As most of you know by now, our Executive Director, Dr. Stella Kafka, has resigned effective January 2nd, 2022. That came as a surprise to us all. However, she has an excellent new position as the Executive Director of the American Meteorological Society. We are excited for her and wish her continued success in this new endeavor. Stella also plans to remain as a Sustaining Member of the AAVSO, and she has assured me that we can look forward to seeing her at future meetings. The Board of Directors and AAVSO Staff along with Stella are rapidly working to ensure a smooth transition. An Acting Director will be appointed before Stella’s departure. A Search Committee is in place and we should have the Executive Director’s job description and the application process posted in multiple sites this month. I am optimistic that we will have a new Executive Director on board over the next three to six months. I know that a change in leadership can be stressful, but it also offers opportunities for the AAVSO to grow in new directions. You can anticipate multiple updates from me as the transition process evolves.
I also wanted to discuss with you the status of our finances. Thanks to Gordon Myers, Stella Kafka, and many others, we have completed an extensive Strategic Planning Process aided by a pro bono consultation from the Harvard Business School’s Community Action Program. As part of that plan, we recognized that the purchasing power of our endowment had decreased by about 20%. To ensure our economic sustainability in perpetuity, we have initiated multiple action steps: unneeded expenses have been cut, draws from the endowment have been reduced to ~4%/year, our endowment is smartly managed to include enough cash on hand to cover expenses for ~18 months, and our existing Headquarters Building (which has dramatically increased in value) has sold with the proceeds to be added to the endowment. This makes sense when you realize that our operations have become mostly virtual. We will plan to move our headquarters into local rental space over the next six months. With these steps accomplished, the AAVSO is once again on a solid economic footing. That being said, we still need to grow our scientific and educational activities, and that will require additional capital. A Development Plan is underway which will include fund-raising and grant projects. More on our Development Plan to follow as well.
Our future is bright. Our membership is ~1400 and trending upward. Our link to professional astronomers is stronger than ever. New observers from the amateur astronomy community are being drawn to the AAVSO because we offer them the opportunity to make a real contribution to science. I encourage each of you to please donate generously and to promote the AAVSO at every opportunity.
Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for a Good Year (including clear skies),
I certainly hope…
I certainly hope AAVSO looks at rental properties outside of Cambridge as well: Lowell MA or Nashua NH area for instance.
Cambridge/Boston area is one of the highest cost rental areas in the Northeast, and both Lowell and Nashua areas offer much more reasonable cost alternatives. Lowell even has direct train access to Boston. That would seem more fiscally responsible to me.
In an earlier post, I warned against selling the HQ building and moving into rentals. Unless there is something strange about the endowment that I don't understand, this is a very bad plan. Why not just put the building equity into the endowment? Converting real estate into currency is a bad plan under almost all circumstances (unless you plan on purchasing another building in short order). However, this was not done. Moving into a rental is about the worst possible choice. It will be a constant drain on the endowment, plus loss of all the future appreciation in value of the real estate!
Whomever recommended this to AAVSO, is not a competent advisor :(
Dr. Mike Linnolt
Was the option considered to rent the space, rather than sell it? At least, I thought that was the plan several years ago.
I understand the historic reasons for staying in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but why not move to Florida? We have the lowest pandemic rate in the country, no state income tax, and Florida is the home of numerous research universities, not to mention Cape Kennedy and Patrick Space Force Base. Plus, we have some our best AAVSO observers in the world. The climate is great, and the cost of living is lower.
I like Florida, but it is rather isolated when it comes to Astronomy.
That said, Arizona is fairly inexpensive, has lots of amateurs there and in adjacent states. There is also a substantial professional community.
However, I have NO background to even make a UN-informed recommendation. BUT, it seems with the rental of the headquarters building in the future, that leads to a whole new world of possibilities.