CEO Update: State of the Organization Recap - March 2022

About two years ago the COVID-19 crisis began to impact The Mountaineers in full force. We weathered the incredibly challenging time and are happy to be 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 expectations for the year ahead.
Tom Vogl Tom Vogl
CEO, The Mountaineers
March 24, 2022

Reflecting back on the last two years, it’s fair to say that it’s been one of the most challenging times in The Mountaineers history. I suspect that most of us will never forget those very early days when we were just starting to learn about Coronavirus and we were emphasizing the importance of hand-washing, without knowing how profoundly the pandemic would impact us. Almost exactly 2 years ago, The Mountaineers halted the majority of our operations as the world around us shut down, and we headed into an unknown and unstable landscape. Yet even in those early days, our community came together with an immediate and aggressive response to set us up for success in the future.

In March 2020, COVID-19 related shutdowns caused nearly every aspect of Mountaineers operations to grind to a halt. Our program centers and lodges closed, we stopped shipping books to retailers and parks, volunteers postponed or canceled nearly all of their planned teaching, and youth programs were paused. 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 within three months. 

One year later, we are beginning to see the impacts of the global pandemic stabilize. Thanks to the immediate actions taken by volunteer leaders, staff, and our Board of Directors, and the creativity and generosity of our community, we have a solid foundation and feeling cautiously optimistic about the year ahead. We are in this positive position thanks to the austerity measures we took in 2020 and relief programs we were eligible for, recapped in our 2021 State of the Organization presentation.

I’m really proud of where we’ve landed, and am grateful that we seem to be on even more solid footing than before. We are lucky to have a diverse portfolio of different programs from youth and adult programs to conservation, and our publishing division had an exceptional 2021, allowing us more room to recover. We’re beginning to see our programs reaching pre-pandemic levels, and have been buoyed by the resilience of our youth programs. 

Fiscal Year 2021-2022 and beyond

Our fiscal year begins in October, and runs through the following September. This Fiscal Year End 2022 (FYE22), our revenue budget is about $9.8 million, with a positive operating contribution of $160,000. 

Our game plan is to continue to sustain our momentum in books, philanthropy, and by getting most of our programs up to pre-pandemic levels. With any budget, you always have some things that are going a bit better than budget, and some things that are falling short, but we are tracking to be at or above break-even, and hopefully approaching that positive $160k in contribution.

We’ve also been able to increase the amount of assets that we have as cash in the bank, which puts us in an even more stable position than before. We did this by managing expenses closely, by supporting our Books team during the phenomenal sales year, and by taking full advantage of relief programs, such as the paycheck paycheck protection program (PPP) and the economic injury disaster loan program (EIDL). These benefited us in a very significant way, contributing about $1.8 million to our cash reserves and helping offset some of the financial impact of the pandemic. 

Coming out of the pandemic, we have been adding investments back in to support our leaders, including hiring for an additional Member Services Associate to support our volunteers and members. During our State of the Organization presentation, which I hope you’ll watch below, our Membership & Communications Director Kristina Ciari presented on the findings of our 2022 Member & Volunteer Survey, and she specifically called out the investments our volunteers want and how we’re responding to those needs, which includes the hiring of this new position. While this hire does not bring us back to pre-pandemic level staffing, we felt it was important to make our first head-count addition one that would be 100% responsible for supporting our volunteers.

We’re also making selective improvements to our lodges and program centers. The Board of Directors recently approved a project to repair and remodel the bathrooms at Stevens Lodge, which has been badly needed for some time, and we have been expanding the basement area at Baker Lodge to give us more space for teaching. And, we are in the final stages of turning our Tacoma Program Center into a net-zero facility. These projects are all partly funded through our reserves, partly through the deep generosity of our community. 

We plan to continue investing in programs and partnerships in support of programs that offer access, education, and resources to individuals who have been historically excluded from the outdoors. We hope that recent expansions of our gear library and mountain workshops programs will help address this increasing need for so many, especially now that we all came together through the healing power of the outdoors.

Finally, we’re excited to foster further growth of our philanthropic programs, which support innovation and access within The Mountaineers. Supported by philanthropy, we hope to continue to expand our conservation and advocacy programs across the organization. We need everyone’s voice to support the future of the natural world for all generations to enjoy. 

Going forward, we don’t expect that we are fully out of the woods, and we will continue to be diligent with how we manage our organizational finances. We also recognize the importance of supporting members and volunteers and in making smart investments in the key areas supporting our mission. We remain deeply grateful to everyone in our community for coming together to support The Mountaineers.

WATCH THE MARCH 2022 STATE OF THE ORGANIZATION RECORDING

Many leaders and members joined us on March 17, 2022, for a State of the Organization update from Board and staff leadership. Please reach out with any questions or comments, and we hope to see you all in person in the near future when it’s safe to gather again!

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.

Main Image by Ida Vincent.