Last spring, the American Numismatic Association announced a grand vision to raise $40 million over five years to build new museums on both coasts and expand the one at headquarters in Colorado Springs.
That vision, for many, was both appealing and inspiring. But this board of governors saw it as reckless, unrealistic and dangerous. It would have strained the ANA?s resources and would have placed America?s oldest numismatic organization at great financial risk. And while we were gearing up to meet the challenges required by this grandiose vision, other important association business as well as our real mission could have taken a back seat to pie-in-the-sky ideas.
Once the membership overwhelmingly elected our new board, we immediately began looking at the efficacy of a plan to raise millions of dollars to open new museums. We asked a lot of questions:
? Where would we find $40 million?
? How could we afford to staff headquarters and two new facilities?
? Where are the feasibility studies and written agreements?
? How do we maintain our focus on our members?
? How did we develop this plan without input from the membership?
The new board has wasted little time in returning the association to its core values as spelled out in our bylaws and congressional charter. This organization is about education, preserving and promoting our numismatic heritage and serving (and listening to) our members.
We are no longer pursuing the Washington, D.C., project, and San Francisco is on hold pending a feasibility analysis. Instead, we are looking for ways to get our membership involved, to be absolutely transparent in all that we do, whether it?s our finances, board business or operational decisions at headquarters.
We have returned the organization to its committee structures to ensure that our members have a say in what their Association decides should be done to build membership, strengthen our club structure, hold world-class conventions, create great museum exhibits and develop the best-possible educational programming. Communications efforts are being beefed up through more timely news releases and the addition of our ?In the Loop? electronic newsletter. The board also is making efforts to directly collect member input, starting with an open forum on Saturday, Jan. 12, at the FUN show in Orlando, Fla. The forum begins at 11 a.m. in Room 330B, and will be videotaped and posted on the Web site. I hope as many members as possible will show up armed with all of their questions, comments and concerns.
I strongly believe we are making great progress in restoring the confidence of our membership, although much work remains. At the top of our list is this board?s commitment to financial responsibility and accountability. As many of you are aware, we?ve been running deficits over the past four years, and that must stop. Understanding this, the board has decided to be part of the solution: All board members are attending FUN at their own expense, for example.
In addition, each board member, General Counsel Ron Sirna and Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Horton made personal donations so that ANA staff could have Christmas bonuses. The previous executive director eliminated those bonuses, but the board felt it important to send a message that we truly appreciate our hard-working, dedicated staff.
Staff at headquarters is working on the 2008-09 budget, and I?ve charged them with identifying meaningful goals that can be achieved within the context of a balanced budget. I will be putting together a white paper that we can all discuss during the open forum in Florida. That document will summarize our current situation, list some of the challenges and issues we face and identify our priorities as we move into the next budget cycle. For those who can?t discuss this at FUN, we?ll place the white paper on the ANA Web site and ask for feedback.
Your input will be important as we identify our future priorities. After all, any vision must be developed sensibly and pragmatically ? and that includes finding out what members want out of their organization. On behalf of your board of governors, I pledge that our future will be determined by our members and that we, as your board, will provide the leadership necessary to create a realistic and achievable vision.
Barry Stuppler is president of the American Numismatic Association.
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