An Update from the Avalanche Center
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This is part of an end of year series which will highlight the different sections of our website. We hope it will also remind people that we rely entirely on user contributions and store purchases for funding to support the project. This edition will add a few comments on the News section as a follow-up to the last update and review the Store and About Us sections, which are both relevant to our end of year fundraising push.
We would like to extend a thank you to those who have contributed this season. At one time, a long time ago, we had more of a team and sent out post cards as acknowledgements and thanks. However, this consumes a lot of time, effort and cost that can better be spent elsewhere. Most of our supporters seem to agree with this and prefer to see donations go to providing resources like those currently being reviewed. We do have a members email list which we infrequently send notices to announcing or updating features specifically for contributors. I also try as director to personally send email to our larger contributors, a task I am behind on. I hope to catch up on this soon.
The Avalanche News Section
The last update reviewed the resources available in the News section of the website. There are two additional comments related to that.
The Newsfeeds page in that section was omitted, which uses RSS feeds from other sites (as well as ours) to post the most recent avalanche related news and forum posts. This is one use for RSS feeds, and we know other sites post our feed content for the benefit of their audience also. RSS is still somewhat new and not implemented as widely as it could be. More sites are introducing it, and If there are feeds we should add to this page let us know since we may not be aware of them.
The second comment is that these reviews are covering one section at a time, not the entire site. We were asked about incident news, and why the last story in the News section isn't more recent. All incident related information is in the Incidents section, not the News section. It is a far more extensive section and for most of the season it is updated very frequently. But more on that in an upcoming update. When incident information is omitted other avalanche related news worth posting and archiving is not that common. So sometimes there is recent news, and sometimes nothing new appears for a while.
About Us Section
This is also sometimes called the Organizational section. It contains information which is important to have available, especially for people wanting to know more about some aspects of the project before donating. On the other hand it isn't information people look for (or at) regularly so this will be brief. If you are reviewing the causes you contribute to, especially now at the end of the year, ask yourself where avalanche safety fits into the picture. If you are considering donating to the cause you can access a lot of our budget and other related information in this section. And if you have donated and wonder where the money goes you may also want to have a look or to print our 501c3 document if you need it.
Under financial information you will find complete budget summaries for the last three seasons, and usually periodic updates for the season in progress. Prior to that our accounting was not conducive to this type of report. However, we have a page with budget history since we began. Including contributions. You will see that the average amount has remained fairly constant. Unfortunately last season the number of people contributing went down. This average is over a wide range - everything from $1 donations added to shopping carts to contributions of $100 or more. Few websites have this much disclosure, particularly their budgets over time since many grow quite a bit faster than inflation. This section also has public copies of all key documents - our incorporation, 501c3 status, etc.
Other materials include an archive of these updates back to 1995, lists of contributors and supporters, information on navigating the website, and some additional items. The section was link checked and all problems found were corrected just a week ago or so, and time is spent keeping it current and clean just like the rest of the site.
Store and Auction
Along with contributions our budget relies mostly on store purchases. Any purchase with a check-out value over $100 includes a years membership. On the other hand, if you are already a member you can get discounts by logging in when you shop. If you find a lower price anywhere else, despite our discounts, we will match it.
There really isn't any reason for anyone to buy many items anywhere else when they could be supporting avalanche safety while getting the best price. (Except for brands and items we don't carry.) Please remember this when you need any avalanche gear, and make sure your partners and friends know also.
In addition to the store we also have our own in-house auction. This has been used for an annual fundraising event, which did not take place this fall. It may or may not happen later in the season. It requires a lot of effort and interest in helping with it has always been low. We have considered using the auction on a regular basis for safety equipment, but it requires somebody to manage and promote it. (Posting items, etc.) It would also require enough regular traffic to be viable as an auction.
Every year we also sell a few beacons on ebay. This is for promotion as much as anything, and the winning bids are sometimes quite low. There is a link on the store page to any and all current ebay auctions we have.
There are still some major sections to review, and this series will continue after the New Year. Remember that you only have a day or two to make a contribution that will be deductible on your 2009 taxes. This update featured information that is available if you need more information. You can also find us listed on Guidestar.
After the new year begins we will include some other ways you can support us. When you search or shop, for example. Or by using our new Avalanche Institute for some avalanche education. (All of this evening was spent digitizing and editing some video for some of our Level 1 modules in the Institute.)
Since tomorrow is New Years Eve our next edition will be in 2010, so we wish everyone a happy and safe New Year.