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Admin and Operations Blog

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Category: General
Posted by: admin
karma: -1 [+/-] -
We have managed email, both direct and list, for the thirty years we've been in existence. Initially we distributed avalanche advisories for many US Forest Service centers, the Canadians, and the Swiss. Nobody else knew how to do it. We used majordomo, which had no web interface built it. (The web was new at the time anyway.) Later the government people figured things out and there was no need for us to do that. We tried using mailman, a Python program, but it was not very smooth. Then, until recently, we used a commercial service called MadMimi. This seemed to work ok, although we only now found some problems with it. And it's not free, although we kept our mailings below the initial free allotment.

Over the past few months we have implemented an in-house mail system again, with a robust web management interface. We are now using that, and in the coming season we will be able to make regular mailings with no per-message cost. But this transition has been an adventure. We've had to learn about spf, dkim and dmarc records (which was had mostly right for our own servers) and we found that the major email providers often bounce mail for no good reason. Especially hotmail/msn and pacbell/sbcglobal/att. The msn issue seems fixed, the att related ones may not be.

Our mail comes from different servers as well, and if you want to be sure to receive our mail you can whitelist the domains csac.org and avalancheassociation.org.

What follows is a summary of our systems, and of the problems and technicalities. If you have problems this might explain them, and for anyone managing their own email this may be helpful.

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Category: General
Posted by: admin
karma: 19 [+/-] -
We used to accept and receive donations through a company which accepted old vehicles. This essentially disappeared at some point when the tax incentive for it changed. But a few years ago we received a check out of the blue. (The last one we've seen, and it had been a while before we got that one.)

The paper work shows a gross value of $275.00 but the attached check was for $12.50 ! It is from Insurance Auto Auctions which I am not sure we ever had any direct contact with at any time.

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Dec 02, 2014: Changes in the Past Year

Category: General
Posted by: admin
karma: 57 [+/-] -
By Jim Frankenfield, Director

The Avalanche Center became somewhat semi-dormant in 2013-14, but it is not shut down and will hopefully be more active this season, to the degree that resources permit.

This blog entry will explain the situation, both the status of the center and the personal (personnel) reasons behind the break in activity. Our first email update, and perhaps subsequent ones, will mention this but not go into all the details. We will refer anyone interested to this post for the details.

In a nutshell I (the director) made a last minute decision in September of 2013 to remain in Tbilisi, Georgia to teach school. While various people have made significant contributions over the years the center relies heavily on my efforts. In addition to a reduction in the amount of my time which was available there was also the issue of maintaining the US infrastructure - the office and store in particular.

Before expanding on this I'd like to add, above the "fold" here, that expenses continued while little fundraising effort was made. As of November 2014 the center has a debt of $1200 to me personally and barely enough cash on hand for another month of hosting and other basic costs. So please think about making a contribution if you can!

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Category: General
Posted by: admin
karma: 31 [+/-] -
We have just installed the nucleus open source blogging software. One reason for choosing this is that a single software installation allows us to create and manage multiple blogs in different locations on the website.

Each section will have a blog for relevant topics. The purpose of this one in our "Organizational" section is to offer information and opinions on software and other resources we use, organizations we work with (or attempt to), and general information about the project such as updates on finances and such.

One purpose all of the blogs will serve is to supplement our email updates. Those have often been longer than we'd like. A lot of the reason for that is background and organizational information. We can now be brief in those updates and refer people to the appropriate blog entries. It is also possible for readers to leave feedback or ask questions on the particular topic by commenting.

While many entries, particularly in this blog, will compliment our email updates not all will serve this purpose. There will also be entries in addition to those affiliated with updates.

Apr 03, 2011: Season Finances to Date

Category: General
Posted by: admin
karma: 45 [+/-] -
We make a wide variety of budget information available right here on our website for anyone who is interested. It takes time to do this, and of course most people don't really care as long as somebody else is supporting something. But we've always felt it's important in principle as a non-profit to be open with the public.

All of this information has been updated through February at this point. (March budgeting is done but the graphs haven't been web-readied and posted yet. It doesn't change the picture much though.) As you can see, we really do need your support.

This year is looking very tough. Due to a death in the family of the webmaster/director there was little communication for a couple months, although the site was maintained and added to. As much as we hate repeatedly asking for contributions it's what works, every time we ask we get at least a few more. Our store is doing about average.

The graphs of interest are somewhat scattered even though they are all in this section of the website. So here is a quick listing/summary with links which will open the charts in a new window. All of these plus many more can be found from the finance index page.

Total revenue and expenses history - You can see that on the whole we've been getting by with less in recent years, which is possible by economizing and also by the much lower cost and longer lifetime of computer equipment today. Notice that the last two years operated at a loss, with last years being very significant. We may appear to be ahead so far this year, but our base overhead costs continue through summer when we have almost no revenue.

Contributions - Total Amount by Season - Number of Contributors by Season - You can see that both the total amount of income from contributions as well as the total number of contributors has dropped significantly over time. The average amount has actually remained fairly constant at around $30-35, which is the minimum amount for a membership. The extremes tend to be $3 contributions added to shopping carts and the occasional donation of $100 or so. Last season the average was higher, showing that we relied more on fewer but more generous donors.

In addition to not sending out more communications a couple other factors may be playing a role. This season has been relatively quiet with 14 or 15 fatalities so far in the US, compared to an average for the season of 31 or 32. There have not been any high profile incidents. This is all good of course, but it also means people may think less about the importance of resources like ours.

We have also essentially phased out our mailing lists for advisories. This required a fair amount of overhead and a certain amount of risk of abuse. (Abuse was rare but very problematic when it did happen.) Interest declined as well and it got to the point where it just isn't worthwhile to offer at all. Although list subscribers are required to contribute most were happy to. It wasn't as much the requirement and the fact that we had more frequent contact with these supporters.

So things are not so well financially. We don't need anywhere near the budgets some centers require to function at all. We've never threatened to shut down if we don't get a certain amount (and growing much faster than the rate of inflation as a result). But nothing is free, somebody has to support it. And in the case of avalanche safety nobody else is going to, so we really do rely on your help.
Category: General
Posted by: admin
karma: 38 [+/-] -
Note and Update: On March 30, three months after they were in a hurry to begin, we heard from Wildfire again. Out of the blue. So it may not be dead after all. Follow the comments for updates.

This is an explanation of what happened with the social media development project announced back at the end of December. We had been contacted by Wildfire Studios that we would be one of 100 organizations the marketing firm would offer free assistance to. They were to help us harness the power of social media for some actual benefit (to us, our supporters, and the public).

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