CEO Update: State of the Organization Recap - Feb 2021

About one year ago the COVID-19 crisis began to impact The Mountaineers in full force. It's been an incredibly challenging year but we've persevered and are emerging from the pandemic on solid ground. Learn about recent operating and financial highlights, how we’ve responded to new public health guidance, and our expectation for the year ahead.
Tom Vogl Tom Vogl
CEO, The Mountaineers
February 26, 2021
CEO Update: State of the Organization Recap - Feb 2021

Reflecting back on the last year, it’s fair to say that it’s been one of the most challenging years in Mountaineers history. In March 2020, COVID-19 related shutdowns caused nearly every aspect of Mountaineers operations to grind to a halt. Our program centers and lodges had to close their doors, we were unable to ship books to retailers and parks, volunteers had to postpone or cancel courses, trips, and events, and youth programs were put on pause. In addition to severely impacting our mission delivery, these program closures created a financial crisis that threatened our very existence. Without taking immediate and aggressive actions, we ran the risk of running out of operational cash reserves by the end of May. 


One year later, we are still experiencing the impacts of the global pandemic. Thanks to the immediate actions taken by volunteer leaders, staff, and our Board of Directors, we are on rock solid ground and feeling cautiously optimistic about the year ahead. Through the end of January 2021, we are ahead of our Board-approved budget for this fiscal year (that began in October) by nearly $350,000. Each of our major program areas are ahead of their 2021 budget, especially Mountaineers Books, which is having a phenomenal year. Our operational cash reserve has grown from about $800,000 last March to nearly $1.6M in January 2021. And our Long-Term Building Fund is completely intact and valued at $3.6M, in large part thanks to a strong stock market. While $1.6M in cash reserves may sound like a large sum, it only amounts to about 2 ½ months' average expenses. A good practice for nonprofit organizations our size is to maintain operating cash of at least 6 months' expenses, so our reserve position is still lean. The year ahead of us still holds tremendous uncertainty and requires us to diligently manage our financial position, but we feel hopeful about the future. 

So, how did we navigate this crisis over the last year to arrive in this strong position? It’s largely due to the hard work, sacrifices, and generosity of our community. Volunteers created innovative, hybrid programs to deliver online course lectures that would have otherwise been in person. Our Development team moved in-person events online, such as our annual Mountaineers Gala, and donors have continued to be incredibly generous. Mountaineers Books focused on consumer direct orders and created a curbside pickup option at the Seattle Program Center. Staff took pay cuts and furloughs, and we reduced our overall headcount by more than 20%. As a team, we dramatically reduced expenses across the board, impacting programs ranging from volunteer recognition and development to youth experiences. These reductions were necessary yet extraordinarily difficult because they directly impacted our community. By working together, we closed a significant portion of the gap we faced. 

Another way we’ve ensured our survival is by pursuing economic relief programs created by congress to aid small businesses and nonprofit organizations like The Mountaineers. Last spring we received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA). More recently, we were approved for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program - a long-term, low-interest loan through the SBA. And on February 22, 2021, we received approval from the SBA for a PPP “2nd draw” - a program signed into law in January 2021 that created new, forgivable loan funding for eligible small businesses and organizations. Navigating the application and approval process for these relief programs hasn’t been easy, but it’s been another important way we’ve addressed the pandemic cash crunch. 


We committed to a rigorous and continual assessment of our financial sustainability and had always planned that as soon as operational results showed steady signs of improvement, we would evaluate reversing some of the austerity measures that were impacting volunteers and staff.  Receiving the 2nd draw PPP has allowed us to implement an early termination of the expense reduction actions that have impacted staff payroll, for example, including salary cuts, suspension of 401K matching contributions, and additional furloughs.

At the same time, our stronger-than-forecasted operational results will allow us to continue investing in volunteer recognition and development. The Board of Directors has approved incremental funding that is being allocated to this year’s branch and outdoor center budgets. This funding is intended to be used at the discretion of each branch and outdoor center as a means of showing appreciation for our volunteers, and to restore some of the budget that was cut this year as part of our overall austerity efforts. The specific budget amounts and guidelines will be shared with Branch and Outdoor Center Leaders by mid-March.

We need to continue managing our financial position carefully to ensure that we have the resources we need to survive what could be a lengthy recovery. The Mountaineers is in a strong position today because we’ve worked together as a community to protect our future, even amidst one of the most significant challenges we’ve ever faced. We’re deeply grateful for the sacrifices our staff and volunteers have made over the course of the last year. 


Many leaders and members joined us on February 25, 2021 for a State of the Organization update from Board and staff leadership.  We will continue to share frequent and transparent updates in the months ahead as we prepare for the gradual reopening process and our path to new normal. Feel free to reach out with any questions or comments, and we look forward to seeing you all in person in the near future when it’s safe to gather again! 

Watch the Recording

Main photo of Crystal Mountain Backcountry.

The Mountaineers® is a 501(c)(3) organization supported through earned revenue and elevated through charitable contributions, tax ID:27-3009280, 7700 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115.

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Jan Fitzpatrick
Jan Fitzpatrick says:
Mar 01, 2021 08:48 AM

Thank you for keeping your programs going during a difficult time. The programs have really helped myself and my friends not only get through a challenging time, but also enjoy and learn more about getting outside safely.

Nick Mayo
Nick Mayo says:
Mar 02, 2021 07:37 AM

Thank you for your steady leadership through these extraordinarily difficult times Tom!

Anita Wilkins
Anita Wilkins says:
Mar 02, 2021 09:50 AM

Tom, your steadfast leadership of The Mountaineers throughout this challenging stretch instills confidence in me as a donor and deep gratitude in me as a member. THANK YOU!

Mark Olsoe
Mark Olsoe says:
Mar 24, 2021 05:30 PM

Thank you for moving many courses onto Zoom. I have attended more courses than usual since it's so convenient (no driving). It's a good way to learn and I hope you'll continue that as an option for future courses when possible. It's great when the courses are recorded and the recording is made available to view later.