President’s Message (09/11)


Finally, summer has arrived, just when everyone insists it’s time to close things down.  Many of the clinics will end their seasons in the next month.  I’ve personally served at the Washington Park Arboretum clinic since I went through training.  As it’s a year-round clinic, it surprises me each year to talk about the end of the clinic season.  It’s also time to start ripening tomatoes, another signal of fall.  Since I don’t grow much food, that deadline doesn’t really apply to me, either.  In the midst of so many things cycling again into winter, and with the new school year, the deadline I’m thinking about is the Foundation budget for 2012. The MGFKC board’s primary responsibility is to act as the fiduciary body for the membership of the Foundation.  Each autumn we go through a budgeting process, and we’ll begin one this month.  We hope to have a final budget approved by November, although in recent years, the upheaval in state and county budgets has slowed us down and we’ve not approved a final budget until December.  The process of building a budget is relatively straightforward and sometimes fascinatingly contentious, naturally, given the enormity of the county in which we do public outreach and the diversity of our perspectives and goals.


In each year’s budget, some of our projects propose their own budgets:  the demonstration gardens, for example, all propose budgets to the current treasurer who, then, takes them through a review process of the finance committee.  Ultimately the demo garden budgets are rolled into the Foundation budget as approved by the board, although typically after changes and questions have gone back and forth.  It’s appropriate for the demo gardens to propose their own budgets, since the folks involved are far more knowledgeable about the needs of the gardens than the board could be (with the few exceptions of board members who also serve as garden leaders).  Clinics, on the other hand, have budgets predetermined by the board.  While this may seem arbitrary, or worth examining, any and all MG Foundation members have access to additional funding through the Request For Funds process.  (RFF funds are built into the Foundation budget each year for unforeseen expenses such as clinic canopies or other supplies that need replacing, or occasional large purchases.)  It’s a challenge to find an appropriate amount of money for supplies for clinics as various as the Federal Way, who reported 2,608 public contacts in 2010, and the zoo, who reported 564.  I’m sure we can deploy our resources better, more efficiently, but not without your input.  What priorities are we missing?  Let your liaison know.  Contact a board member.  Contact Elaine.


The issue of resources is complex for the Foundation.  In some ways we are still living in a luxurious world of financial surplus.  The bequeath of Ellen A’Key to the Foundation several years ago, as well as several years of banking money from successful plant sales, combine to give us financial breathing room each year.  2011, however, saw a plant sale that was less profitable than we’d planned at the same time we’d added some large expenses.  We will certainly run a deficit in 2011 and the board will continue to discuss new revenue streams.  I’ve noticed, though, that when the issue of resources comes up, the limitation of MGFKC is never money, but people.  Volunteers are, for me, the real limiting factor of our public outreach efforts.  Ideas abound regarding ways to, perhaps, more effectively reach more of King County.  Every time I’ve asked clinic and garden leaders, however, each of them says they need 4 more people, or 6 more, or 10 more.  In the same way we can’t indefinitely add additional expenses to our budget, we can’t add projects that pull volunteers from existing work without considering whether we should move or close clinics, gardens, etc.  I hear often how much more dynamic MGs could be if only we’d put our energies into_________ (fill in the blank).  These ideas are typically great ones that would likely achieve just what we imagine we want.  But, I believe there’s a delicate balance to be found between maintaining our current outreach commitments and finding new, more inspiring opportunities.   For me, this is the framework for the upcoming budget season.  Where are we spending our resources:  our money and our volunteer hours?  Are we achieving what we hope?  How can we put our resources to better use to meet the demands of a growing county?  Perhaps most important, how can we deploy our resources to offer the public good information and our volunteers meaningful, inspiring work?  Thoughts?  Reactions?  Talk to a board member, or better yet, join us the second Thursday of the month.  Sep, Oct, and Nov meetings will all be at CUH beginning at 6:30.



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