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MONEY MATTERS

Jeffrey H. Altschul

Over the next few years, one of the key challenges facing SAA is to restore our reserves. These were drawn down in the mid-1990s in the wake of Figure 1 three particularly bad years (1994 to 1996). This task is formidable because the sources of income for the society are relatively fixed and have been so for some time. In this column, I present an historical perspective on the financial state of SAA: How we got here and what it will take to put us back on track.

Figure 1 presents the year-end net surplus/deficit for the period between 1984 and 1997. For much of the late 1980s and early 1990s, SAA's finances followed a cycle of boom and bust. Dues increases, among other factors, played a major role in this recurrent cycle of surpluses and deficits. Regardless of the exact causes, it is clear that the Board had little ability to predict impending deficits, and thus try to prevent them. The problem was that 25 percent of SAA's income typically came from the Annual Meeting (Figure 2), and the meeting typically occurred at the tail end of the fiscal year. As a result, revenue and expenses for the Annual Meeting would not be reconciled until the fiscal year was nearly over, thus precluding the Board from compensating for unexpected shortfalls. The best illustration is FY1996, when prior to the meeting, the SAA Board actually anticipated a surplus, only to have a unsuccessful meeting from a financial perspective that required SAA to dip into reserves. This problem was further exacerbated because Annual Meeting registration is directly related to membership (in other words, meeting attendees generally become members, so a large meeting increases our membership, and a small meeting decreases membership numbers).

Figure 2 To resolve the timing issue, last year the Board decided to change the society's fiscal year to coincide with the calendar year. Thus, in Figure 1, you will note the last column is designated "1997s." This six-month financial year allowed us to change over to a calendar-year basis.

Regardless of our accounting procedures, we cannot expect to solve our current financial situation and restore the society's reserves by staying on the same course. The society's income streams have not changed significantly over the last decade. We rely too heavily on our Annual Meeting and membership dues. Registration or membership increases take on monumental importance, and a decline in membership or Annual Meeting attendance could be disastrous. Therefore, we need to think creatively about new income streams. Publications are one such avenue. Courses in continuing education for federal and consulting archaeologists and partnership arrangements may be others. The Board will be discussing a number of directions. Please consider these issues, and, if you have a suggestion, contact me. You may reach me through the SAA office or by email via the executive director, tobi_brimsek@saa.org.

Jeffrey H. Altschul, SAA's treasurer, is president of Statistical Research, Inc., a CRM consulting firm with offices in Tucson, Arizona, and Redlands, California.


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