It’s an amazing morning; for the first time in about three weeks I don’t have some deadline that has to be met by today, and I can actually catch my breath!
Some Stats: But first, my monthly (a bit late this month!) summary of statistics. As of this writing we have 8,336 people signed up to get notifications of these posts either via Twitter, Facebook, or directly asking for email updates here. That’s not quite a hundred more than last month, when we had 8242. And we’re up to 120 subscribers, an addition of 4 new members. Thanks, and welcome!
If we could double the size of the readership, would we double the number of supporters? It’s probably not that simple… but it would certainly help.
And what’s new: So what is it that has kept me so busy? Travel to Kentucky and Ohio (including in Wapakoneta, the home of Neil Armstrong); the Tucson Festival of Books; and talks to a group of seminarians from Wisconsin and alumni from Yale. One more review article out the door; that makes about a book’s worth of writing I have done in the last 8 months. If only I had saved that all for a book of my own.
But what I really want to talk about here, behind closed doors, are two items of news from our annual Vatican Observatory Foundation Board meeting, of special interest to our paid-up members…
In order to read the rest of this post, you have to be a paid-up member of Sacred Space, and logged in as such!
Ambassadors: The first is the launch (real soon now) of something we’re calling the Vatican Observatory Foundation Ambassadors. This is modeled on the NASA Solar System Ambassador program, which several of our supporters (like Bob Trembley) participate in. The VOF Ambassadors will be trained and approved by members of the VOF board subcommittee to give all the talks and presentations that other members of the staff (and I) would love to do, but can’t. They’ll get special background material that they can share with parish groups and schools. In this way they’ll help spread the news about the Observatory.
At the moment, this is just a heads-up; the web site is being prepared that will let you know how you can apply to volunteer, if that’s something you might be interested in. So, stay tuned!
Money: The more gloomy news is our financial state. As you are paying members of the Sacred Space site, you deserve to know. (This information will be published in our annual report of giving, but again this is an advanced look.)
The people who handle our endowment tell us that just about all charities this past year did very poorly, and the VOF is no exception. The way the stock market tanked in the last quarter didn’t help, either. The bottom line is that we took in $570,000 from all sources last year, and spent $1.09 million… about twice our income.
It’s not quite as bad as it sounds; $100,000 of that loss is depreciation on the telescope, not actual cash losses, and another $100,000 is what the stock market did to our portfolio. On the other hand, $250,000 of our income is just what we carry on the books to represent the salaries that we would normally have to pay for work done by the Jesuits on staff; it’s donation in time, not money, in other words.
In terms of pure cash flow, we brought in only $320,000 and we came up about $325,000 short of what we spent. We need to double our donations. (Most of our expenses are fixed: they are the engineer salaries and other expenses associated with running the telescope year to year.)
My goal is get about $600,000 a year from donations. A “pyramid” that could do that would be one $100,000 donation, fifteen $10,000 donors, a hundred and fifty $1,000 donors, and two thousand $100 donors, every year.
We actually have number of different donors coming in at the $50,000 level, and a good number (though no where near 100 yet) at the thousand dollar level. But with only 120 Sacred Space members, which is where I expect to find those two thousand folks giving us about ten bucks a month, you can see we have a long way to go.
There are 100,000,000 Catholics in the US. Surely we can find two thousand of them, a mere 0.002%, who love astronomy and would like to help us out?
You readers are the ones we’ve found. (Thank you!) Who can you find to join us? Spread the word!