost and provide faster delivery as well. I decided to break precedent and solicit advertising from selected suppliers, which will provide information for readers as well as increase our income, and to downsize by cutting staff hours, going to fewer conferences, and putting out shorter but more frequent newsletters. Finally, I decided to promote the newsletter through small targeted mailings."
The response to this notice, in which readers were invited to renew several months before this volume was complete, was generous and heartening. A number of recipients sent in donations, and some sent in encouraging letters as well.
This gave us enough money and confidence to see us through the next crisis, which was the Feb. 28 crash of the computer that contained our two databases. We took the computer to three data retrieval experts, one of whom actually gave us back the data he had retrieved, but the fellow we then called in to fix the computer was the most helpful. He not only made the computer work again, he told us that it was a Y2K problem: Without a set of new tax tables from Aatrix, QuickBooks could not handle dates for any kind of entries from the new millenium. Aatrix had not responded to our faxes, e-mails and telephone calls, so we had gone on without their help, doing everything but payroll in QuickBooks. (But QuickBooks sent us a CD-ROM with their program on it about this time, and enough information about Aatrix's payroll system to get us started.)
In the middle of this crisis, I decided we were going to need more help, so I advertised for a bookkeeper and hired Theresa Williams the day before yesterday, who has been a big help already. Other administrative duties have kept me from working on the newsletter as much as I had planned.
Now we are in the process of re-entering the missing data from our paper records. We plan to have the mailing list restored by the time we print out the labels for this issue.
We have the application form for a periodicals mailing permit, but have not tried to fill it out yet. This will be a task for Theresa and me, I think. It is dauntingly complex, but the permit will save us a great deal of money on postage.
We can save $200 on each issue if we have someone on the staff who can handle PageMaker. (If we send a pasted up version instead, the printer has to send it out to have negatives made, which costs $200.) Currently there is no one here who can do PageMaker but Theresa is already studying the manual, and I expect she will master it.
I am making up a list of potential advertisers, and will accept recommendations from readers. The rates will be based on those in similar newsletters.
We did downsize for about three months, and saved money on payroll, with less than one FTE (not counting me). As far as conferences are concerned, I will be going to only four, maybe five this year, as opposed to the usual seven or eight.
We have done a couple of small targeted mailings, and offered some of our surplus back issues to conservation schools around the world, asking them to pay only the price of postage. An encouraging number of them have taken us up on this offer. (This helps them to learn what is going on in conservation outside their country, and of course, each student is a potential subscriber.)
When I was young I liked to read stories of adventure and exploration, and I mourned the closing of the frontier. Now I realize that one can have adventures without leaving the office, and that there are other kinds of exploration and frontiers. When I was in my twenties I had some adventures of my own as I roamed around Europe, and decided that an adventure was a project in which things kept going wrong and the outcome was unexpected but not disastrous; it was exciting somehow and offered opportunities for accomplishment. By that definition, running this office during the last year has been a real adventure. -Ed.
The Useful Addresses list that was recently sent out had the wrong area code in it for NEDCC. We had 508, which was changed over two years ago to 978. So make sure your list of addresses and Rolodex have NEDCC's up-to-date telephone number in them: 978-470-1010.
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|Editor: Ellen McCrady||© 2000 Abbey Publications. Inc.|
|Administrative Assistant: Charly Castle||Phone: 512/929-3992|
|Bookkeeper: Theresa Williams||Fax: 512/929-3992|
|ISSN: 0276-8291||Website: palimpsest.stanford.edu/byorg/abbey/|
|Tax ID No. 87-0436104||E-mail: email@example.com|