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President's Letters

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mgw's picture
President's Letters

Hello AAVSO members and friends,

This is my first message to members since becoming AAVSO president. I want to briefly update you on the results of the November council meeting and highlight our priorities for the next year. Periodically during the year I’ll send out messages like this so you know about council plans and activity.

The council represents you.  In order to effectively guide the organization, council members need to hear your views about the organization - specifically, is AAVSO meeting your current needs, and do you agree with our plans for the future. I strongly encourage you to contact council members - including myself - to share your thoughts.  You can post messages on the General AAVSO Discussion forum, the AAVSO members-only Governance forum, or contact us directly.

We had a very successful council meeting in Flagstaff. In addition to the regular review of organization status and plans, much of the meeting was spent finalizing a six-month effort looking at how work being done by the staff aligns with the organization’s priorities.  In general, there was a good match.  The analysis produced one major decision – the council authorized hiring a programmer/IT professional to address many of the issues and challenges that have been a concern to both staff and members. Also, there were some lower priority activities that will be put on hold to free up staff time for higher priority work.

In addition to these near-term actions, there are two key strategic questions we need to answer over the coming year.  The first is – what is AAVSO’s future?  More broadly, what is the role of amateur astronomy in the 21st century. As I’ve spoken with various members, it’s apparent this is a very complicated and critical question.  The world of astronomy has dramatically changed since AAVSO was founded.  Scientific knowledge and understanding of the universe have exploded – and new fundamental questions arisen.  Modern technology and instruments are now available to both amateurs and professionals. These have transformed the ways we can observe variable stars.

At the same time our culture has changed – the way people communicate, the role of organizations like AAVSO, and the way people want to work together to achieve common goals. We need to understand the future objectives of the AAVSO – supporting our members personal interests in astronomy, supporting professional astronomers, and potentially supporting education efforts addressing STEM education. It will take a concentrated study to develop a cohesive strategic plan.

As we develop our strategic plan, a second key parallel question needs to be answered - how will the AAVSO fund its activities in the future?  The endowment has been our lifeline – but additional funding will be necessary if we want to grow and fulfill our mission.  Resources can come from grants, contracts and donations – from members, individuals and organizations supporting scientific research and education. What strategy can we develop to address this very pragmatic but real need?

Over the next few months we will develop plans to study these two key questions.  If you have thoughts about either, and/or want to personally participate in study efforts to create plans to address both, please let us know!

May 2019 be a healthy and prosperous year for you, and, as we always conclude, may you have clear skies!


Bikeman's picture
new logo? :-)

Thanks for the update from the Nov council meering. Just curious: the teaser on the home page about this message seems to show a new logo .... is there a story behind this?



mgw's picture
not a new logo...

I checked and it is not a new logo - just a sketch someone created...

conan's picture
Fund raising ideas...

So you want ideas for fundraising? If someone does have an idea, where do they send it?

mgw's picture
Fundraising suggestion


You can send the suggestion straight to me -



mgw's picture
March President's Letter

President’s Letter – March, 2019


As mentioned in my last letter I will periodically update AAVSO’s membership on Council activity and major areas of organization focus. (Stella’s reports focus on our operational programs and current activity.)

AAVSO Strategic Planning – The Council has established a task force to create our strategic plan. A set of critical questions needing to be addressed has been developed and is currently under review. Between now and our Toronto meeting a plan to gather the information needed to answer these questions will be developed.    There are four major areas of focus – (1) What is the Future of Amateur Astronomy; (2) What are the Goals of the AAVSO; (3) Operational Questions (e.g. building ownership, collaboration with other organizations, etc.); and (4) How will AAVSO be funded in the future.  At the Toronto meeting we’ll present the plans and ask for member feedback.

Programmer Hiring – Last quarter’s President’s letter mentioned the Council approved hiring of a contractor to help us update software and ensure our IT infrastructure reliably meets the needs of our members.  An initial set of candidates is being interviewed.

New Website – The new website is undergoing testing and will hopefully be ready for release this summer.  

Council Nominations –

The council nominating committee will soon be soliciting candidates as it creates a slate for this summer’s election.  The Council oversees all aspects of the organization and is responsible for effective planning, financial stability, and ensuring our programs meet the needs of our members. A strong council is critical to AAVSO’s future.

Council members need not be a jack -of-all trades. To be effective, the AAVSO Council needs members with individual skill sets that complement the other members skills.  These skills include active amateur observers and professional astronomers with a business background.  We need entrepreneurs, business people, financial, real estate and human resource experts and people with experience raising money for nonprofit organizations.  We want our Council to be diverse in terms of age, sex and interests in order to reflect the diversity and future direction of our membership.  Please look for upcoming requests from the committee seeking nominations. Consider running yourself or nominating people you think can make a contribution.


Finances –

The FY2019 budget is on track. At the Council meeting there was a preliminary review of the FY2020 budget.

The endowment took a hit in December with the major market pullback.  But half of the losses were recovered in January.  As of February 28th, the endowment value is $12.99 M.  With the Council decision to authorize the hiring a contract programmer, we potentially will withdraw more than our nominal 5% to support this year’s budget.  Hopefully our annual campaign will exceed its goal and reduce the impact on the endowment.

Our annual campaign will begin shortly.  As we did last year, we will only have one campaign for the year.  This addresses some members’ concerns.  They had complained they were receiving too many (and redundant) requests for financial support.  Our goal this year is to raise $100,000.  We recently received a $30,000 donation from one individual!  We are setting our annual campaign goal to raise the additional $70,000. With approximately 1,000 members this should be possible. One hundred dollars a member would more than get us there. Please support to the extent you can!

Thank you for your ongoing enthusiasm and support!

Clear Skies!



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