Dan Lamson 2015 Q&A: Finances (Group 1)

Note: Dan has withdrawn from the race, but he completed his answers before withdrawing, so they will be posted to the site.

If elected to the board, will you push for a published yearly budget? What would you consider key items in a budget?

I will totally push for a budget every year. It is something I have been pushing for, as chair of DevMem for a long time.

As to key items in budgets generally, you want to budget how income you’ll need and how much you think you’ll spend. That’s the basics you need. I think every committee should be approached with how much money they will need in the near, and then have that compiled to make a budget how our expenses, both one time and recurring. Then we have to make sure that we will raise enough money to cover our expenses.

For specifics, I would say servers and other hardware that make sure things run would be a priority. I know there has been talk about a paid coder for AO3 which would be a boon to the project. That would be a priority. But basically, all our committees have needs, and if we have the income, I hope all their needs are met in a budgetary process.

A nonprofit’s board has a fiduciary responsibility regarding its assets, which includes making sure they earn a reasonable interest rate. In the past three years, despite our considerable reserves, our investment income (per the OTW’s tax filings and Annual Reports) has been, respectively, US$5, US$40 and US$18. If elected, would you hope we can do anything different about this?

The OTW has a good amount of cash on hand at the moment. We are in a good place financially. I think it is time to start discussing an endowment for the OTW, and investing it and growing it. This kind of thing would be a priority of mine, were I to be elected. It would give the OTW stronger and more secure financial future.

Shorter answer: I do feel we could be getting more interest money then we have been, but we need to do it in the right way.

The latest three OTW fundraising drives had escalating goals: US$70,000; US$100,000; US$175,000 (October ’14, May ’15, October ’15). How would you define responsible fundraising in a fandom context? What does it mean for our finances?

Fundraising is fundraising. We are lucky at the OTW community’s support of our organization and projects. The OTW is and has been growing. I imagine our expenses for 2015 are somewhere around US$275,000, so our past fundraising has been on point for our financial needs. You always want to raise as much (or more) money than you need to cover your expenses, to keep your reserves safe for rainy days.

The simple fact is, more people than ever are using our sites and projects. I find that awesome and a testament to the hard work of a lot of our volunteers. But increased traffic equals more bills. Older infrastructure means large purchases every now and then. There are certain things we have to buy, and to do so, we need money.

I think going forward, when we have a solid budget, we can fine tune exactly what we need to fundraise better. Perhaps our fundraising methods or practices will change, but for now, I stand by them.

There have been complaints in the past, particularly from AO3 committees, of some of the OTW’s service bills not being paid on time or being paid very last-minute—sometimes resulting in committees temporarily losing access to tools they need for their work. What do you think can be done to prevent this from happening in the future?

I am not sure about bills being paid one time or not in the past as an issue. I know of only one situation where it happened and was taken care of quickly. I am in favor of paying bills on time.

I think a good solution to this would be to set up a bill paying system online, whereby as many of our bills as possible are paid automatically. If a bill is coming up due, I would suggest that committees make sure that the treasurer is aware of it. The treasurer may have thought something was taken care of, and I’m sure it would not be a bother for them. Communication is the key.

Also, I am not averse to paying bills early. It may be due on the 20th, but if you get the bill on the 3rd, why not pay it? I hope this is not an issue going forward.