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Presidents Message March, 2019

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!



AAVSO 49 Bay State Rd. Cambridge, MA 02138 617-354-0484