In recent days, there have been several comments on various posts and social media outlets about the OTW’s financial practices. We appreciate the questions our supporters have and want to be as open as possible.
As the OTW and AO3 have grown, the organization has adapted to new administrative and budgetary needs. Over the last year, we have worked hard to develop and implement best practices for nonprofits of our size, including the need for a more detailed and formal budget than we have had in the past.
In the past, the organization’s budgetary process has been informal and its fundraising drive goals have been based on past expenditures and projected needs. Along those lines, the current fundraising drive goal was set by the Board of Directors and the Development & Membership committee based on results of past drives and our anticipated needs for the remainder of this year and beyond. To determine our anticipated needs, we took into consideration our expenses in the past year together with the rapid growth of the Archive and our other projects, and produced an informal draft budget with input of estimations of expenses from our committees, which--even without a formal finalized budget--gave us a good idea of our costs for next year.
Over the last year, however, we have been increasingly aware of a need for a more formal budget. In July, we decided to develop such a budget and put the matter on the agenda for our annual in-person meeting. Over the past month, led by our newly elected Treasurer M.J. MacRae, we have been actively working on creating a more detailed budget for 2016 based on information gathered from every corner of the organization. Although that document is still in process, based on our current information, we expect the OTW’s operating expenses for next year to be approximately US$300,000, based on committees’ estimated expenses. The final version of the 2016 budget will be released to the public when it is approved by the Board. We expect this to be by mid-November.
One of the elements of that budget will be a proposal to engage a consultant CPA to organize the OTW’s bookkeeping practices going forward, including independent reviews of the OTW’s finances. We recognize that engaging consultants costs money, but we believe that doing so will improve the organization’s operations by involving people with proven expertise, which will enable the Board and Treasurer to better support the OTW personnel working in service to our mission on a volunteer basis. We have plans to have our books reviewed by independent auditors, as well. The engagement of independent auditors has been in the organization’s Strategic Plan since its earliest drafts. The Strategic Plan was approved at the 2015 in-person meeting and is being polished into its final form, which will be published publicly within the next few months.
The organization is committed to developing and protecting a financial reserve so that all of the organization’s projects, including the AO3, can continue to function even if unexpected costs arise. This commitment to a reserve fund is also reflected in the Strategic Plan. Relatedly, some recent commenters have suggested that the org consider investing in instruments that would improve the organization’s rate of return on its savings. In fact, the question of investments was a topic of discussion at the recent in-person meeting. We will continue to investigate the possibility of investing in higher-rate instruments as we move forward and will take the time needed to find the solution that best fits the OTW’s current and future needs. We anticipate that this will involve consulting with financial professionals who can help the OTW structure its overall finances and investments so that we are able to responsibly grow our assets while keeping everyone’s donations safe, preserving adequate liquid funds to carry out our operations in service of our mission, and maintaining the financial reserves mandated by the current strategic plan.
The current Board is emphatically aware that the current situation is less than ideal, and we are actively working to implement more formal financial practices in order to be the best organization we can be and to best do our work in support of our mission to support fans, fanworks, and fandom. It’s an ongoing process, but with your support it will be possible.
We truly appreciate the care and concern that have been shown for the OTW in your comments over the last few days. We want you to keep telling us what you think. Please understand that there are things that we legally are not permitted to discuss to the extent that, perhaps, you would like. However, that doesn’t change that you and your opinions matter to us and we truly appreciate your support.
The OTW Board of Directors
Eylul Dogruel, President
Andrea Horbinski, Secretary
M.J. MacRae, Treasurer