Did you know that AMC membership dues account for 65% of the chapter’s annual base income? (The balance comes from an endowment established in 1992 per bequest of a generous donor.) The chapter uses these funds to support our programs, activities, and basic business operations, as well as to reduce or eliminate participation costs to our members.
At the start of each year, the chapter sets a balanced operating budget. Since 2016, the chapter has ended each year with surplus funds, typically due to a combination of unanticipated income (e.g., unsolicited donations) and actual expenses coming in lower than expected. Normally, this is a good problem to have. But then the COVID-19 pandemic caused a dramatic drop in both operations and operating expenses, while not significantly reducing our income from membership dues and our endowment. (A big thank-you to all our members who stayed with us during these difficult years!) By the start of this year, the chapter held nearly $40K of funds beyond what our all-volunteer organization has the capacity to spend in a single year! For a non-profit like AMC, this is NOT a good problem to have, since we have a duty to apply our funds to carry out our mission.
All of the AMC’s eleven regional chapters, not just the Western MA chapter, had this problem to varying degrees. So AMC staff developed a list of 24 mission-oriented projects that could increase their impact if chapters were able to contribute funds by drawing down their reserve accounts. AMC fully empowered the chapter volunteer leadership teams to decide what projects they would fund and at what levels. This illustrates the respect that AMC has as an organization for its volunteer leaders.
Here in Western MA, our executive committee took three monthly meeting cycles (and considerable time outside of the meetings) to review all the projects. In the end, we decided to commit 75% of our reserve funds (nearly $30K) to nine projects, while retaining 25% to allow next year’s executive committee a chance to make their own decisions. These funds to be used as follows:
- To make improvements at AMC’s Noble View Outdoor Center in Russell, MA, including new bunks, a new hot water tank, and installation of two electric vehicle chargers to help AMC reach its Net Zero goals.
- To complete special projects on the New England Scenic Trail, including trail improvements, and a paid Teen Trail Crew summer project for underserved youth from Holyoke, MA.
- To protect high-demand climbing and paddling areas, sponsoring related research, advocacy, establishment and maintenance of public access, essential improvement to parking lots, etc.
- To help establish a new partnership with Primary Source, providing AMC leaders with resources to plan outdoor experiences focused on learning more about African American history. (Primary Source educates global citizens by working with teachers to foster students’ knowledge, skills, and dispositions for thoughtful and engaged citizenship.)
- To support collaborative projects as part of the Mountain Education Alliance (MEA). Chapter funding will enable AMC’s volunteer mountaineering committees to participate in the Mountain LEAD certification program, which provides clear, consistent, and achievable benchmarks when evaluating and certifying volunteer leaders’ ability to perform and teach various technical mountain disciplines.
- To advance justice, diversity, equity and inclusion by contributing to Educators Outdoors, Conservation Funding for a More Equitable Outdoors (CFMEO), and the Maine Woods Community Youth & Environment Program (MWCYEP). Educators Outdoors is a leadership training and support model for teachers and youth development professionals (“educators”) working with young people in communities that face barriers to outdoor recreation opportunities. CFMEO assists underserved communities to access conservation funding resources and implement open space and trail projects that serve to narrow the nature gap in nature-deprived communities in MA. MWCYEP is an integral part of AMC’s Maine Woods Initiative, a comprehensive effort designed to improve the quality of life in the 100-Mile Wilderness region through economic development, ecological protection, responsible forestry, community partnerships, and environmental education.
We’re proud to be able to support these high-impact AMC projects, and look forward to being able to share news about them with you in the months to come!