Andrea Horbinski 2015 Q&A: Finances, Group 1

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

I think it’s crucial that OTW have an annual budget, which we did for the first time in 2014. One of the key goals of the annual meeting in Vancouver is to come up with a budget for 2016, and we anticipate that approving the budget for the next fiscal year will become a key part of annual meetings of the Board from now on. The budget should absolutely be available internally, but I would want to invite feedback from Legal and consider carefully whether making it available publicly would be in the organization’s best interest. As for key items in the budget, in general at present I would say hardware/physical assets, training, travel, software and services, and consultants/contractors.

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?

I disagree with the notion that the job of a non-profit’s money is to earn interest. A non-profit’s money is raised for the purpose of carrying out its mission, and large chunks of cash sitting around in interest-bearing accounts or instruments are large chunks of cash that aren’t fulfilling the mission and that may be leading prospective donors to think that we don’t actually need the money we ask for in fundraising campaigns. There’s also the additional complication that interest rates in the United States have been at or near zero for several years now, so to earn any appreciable interest we’d have to tie up significant chunks of cash in long-term certificates of deposit or other financial instruments that entail penalties for early withdrawal (and even with those the rates generally aren’t great). Is earning interest on the assets we have something that the Board should consider, and attempt to do so when feasible? Yes, but it should not be a higher priority than carrying out our programs.

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?

We have set the past few fundraising goals in order to cover the OTW’s operating costs, which we incur in order to carry out its mission. Asking for any amount that is less than the money we need would be fiscally irresponsible, particularly since the only reasonable assumption is that our costs are only going to increase over time. I appreciate that the fundraising goals seem like a large amount from the perspective of one individual donor, but much like Wikipedia, if all the people who regularly visited AO3 donated just a dollar, our campaign goals would be met instantly. And while no one should feel obligated to donate to the OTW, particularly if their own finances mean that they can’t afford to do so, changing our own fundraising goals based on assumptions about whether donors can afford to donate would be denying them their own agency and the chance to support our work. It’s not selfish or greedy for us to ask for the money we need in order to do our work; donating is the primary way that most people can support OTW and AO3, and we’ve been very gratified over the past few drives to see that people want to support our work and have been so very generous with their support.

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?

We’re planning to move to a new, revamped financial structure under the new Treasurer that should entail better documentation of invoices and ensure on-time payments for all the OTW’s services and vendors.