The end of the year is typically the busiest time for donations to non-profit organizations like the AAVSO. Not only is it the holiday season when gift giving comes front and center, but people tend to take stock of how the year has turned out financially, and if all is well they write a check to their favorite cause. Of course, it doesn't hurt that these are the last few days you can squeeze in one more tax-deductible charitable contribution to claim on your tax return this year.
Whatever the motivation, people often prefer to give towards specific needs or projects as opposed to donations to the endowment or a general fund. If you would like to assign your donation to a particular need, here is a list of things the AAVSO would love to see under the Christmas tree this year. In keeping with the traditional twelve days of Christmas, here are twelve gift ideas.
Two Uninterruptible Universal Power Supplies for the new phone system at headquarters. Keep the phone lines open no matter what for $100.00.
One copy of InDesign graphics and publishing software. Keep the newsletter, annual report, fliers, and other publications coming for $300.00.
Five, 2-TB external hard drives for archiving AAVSOnet images. These drives would provide a backup in case the main file server ever failed. You could cover the next three years of archiving for $500.00.
Large glass display cases for the archive. We have many interesting and historical items that we would love to place on display, such as the Olcott pitcher, the Mayall sundial collection, rare and old books and correspondence. Two tall cases we've priced would be $1700.00 each. Alternatively, if any of Santa's elves have the talent and resources to build custom cases we'd be happy to give you the specifications!
VPHOT, the software formerly known as Photometrica, resides on the Amazon cloud server. The first two years of server presence were paid for by generous AAVSO benefactors. The annual cost is $2000.00. Can you support VPHOT for another year?
Update headquarters computers with the latest version of Microsoft Office. We have 12 computers in need of an upgrade, and they cost $200 per computer, so $2400.00 keeps the documents and spreadsheets flowing!
The Charles Y. McAteer Library in HQ depends entirely on the support of donors to keep it an up to date and complete resource for the staff and visiting astronomers. Our most pressing need is the last 30 volumes of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific's Conference Series. These average $77.00 each, so $2300.00 from a donor would cover the cost.
AAVSO has two 24" telescopes coming online to AAVSOnet. The Morgan 24" Telescope in New Mexico and the Mount John University Observatory 24" Telescope in New Zealand. Each will be fitted with a spectrograph. We still need hardware to make this happen. For each telescope we need a Lodestar offset guider ($630.00 each) and an SBIG ST-8 ($3000.00 each).
The Mount John Observatory dome housing the 24" also needs a cloud camera so we can monitor and archive data regarding clear and photometric weather, and close up the dome when wet weather approaches. $2500.00 keeps the rain off our parade.
The annex portion of headquarters has been renovated to become the Dorrit E. Hoffleit Conference Center. The furnace room has been moved, the ceiling has been raised, the duct work, plumbing and electrical redone and it's got a fresh coat of paint. Now we need to replace the carpeting in time for all the centennial celebrating we will be doing in 2011 at headquarters. $3000.00 pays for the whole thing.
Another renovation project that isn't in the budget this year is to redo the bathrooms and kitchen in the Hoffleit Conference Center. Like the work we did to the upstairs bathrooms, we would do most of the labor ourselves, utilizing the time and talents of our staff. New flooring, ceilings, fixtures and appliances would still need to be purchased. We estimate the cost of this renovation to be around $15,000.00.
Functioning as a world-class organization requires a certain amount of travel by the director, assistant directors and the staff. They need to travel to professional conferences and meetings, meetings with foreign variable star groups, trips to remote sites where our AAVSOnet telescopes reside, astronomy clubs, science centers, planetariums and star parties to spread the word and share the results of the organizations work. On average this means 10 domestic flights at ~$500.00 each and 4 foreign flights at ~$1000.00 each. Airline travel costs approximately $9000.00 annually.
If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation in any amount you can make a gift online  through the AAVSO website or send a check to AAVSO, 49 Bay State Rd. Cambridge, MA 02138.
Remember you can also support the AAVSO by doing your Christmas shopping online through the AAVSO/Amazon link  on our website. 5% of your purchase price goes to AAVSO for everything you purchase that way.
Thank you for all you've done to support the AAVSO in 2010. We look forward to another great year in 2011. From all of us at AAVSO headquarters to all of you, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year.