An Update from the Avalanche Center
Online in html: http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/updates/
(To translate this update enter the URL "http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/updates/" and then follow the link on the translated page to this update. This way the entire page/update is translated.)
The primary reason for this update is to promote our annual online fundraising auction. As long as we're fundraising there are a few other timely and seasonal announcements on that topic. The website also has had some updates and policy changes to mention briefly, those and others will be detailed more in a future update.
Annual Fundraising Auction
Our auction is up and running at http://www.avalanche-center.org/auction/ and ends Thursday. It opened Tuesday but never seems to be very active until we do some extensive promotion. There was a problem with at least some e-mail generated by the auction (such as password recovery, etc) not working but that has been fixed. Please let us know if you find any problems of any kind! We only knew about this when we had a request from somebody.
This years auction was scheduled to be shorter, and it always takes time to get people going with it. At this point we have just this week for active bidding. The plan was to close it Friday but with people often leaving for the weekend Friday afternoon and evening the closing was changed to Thursday, and most items will close in the afternoon or evening that day. As usual a few items will be posted for shorter times as incentives to check in frequently. One lucky person already got their choice of avalanche beacon for just $190.
With the shorter time frame we need everyones help in promoting the event. Every item, on the bidding page, has a "Mail This Auction to a Friend" link. If you see something you know somebody would be interested in then send them a message from that link. If you are active on any forums or on any club/group e-mail lists please let other people know about the auction that way.
It is almost certain that we will not reach our goal of $3000. Our calls for volunteers to help contact companies, and especially previous donors, attracted no assistance. Nor did we receive any contributions of items to auction off from individuals. We do need to try to raise what we can from this event. A significant amount of time goes into looking for items to auction and into posting them onto the bidding pages. It would be nice to see some participation now.
There are a variety of items at a variety of values so just about anyone should find something to bid on if they decide to join the fun.
Other Important Fundraising Information
There are two things which are important at this time of year for those who are planning ahead on tax deductions.
The first concerns the vehicle donation program (http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/contribute/autos.php), which will change January 1. Right now you can donate the full value of whatever property you donate, as established from the "Kelly Blue Book" or other generally acceptable sources. Congress has passed some changes which will become effective January 1 and after that you will only be able to deduct the amount which we actually receive - which is generally the amount received from it on auction minus fees for towing, refurbishing/cleaning, and the overhead of the vehicle processing center. This will put a damper on charitable contributions in general, but its been decided in Washington. So if you are considering donating a vehicle or other property, to us or to any other non-profit, it would be most beneficial to do so before the end of the year.
Another end-of-year tips which is part of a page on the site (http://avalanche-center.org/Organization/contribute/end-of-year.php) is:
Some Short Updates
As is usual for this time of year the avalanche advisory system has been upgraded. The linking of keywords to the glossary has been further refined and almost all bulletins now have a list of keywords at the top. Keywords for bulletins are also now available via RSS/XML on a single channel which includes all US regions. The rss feed (Version 2.0) is located at:
Feedback is welcome. One of our site users suggested an RSS feed just as it was under consideration and it apparently works for him. We've also tested it with the free web-based readers at rocketinfo.com and bloglines.com and while they are a bit different both handle the conditions feed properly. We have also validated the rss code with two separate online tools. The keywords are updated automatically by our scripts whenever an advisory is e-mailed out as new, and the date tag is set at that time.
We also have two other channels for recent incident summaries and general avalanche related news. The incidents channel is up to speed, the entire News section including the rss channel has been greatly improved but still needs some work.
Another fine point that was fixed was that the graphic icons for danger levels in our html bulletins were missing size tags. This is another example of a user helping us out. His e-mail version wasn't looking right so he sent us a copy of the screen along with a note on the OS and browser he uses and even a suggestion of what might be wrong. Feedback like this helps us fix things up, even small things that only effect some users.
The Incidents section has, unfortunately, been quite active lately too. We have fifteen reports on file for the season with nine fatalities, and the latest snowshoer fatalities from the weekend in Utah still need to be done. So far most reports include some combination of photos and maps, which we'll try to continue including through the winter. But when things come in too fast we may have to skip these for some reports. One result of insufficient funding and a lack of response to calls for assistance is that this incident content is on its way to becoming accessible only to contributors. This is a high-overhead section to maintain and is unique to our site as far as having so much information collected in one place in a very timely manner and having it in a database. If this encourages more contributions it will help underwrite the other more educationally important content which is free such as glossed and keyworded advisories, the glossary, and the expanding News section among other resources.
Help and Support Needed
In addition to contributions from individuals the second largest source of funding has been our avalanche store. Sales have been very slow this year, especially on equipment. We are getting regular orders for books, shirts and decals. There are indications that this is partly due to the economy and partly due to the widespread practice of deeply discounting almost anything on the web. Remember that purchasing from our site supports our work, as well as offering the widest selection anywhere. Any store order with a check-out total of over $100 is considered a contribution to the site for purposes of using our features like e-mail lists, store discounts, and incident reports. After returning to us from PayPal from such an order this should be acknowledged and a link provided to sign up for an account.
We're not sure if our move to PayPal has had any effect. Orders that are coming in seem to be problem free and we have not received any comments about the change. From our end it has worked out very well as long as it isn't causing people to avoid the store. Nobody who has used it has sent any negative feeback. You don't need a PayPal account, its just another way of checking out with a credit card or online check and uses a pretty standard process.
The second thing we want help with is some promotion. In past seasons we have requested that people distribute paper bookmarks to local shops, clubs, mountain huts, and other venues they live near or visit. Our call for this in recent updates has received a very disappointing response. So we are asking again - please think about where you can help distribute some of these and then let us know how many to send you. We'll get them out to you in the mail and you can take them to local shops or wherever. We also sell our decals in packets of 100 below our cost and we appreciate it when people buy these and help distribute them. We'd like to give them away but don't have the budget to do this except to include a couple with store orders when we remember. (http://www.avalanche-center.org/store/csac-decals.php)
Thanks in advance for your help and support. Combined with other involvement and contributions it will make a difference in our work and our future.
Helping Support this Public Resource
There are other changes and improvements in progress. As well as possible continued policy changes depending on support, participation and fundraising. Right now the emphasis is on the auction and early season fundraising so these things will be left for a future update.
Please remember that he vast majority of our support comes from individuals who contribute (money or time, or both) and/or use the store. We receive no grant or foundation money. We receive no government funding and probably never will. Industry support is very limited. So we rely on your support. Please use the site, promote the site to others, and come join the forums. And let us know if you have suggestions or problems with the site.