Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

A few more SCA financial observations

Some comments from learnedax led me to take a slightly closer look at the Society's numbers. A few observations:

He had wondered about how NMS income is doing. If you take a look at the budget, it's actually fairly clear: it's doing badly. It was up at $170k in the first full year accounted for (2004), but has been drifting downwards ever since, more or less steadily. Last year, it was only $121k, a fall of almost 30% in only 4 years.

That's a terribly interesting and terribly scary number, and frankly it bolsters my arguments a lot. I see two plausible explanations for the fall in NMS income:
  • A significant fraction of the Society is resistant to current membership policies, and has begun deliberately circumventing them;

  • SCA participation is falling significantly, especially among non-members.
I would guess that both are at least somewhat true, but given that the dislike of the membership policies is *supposedly* mostly confined to the East and West (and, frankly, the rules hacking started right from the beginning), I believe it's probably mostly the latter.

That's pretty frightening. One of the Society's virtues has always been its openness, and the way that people can drift in and out of it. Current paid members have always been the tip of the iceberg -- at least as important are the number of people who are either flirting with joining the Society, or have gafiated part way but may come back. Both tend to show up in the NMS, as occasional attendees at events. They are crucial for our long-term health, because they provide the turnover, joining and becoming more active as older members drift out for one reason or another. So if that fringe is reducing quickly and dramatically, it speaks poorly of the Society's long-term prospects. Something's going quite wrong.

Less crucial but interesting: I note that TI and the Stock Clerk have, if you believe these numbers, tended to operate at a loss. Not always, but pretty frequently. This means that I'm less sanguine about the prospects of raising money by expanding their operations. (Not that I was optimistic about it in the first place.) CA's numbers are all over the place, but you have to take them with a grain of salt, because the publication schedule's been erratic.

It's also notable that 2009 will be the third year in the row operating at an overall loss, even with optimistic numbers, so I can see why the Board is starting to pay serious attention to the problem. I really wish I knew what the Corporate bank account looked like. The most recent 990 I can find online is the 2006 statement, and even that is fairly hard to parse. In particular, while it's clear that, at the end of 2006, the Society had about $6 million in the bank, it isn't clear how much of that is local accounts and how much is Corporate. Given that the comparison of the 990 makes it pretty clear that the considerable majority of income and outgo is local (total revenue of about $4.6 million, whereas the Corporate budget only shows about $1.1 million), I suspect the majority of the bank money is as well.

So the Society probably has a good deal of money in theory, assuming those bank accounts have been held reasonably steady. (And given how much local branches dislike losing money, I would guess they mostly have.) The question is, how long can Corporate run at a loss before it has to start raiding local money? My guess is a while (probably at least a few years), but not by any means forever, and the Society pretty much explodes into controversy when that happens. So there is a real deadline for fixing the financial hole, but it's less about the club going bankrupt, and more about Corporate doing so, because there will (I believe) be widespread revolt if they ever try to touch local money...
Tags: sca

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