An Update from the Avalanche Center
Featured Contents -
In addition to the usual updates on fundraising, content, our store, etc there are several particular topics of interest featured in this update:
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This is the first update since March. The spring and summer were busy with other endeavors, but work on the Avalanche Center continued. Especially on our new online course project, but on other things as well. This fall I have been teaching for the local college of engineering, which has taken more time than I anticipated. Despite this there has been some effort made at getting an auction running, and we do have a small but varied selection of items to bid on. Updating conditions and incidents is a bit behind right now, but not too much has been happening in most of the US and Canada. There is still little to no snow in most of the west, and even the federal avalanche centers are not bothering with daily updates in most places. Their occasional no-snow reports have recently been used to test out our distribution and posting systems, so things are mostly ready for the day when winter really decides to arrive.
There is an auction this year, although industry response has been poor compared to past auctions. We do have several very nice items from a few very generous companies and individuals, and a few nice items that are smaller and great for those on a lower budget. We will be posting many items from our own store, including plenty of beacons. These are often open for bidding for only a couple days, and in the past the winning bidders on beacons have gotten some amazing deals. You need the check in every day to see what's there.
The auction started December 2 and is now open. To get started there are some small items left from past auctions and some items from our own store. As we build some interest and momentum all of the donated items will be opened for bidding. There is also one last fax going out to industry, and items have been known to show up in the mail early in the auction. So bookmark the auction page and check in regularly. If you are one of our supporters with industry contacts or working in the industry please plug our auction with the marketing and promotions people.
There is a link to the auction at the top of the Avalanche Store page, and there are also text ads on the left side of the home page, one for the auction and one for the store main page. A more prominent link will appear on the home page and the section pages shortly.
If you make a winning auction bid (of any amount on any item) or you make a purchase from the store which totals $100 or more a years membership is included free. If you are already a member then log in and check the sale page for members, and get free shipping.
It is also possible to use our auction resource to sell your own items, and there is a link to information on doing this. Any outdoor related items can be posted. There is no fee or charge for this, but we hope that people will make an appropriate donation to the Avalanche Center when they succeed in selling something.
Budget and Fundraising - http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/finance/
Last seasons budget and financial information has been updated on the web. (Our season ends September 30). The state Department of Justice forms and the federal 990 forms have all been filed as well.
The store now generates 60% of our operating budget. This is up substantially due to a smaller total budget, increased sales, and decreased contributions. The increase in sales can probably be attributed to aggressive price matching. There is no good reason for people to buy avalanche equipment anywhere else - we will match the price and include a membership for one year. And revenues from our store help support our internet resources, many of which are free.
The part of our budget coming from contributions is much lower. The average donation amount is up slightly, the number of contributors is down somewhat, and the total raised is down.
Remember that you can support the Avalanche Center every time you do a web search or make a purchase from almost any major online store. Make goodsearch your default search engine and we will get just over one cent for every search. This does add up, and smaller organizations than ours have done quite well when their supporters made the simple effort. Browsers now have a drop-down selection for search engines at the upper right and it's easy to add Goodsearch. It works well most of the time, but if you don't find what you need or find it is slow (which it can be, late at night) it is very easy to switch temporarily to another search engine. Goodsearch remembers who to donate to with cookies, so make sure you preserve the one they set if you manage cookies in some way. And verify your choice of the CSAC Avalanche Center on their homepage now and then.
Goodshop helps even more, and all you have to do is go to the retailer of your choice from their site. Rather than go directly to Amazon, for example, follow the Goodshop link. (Making sure your choice for the CSAC is reflected on their site.) You pay the same amount you would otherwise but a percentage is donated to us.
If all our supporters and users did some searches though Goodsearch and some of their shopping through Goodshop it could make a big difference. Especially with our small overall budget.
If anyone has any questions or comments about our budget (or any other aspect of how things are run) please feel free to post them in the Feedback section on our forums. ( http://www.avalanche-center.org/phpBB2/) You do not need to register, although posting as a guest requires jumping through a few hoops in order to keep out the spammers.
Over the summer we set up accounts on a number of social networking sites. The most noteworthy is Facebook, where we have both an account and a page you can become a fan of. If you use facebook make the Avalanche Center a friend, our page is https://www.facebook.com/avalanche.center/ and friend requests can be sent to email@example.com.
Managing accounts on various social network sites is too time consuming for one person, so we could use volunteers to help with different sites. If you are familiar with Facebook, StumbleUpon, delicious, or any other such site and want to promote and manage an avalanche center account there let us know. You would need to manage and approve friends, links and bookmarks, article links and reviews, etc. Exactly what can be done depends on the site. Tasks can be shared by more than one person.
You can also help promote the Avalanche Center by bookmarking it or sharing our articles and pages on these sites. The home page now has a feature to make this easy. We will be adding it to other pages and some stories in the News section have it now as well. The little plus sign in an orange square on the right side of the home page will open into a box with a list of sites where you can add the page, if you have an account. If you don't see your favorite bookmarking/networking site there click on the "more" option and a window will open with every networking site known to man. (Well, probably not. There are probably even more, as hard as that may be to imagine!)
Members - http://www.avalanche-center.org/members/
There are some extra features available to members. When members log in their shopping cart is remembered and adds no shipping charges. Most of the time it also applies an automatic discount to all non-sale items. Members also have full access to the incident reports and database.
In the forums and galleries there are some areas reserved for members. There are two forums with reports on the presentations given at each of two conferences so far. These are not quite complete, but there is some interesting information there. This is all done in the form of a forum topic, so any given presentation can be commented on or asked about. In the galleries there are also some that are reserved for members. Only thumbnails can be viewed publicly in these galleries.
Membership requires a minimum donation of $35 and is good for one year. Posts on the forums earn "forum dollars" and those can be applied towards membership, among other things. There is a rarely used lottery there also, to leverage the dollars from your posts. Membership also comes with any store purchase exceeding $100 (including sale items) and all winning auction bids. The auction always includes some very low price items. With so many options available there is no reason for membership to be out of reach for anyone.
Education - http://www.avalanche-center.org/Education/
The primary mission of the CSAC Avalanche Center has always been awareness and education.
The education center continues to improve. Each year we maintain course listings, although last year this slipped a bit as a result of our move. This year we have plenty of courses listed from several of the countries leading avalanche programs. These people have generally supported us annually for quite some time, and most are operated by certified guides and/or avalanche professionals. If you are looking for a course check out the listing, which can be searched and ordered by location or price. We have many listings in California and Colorado in particular, but a few are in other locations as well.
Our major new initiative is to offer online education. We now have a complete set of Level 1 modules available. Ten of them. If these are all completed successfully along with two separate field days a certification is earned. This will serve as a qualification for advanced topics, free field refreshers, and other training opportunities. Unfortunately these are not free since we have no underwriting for any of it and the courses are very time and labor intensive to develop, run, and maintain.
This is not a case of making a one-time investment in a flashy self-contained resource that will then sit there with no further attention. The modules and courses all include quizzes, some of which are scored online and some of which are submitted. There are resources in the courseware for communications with instructors and between students. It is fully interactive in the human sense.
For those that complete the certification, or certain prerequisite modules as required, it will be possible to pursue advanced training on select topics of interest for recreation. One module at a time, at a reasonable cost per topic. This is in contrast to the high priced lengthy courses currently available beyond Level 1, many of which focus on topics that are not of great importance for recreation. Beyond recreation there will also be occasional courses with more of an engineering and science orientation.
There will be more on this in upcoming updates, but there is a link to the Avalanche Institute at the top of the Education Center page. Much of the detailed information for the public (non-student) website is still being rewritten and reviewed, but the course has been run with two very different groups of students in two very different locations last season and was highly successful.
Right now we need to promote the auction in particular, but we will be doing more promotion of the project in general this season. New bookmarks that are full color and two-sided are very affordable now, and will be replacing the old one color bookmarks we have used in the past. (We still have lots of those to distribute, so if you can put some out in a shop, hut, information kiosk, or elsewhere let us know and we'll send some.) We are entirely out of decals, and getting more is just a matter of finding the time to locate the best price and handle the graphics submission. A supporter did hook us up with a local printer he uses, but the cost appears to be high compared to what we paid a few years ago and can pay now. Hopefully we will have some more before this winter really gets fully underway. We will also be ordering new shirts sometime soon, and in order to balance out the size selection and run down our final inventory we may put quite a few shirts up for auction this year.
Please help us out and join, contribute, bid in the auction, and spread the word. Mention the auction (and the deals!) on forums you participate in. Become a Facebook friend. Look for our auction flyer on the auction page and distribute it by posting locally or sending to your local clubs. Your help is appreciated and is important to keeping this non-profit sector project alive.
Some links in parting: