Down the Ballot

Saturday, September 15, 2012

5 Ideas to Rock You to Action for the APIC Part 3

This next subject can get a little prickly for some. What got me thinking about this issue was a combination of the recent membership fee increase and plea for advertisers for the Keynoter. It seems these issues are interrelated.

All non-profits go through lean times and years when money has not been an issue. Our organization is no different. I purchased last year a few old Keynoters and in the Spring 2000 issue was featured the 1999 APIC Financial Statement.  Needless to say, I was a bit astonished to find this, since having been a member off and on since 2007 I have never seen a financial statement printed in the Keynoter. It is an amazing document summary of a budget. If you have worked on non-profits you know the pains of budget preparation. I know I have. Long meetings, heated debate/arguments about where your finite resources should be allocated.

Budgets & Fundraising

It causes you to ask a myriad of questions about the financial state of the organization. I feel like most members are completely in the dark. We have elected many fine members to be on our Board of Directors, but that does not mean we absolve ourselves of the responsibility of ensuring the financial well being of our organization. We have a lot of work to do on this front as an organization.

First we need to be educated about the budget. Getting a comprehensive budget document into the the hands of the membership should occur every year. A financial statement is fine, but there should be a place in the 'members only' section of the website where we can see, line item by line item, our budget. This could be done as simply as posting a link to download an excel spreadsheet. Those that want to know more will be afforded the chance to know more. No harm in that. A full Treasurers' Report should be issued  under this section that outlines changes from year X to year Y. Where did we fall short on? Where did we out do our expectations? The report I read in the September Bandwagon was...a little short.

Once members have the chance to understand the budget they will be in a much better place to anticipate needs of the organization. We can start asking for donations. Having improved communication techniques like an email list will make this job simple. How many emails do we all get from the various campaigns every day in our inboxes? LOTS! How much do they raise? LOTS! I'd sign up for a program that lets me donate 5 or 10 dollars a month to the APIC. That's an extra 60-120 dollars the club didn't have before. Think if 5 people pledged to give $10 dollars a month for the next year. That's $50 dollars a month. For me that means one ebay button a month. At the end of the year that's $600 the APIC didn't have before! Small donations add up. Especially since there are folks who could donate $25 dollars a month (they buy all those T.R.'s and Willkie's and Kennedy's).   The lesson I learned, and so many of us in politics and other fields that require fundraising is:  If you never make the ask, no one will donate. I'm  not suggesting the APIC Treasurer turn into a full time fundraiser, but it should be something that is handled some point through the year. Periodic fundraising drives could help us pay for the things we want, when we want them. Instead of waiting til money is freed up one day from another line item.

I hear we have done a great job at raising money through the National Convention auction. I haven't read anywhere how much we raised, but this only happens once every two years. Our organization needs money every year. So maybe you don't have a lot of money, but you have a lot of political items. A possible idea may be to start an APIC ebay account. Members can donate items whenever they want and the club can auction them off online. Plenty of organizations raise money like this, no reason why we shouldn't be either.

 The Keynoter

There are other thoughts about how to sure up costs or trim the budget out there. Eventually, we're going to need to offer an online only version of the Keynoter perhaps in a form similar to this example. Issuu is a great format for online publishing. I know that what I just suggested might irk some people. I know there are people out there that constantly refer back to their Keynoters and look at them every day. I am not one of those people. Mine are collecting dust in the closet. Don't take what I just wrote the wrong way, but once I've read an article, I've gotten my use from it for the most part. Lots of people are like that. It is why I scour ebay all the time for older issues. The info is intoxicating, but I don't find myself re-reading them often.

Michael Kelly does a great job at editing the publication. I have no idea if we still have an editor stipend, but we should to continue his fine work.  The graphics are always great. It would be nice to see more diversity of articles. Hold on. I know what you're thinking. 'Carl, if you want more articles, you should write one' I agree. The problem with this is, since our issues lately have all been themed around certain historical periods or certain items. Take the wonderful 'tobacco' issue. I was blown away by the items and the histories associated with them. Sadly, had I written an article on say the campaign items of Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, it would have probably been put on a hold until a later issue where it might be used. Who knows exactly how far into the future that would be.

We could also publish all those articles that don't fit with the theme of the current issue in a blog format for the Keynoter. Members could respond to the articles, write letters to the editor and post more pictures. It would also enable us to enhance our print edition by providing links to members to find out more online. Suppose we have to cut an article off at X words. At the end of the article we print a link that members can type into their browser and read even more about the items online. The Collectorsquest Blog comes to mind as a possible format. Also think about this, with a Keynoter Blog that publishes articles, we could see articles every week or every month instead of just when the Keynoter gets printed. 

Not everyone is as online friendly as folks in my generation. It would be great if advertising dollars could pay for the Keynoter forever, but that might not be feasible at some point. Lot's of people who want advertising want comprehensive online advertising. When an advertiser has the choice between printing a coupon for a limited time in the local paper vs. the Keynoter which may come out this month or next month it is going with the publication it will get the most bang for the buck. If there was an online version of the Keynoter, there could be web ads on every page, so whenever you click to a new page, a new ad pops up.

We don't have to get rid of the print edition for those that want it. Newspapers offer two different subscriptions, why couldn't we? If you want a print edition, you pay the print edition price, and if you want the online only edition, you pay a cheaper online price. The added benefit of giving members an online Keynoter, is if something horrible happens to their collection (say the dog chews it up or the cat makes a mess of it) they have instant access to it and the Keynoter archives online.There is potential for savings here, we just need to do a little investigation and a little investing here. After all, to make money you have to be willing to spend money.

What Was This Post About Again? 

Money. A budget committee of volunteers in coordination with folks who are online savvy could take our organization up a notch by backing up our Board of Directors and Treasurer in their efforts to ensure the financial security of our organization. Don't forget the potential of sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other fundraising utility sites for non-profit money mobilization. Our members are just as savvy as my friends who are fundraising to restore the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D from Star Trek the Next Generation. Look at all these cool "education projects" on Indiegoo. I'm donating $50 dollars to that project next month. 

What do you think? What should we fundraiser for? Have a budget idea? What's the best way to bring our publications into the 21st century?
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