I attended the Society Committee on Budget & Finance open meeting this morning (that's right, 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning--the things we do for you, our readers!). Committee Chair John Adams opened the meeting with a report from the chair. The first item he discussed was an interesting one--whether Goal 6 of the six goals in the ACS Strategic Plan should be eliminated.
Some background: The ACS Strategic Plan 2010 and Beyond consists of a vision, a mission, core values, and six goals. The first five goals are aspirational. Goal 1, for example, is: ACS will be the indispensable professional and information resource for members and other chemistry related practitioners. Goal 4 is: ACS will be a leader in communicating to the general public the nature and value of chemistry and related sciences.
Goal 6 is a little more prosaic: ACS will be a financially sustainable organization that serves members, chemistry, and related sciences.
The ACS Planning Committee, it seems, decided that maybe Goal 6 was out of place and ought to be either dropped altogether or have its intent incorporated into the preamble of the Strategic Plan, and the committee asked other committee chairs to sound out their committee's membership on the idea. That's what Adams was asking B&F to do, and he got several opinions, most of them less than enthusiastic about the idea.
Former Chair of the ACS Board of Directors Judy Benham, for instance, said that Goal 6 should be retained. "It is by no means trivial to be financially stable in difficult economic times," she observed.
B&F committee member Anne O'Brien said that "it is important to emphasize that being financially sustainable is hard work."
Dennis Chamot, a member of B&F and a past chair of the committee, as well as a member of the ACS board, said: "The first five goals are all invitations to spend money. Goal six balances that impulse."
Current ACS Board Chair Bonnie Charpentier was the only B&F member to suggest a change in Goal 6. "I was one of the original ones to argue to include Goal 6," she said. "I've changed my mind. I think its intent should be incorporated into the preamble."
ACS President-Elect Nancy Jackson, who is a member of the ACS board but not a member of B&F, said that, "Some members believe that we are too focused on the return on revenue, and Goal 6 emphasizes that. This isn't a goal; it is a tactic."
No vote was taken. Adams asked B&F members to send further comments to him by Sept. 14 and that he'd draft a response from the committee.
What do you think? Review the six goals in the ACS Strategic Plan. Does Goal 6 fit? Or should it be removed? I'll make sure that members of governance will receive any comments you have on the topic.
From an operations standpoint, ACS is doing just fine in 2010 financially. ACS Treasurer Brian Bernstein reported that the society expects a net contribution from operations of $14.4 million in 2010, which is $2.4 million favorable to the 2010 budget. Investment income is projected to be $14.5 million, which is just $400,000 short of the 2010 budget. However, the continued extremely low interest rates are causing problems for the society's unrestricted net assets because the low interest rates result in a deficit in the value of the ACS defined benefits pension plan that has to be covered by funds from the society's net assets. It's all accounting, but it's resulted in the society's unrestricted net assets falling from $124 million at the end of 2009 to $98 million as of July 31, 2010.