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Amber Stark

Mid-year Strategic Financial Update: Fiscal Year 2020-2021

Evan Sinar, SIOP Financial Officer/Secretary

As SIOP’s Financial Officer/Secretary, my role is to oversee SIOP’s financial state and strategy, working with other members of the Executive Board, and the Administrative Office, to do so. The purpose of this article is to share with you a mid-year update on where we stand, and how and why we’re not standing still, regarding SIOP’s short- and long-term financial health. As for many individuals and organizations, 2020 has been a challenging year for SIOP. However, we are rapidly adapting and planning ahead for a new normal: deepening and extending the many mechanisms through which SIOP provides value to our membership while also putting long-term strategies in place to broaden the visibility and valuation of SIOP’s expertise for external audiences.

First, a look back at the first half of SIOP’s fiscal year (our reporting period runs from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021). Overall, our assets have remained largely stable compared to the prior year. The favorable investment climate for the portion of our long-term reserves invested in equities has been a positive factor, as has success for two key offerings achieving early success this year. The new Virtual Workshop Series has been very well-received; these events provide a way to get high-caliber content, addressing real-world problems, to both members and non-members more flexibly and more frequently; accordingly, we anticipate expanding these offerings even more in the next year. We’ve also been very encouraged by member use of SIOP’s Research Access service. This service is now used by 16% of members compared to 12% last year, with further sign-ups anticipated. We have also been very diligent in managing SIOP’s expenses and have taken numerous cost-containment steps, such as moving Executive Board meetings to virtual platforms and pausing recruitment for some Administrative Office roles. Collectively, these factors place us in a mode of cautious confidence, such that we anticipate being able to cover most of SIOP’s expenses with operating dollars and experiencing less impact on our long-term reserves than we originally envisioned.

Second, a look ahead at the remainder of FY20-21 and beyond. The two most important factors in our financial success for this period are the 2021 SIOP Annual Conference and membership renewals. As described on the conference website, the Conference Committee, led by Conference Chair Whitney Botsford Morgan, Program Chair Emily Solberg, and Conference and Programs Portfolio Officer Scott Tonidandel, has worked tirelessly to envision an innovative hybrid conference experience that we feel will retain all of the strengths of our traditional in-person events while expanding the conference’s reach through virtual technologies. Early indications show a strong appetite for in-person participation: 70% of conference submitters are considering attending in New Orleans to present their work if accepted. The Conference Committee is also embedding experimentation deeply into this year’s conference to guide the design of future SIOP events. For membership renewals, we encourage you to renew your membership promptly—we’ll be continuing to add to the already lengthy list of member benefits, and consistent, timely renewals are integral to financial predictability and long-term planning.

Beginning in and extending beyond FY20-21, the Executive Board is actively pursuing additional forms of financial diversification, ably assisted by the Support, Planning, and Research Committee (SPARC). We are reviewing a wide range of options for additional services to enhance SIOP’s value proposition for constituent groups, spanning member-facing, non-member facing, and organization-facing offerings. These new offerings will be aligned to the financial health and sustainability strategies incorporated thoroughly into the newly updated SIOP Strategic Plan. Below, I highlight four strategic objectives from this plan that I view as particularly relevant to SIOP’s financial future.

·       1.4 Build relationships with relevant partners (e.g. government, business, community, students) that position SIOP as the authoritative source of knowledge about work and workers. By achieving this objective, we will ensure that SIOP’s expertise is appropriately valued by partners who can derive impact from our work. 

·       2.1 Implement a data infrastructure (systems, forms, processes) for enhanced recordkeeping and provision of business intelligence related to our members, our programs, and our performance. By achieving this objective, we will have the data intelligence to know where and how our membership is changing, aligning our financial investments accordingly to meet member needs.

·       2.5 Reduce our fiscal dependence on in-person events by diversifying our revenue streams to ensure the society’s long-term financial health. and 3.2 Create repeatable mechanisms (not limited to in-person meetings) for gathering, energizing, and aligning a broad spectrum of constituents around real-world problems. By achieving these objectives, we will decentralize our revenue sources toward a more responsive and resilient income model across the year, moving away from the past, largely “single time, single place” nature of our approaches to convene our members and reach non-members and organizations.

My fellow Executive Board members and I recognize and are humbled by our collective role as stewards for SIOP’s sustainable financial health, to keep SIOP thriving and serving you as our members, and impacting the world of work and broader society, for many years to come. We’re committed to continued diligence, discipline, adaptation, and long-horizon strategic planning to fulfill these responsibilities. I appreciate this opportunity to share a financial lens on what we have underway, and am looking forward to working together with you all—including my successor as Financial Officer/Secretary after my term ends in April 2021—to achieve our shared goals!

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