A close-up of Rosie the Riveter's arm with an OTW logo on it and the words 'OTW Recruitment'

The OTW is Recruiting Finance Committee Staff

We would like to thank everyone who responded to our previous call for Tag Wrangling volunteers!

Today, we’re excited to announce the opening of applications for:

  • Finance Committee Staff – closing 17 August 2016 UTC

We have included more information on each role below. Open roles and applications will always be available at the volunteering page. If you don’t see a role that fits with your skills and interests now, keep an eye on the listings. We plan to put up new applications every few weeks, and we will also publicize new roles as they become available.

All applications generate a confirmation page and an auto-reply to your e-mail address. We encourage you to read the confirmation page and to whitelist volunteers -(at)- transformativeworks -(dot)- org in your e-mail client. If you do not receive the auto-reply within 24 hours, please check your spam filters and then contact us.

If you have questions regarding volunteering for the OTW, check out our Volunteering FAQ.

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2016 Budget and other information from the OTW Board

Banner by Erin of a spotlight on an OTW logo with the words 'Spotlight on Board'

In recent days, there have been several comments on various posts and social media outlets about the OTW’s financial practices. We appreciate the questions our supporters have and want to be as open as possible.

As the OTW and AO3 have grown, the organization has adapted to new administrative and budgetary needs. Over the last year, we have worked hard to develop and implement best practices for nonprofits of our size, including the need for a more detailed and formal budget than we have had in the past.

In the past, the organization’s budgetary process has been informal and its fundraising drive goals have been based on past expenditures and projected needs. Along those lines, the current fundraising drive goal was set by the Board of Directors and the Development & Membership committee based on results of past drives and our anticipated needs for the remainder of this year and beyond. To determine our anticipated needs, we took into consideration our expenses in the past year together with the rapid growth of the Archive and our other projects, and produced an informal draft budget with input of estimations of expenses from our committees, which–even without a formal finalized budget–gave us a good idea of our costs for next year.

Over the last year, however, we have been increasingly aware of a need for a more formal budget. In July, we decided to develop such a budget and put the matter on the agenda for our annual in-person meeting. Over the past month, led by our newly elected Treasurer M.J. MacRae, we have been actively working on creating a more detailed budget for 2016 based on information gathered from every corner of the organization. Although that document is still in process, based on our current information, we expect the OTW’s operating expenses for next year to be approximately US$300,000, based on committees’ estimated expenses. The final version of the 2016 budget will be released to the public when it is approved by the Board. We expect this to be by mid-November.

One of the elements of that budget will be a proposal to to engage a consultant CPA to organize the OTW’s bookkeeping practices going forward, including independent reviews of the OTW’s finances. We recognize that engaging consultants costs money, but we believe that doing so will improve the organization’s operations by involving people with proven expertise, which will enable the Board and Treasurer to better support the OTW personnel working in service to our mission on a volunteer basis. We have plans to have our books reviewed by independent auditors, as well. The engagement of independent auditors has been in the organization’s Strategic Plan since its earliest drafts. The Strategic Plan was approved at the 2015 in-person meeting and is being polished into its final form, which will be published publicly within the next few months.

The organization is committed to developing and protecting a financial reserve so that all of the organization’s projects, including the AO3, can continue to function even if unexpected costs arise. This commitment to a reserve fund is also reflected in the Strategic Plan. Relatedly, some recent commenters have suggested that the org consider investing in instruments that would improve the organization’s rate of return on its savings. In fact, the question of investments was a topic of discussion at the recent in-person meeting. We will continue to investigate the possibility of investing in higher-rate instruments as we move forward and will take the time needed to find the solution that best fits the OTW’s current and future needs. We anticipate that this will involve consulting with financial professionals who can help the OTW structure its overall finances and investments so that we are able to responsibly grow our assets while keeping everyone’s donations safe, preserving adequate liquid funds to carry out our operations in service of our mission, and maintaining the financial reserves mandated by the current strategic plan.

The current Board is emphatically aware that the current situation is less than ideal, and we are actively working to implement more formal financial practices in order to be the best organization we can be and to best do our work in support of our mission to support fans, fanworks, and fandom. It’s an ongoing process, but with your support it will be possible.

We truly appreciate the care and concern that have been shown for the OTW in your comments over the last few days. We want you to keep telling us what you think. Please understand that there are things that we legally are not permitted to discuss to the extent that, perhaps, you would like. However, that doesn’t change that you and your opinions matter to us and we truly appreciate your support.

Sincerely,

The OTW Board of Directors
Eylul Dogruel, President
Andrea Horbinski, Secretary
M.J. MacRae, Treasurer
Soledad Griffin
Cat Meier
Jessica Steiner

The OTW’s Financial Future

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The October drive was a massive success thanks to your generosity! The staff and volunteers of the Organization for Transformative Works are in awe not only of the amount of money raised but also the thoughtful discussions that took place during the drive.

One question raised in those discussions is: what are we going to do with the extra money? We were also asked why, if our goal was US$70,000, didn’t we stop there?

There are multifaceted answers to both. The shortest and most direct have been given in the comments on the news posts for the drive; we’ll invest more money in servers, in staff training, and in consultants to back up our all-volunteer staff. Raising money beyond our initial goal allows us to do all of those things along with paying our bills until our next scheduled drive in April (and beyond). It also lets us grow our “rainy day” reserve for emergencies.

The longer answer means digging into a little of the structure of OTW and the history of our fundraising.

As you saw in post seven of the drive, a nonprofit organization like the OTW has many expenses. About 70% of our budget goes to hosting, servers, and other things to keep AO3 up and running. The other 30% is spread among our other projects, services, meetings and general administrative costs.

While we’ve always been able to cover our expenses, there have been times when it was close. AO3, our major expense, has grown exponentially—and quite frankly, we weren’t sure what to expect in the early years. Now we have a better handle on our needs, and over the past three years, we’ve refined our fundraising plans to be more mindful of growing our income to match the growth of our expenses. Think of it as the OTW going from “living from paycheck to paycheck” to having a regular household budget, a safety net, and some extra funds to be able to do more good.

Our goal of US$70,000 was what we thought was attainable for us. Our last October drive had raised US$52,381, so we were prepared to fall short of the goal, even if we had been able to bring in more than last year.

We were not prepared for the overwhelming success of this drive. In fact, we expected to have to dip into our reserve fund to get us through the end of the year and help keep us afloat until our next scheduled drive, in April 2015. This isn’t uncommon for a nonprofit, especially one as young as OTW, but also not a strategy we could sustain long-term. Discussions began in August about expanding our fundraising plan to include major donor solicitations, more methods for monthly donations, and adding one or two special events to supplement our annual drives.

We will still be looking into those things, because they are part of a solid and diverse fundraising strategy, but the immediate pressure has eased thanks to nearly 8,000 donors who came through for us this October. Simply put, our finances are stronger than ever, and that means strengthening all of the projects under the OTW umbrella.

Anticipated expenses, in brief:

  • US$45,000 will be used to add additional servers in 2014, with at least US$100,000 in additional machinery in 2015.
  • More servers mean more space for colocation and higher power costs for those servers, expected to total US$36,000 or more in 2015, with an additional US$25,000 for a tertiary colocation site, analytics, and domain registrations.
  • An improved ticketing system for our Abuse and Support teams will cost an additional US$400 per month, a total of US$4,800 a year.
  • Training seminars and workshops for staff will be available from a pool of at least US$7,500, with another US$7,500 set aside for travel, lodging, and registration fees for presentations at fan cons, academic conferences, and other events.
  • An in-person meeting for the Board will take place in October, with possible attendance by chairs and/or other personnel, at an average of US$950 for travel, lodging and meals per person, estimated at US$15,000.
  • US$8,000 will cover routine administrative expenses, and other program expenses will require a minimum of US$23,000.
  • A nine-month cash reserve for emergencies of approximately US$72,000 will be maintained.

Beyond these immediate expenses, it’s difficult to pin down specific expenditures for 2015. As we mentioned above, we expected to go into next year with a smaller reserve and with modest growth in our income. Most of our concrete plans were built around those numbers. Committees are being asked to submit additional requests in November, but there are a few areas where we expect to increase funding.

We’ve talked about the immediate impact for AO3 in terms of additional servers and rack space, contract employees, and training. Fanlore and Open Doors will see some tangential benefits just from sharing the same server space. The upgrade in software for Support and Abuse will also make it easier to respond to user inquiries about Open Doors’ preservation work.

Our other two major projects, Transformative Works and Cultures and the legal advocacy work of our Legal committee, run on significantly smaller budgets than the Archive. Our legal team incurs filing fees from time to time along with the costs of traveling to hearings and meetings related to fair use. The staff of TWC, our academic journal, travel to academic conferences across the U.S.; another expense is the annual registration fee for the journal. The budget surplus created by this drive will allow them to represent OTW at more events, and for members of both committees to join Development and Membership—the committee behind our fundraising—in their plans for increased outreach at fan cons.

All of our projects and committees will benefit as well from more money to support staff and volunteers in attending more trainings, seminars, and webinars. Strengthening professional skills and connections across the OTW has always been a priority, whether it’s taking advantage of a management workshop for Volunteers and Recruiting or sending staff to participate in events like AdaCamp.

All of these areas are places in which we can grow thanks to the success of this drive and the generosity of our members. We expect to give an update on both the annual budget and our fundraising plan for 2015 by early January, so watch this space.

We’ll have another fundraising goal in April, and we hope that fandom will come through for us again. Remember: we’re only as strong and as vital as you, our users and members, make us.

Here’s some more details for all the number geeks among you:

Monthly expenses, recurring:
Regular monthly expenses as of 30 October: US$5,497.20
Monthly average expenses estimate for 2015: US$8,066.66
(Includes server colocation, routine program and administrative expenses paid every month)

Total anticipated expenses from 1 January to 30 March:
First quarter expenses, 2015 adjusted estimate: US$84,949.67
(Includes regular monthly expenses plus US$60,000 server purchase and preparation for the April fundraising drive; minimum amount we must have on hand)

Reserves:
9 months of reserves, 2015 estimate: US$72,599.94
(Based on regular monthly expenses; amount held to “keep the doors open” as we are, without growth, during emergencies)

Expenses plus reserves
First quarter expenses plus reserve, 2015 estimate: US$157,549.60
(Amount we must have on hand on 1 January to carry us through to 30 March and maintain 9 months of reserve funding)

Surplus talk:
Carry over: US$197,544.09
(Assumes we meet November and December fundraising goals and spend remainder of 2014 budget; this is the total amount of money we’ll have on hand on 1 January)

Surplus: US$39,994.48
(Amount remaining after 2014 budget is met, first quarter expenses, and reserve goal are met)

Preliminary budget talk, 2015:
We expect our 2015 budget will be (rough estimate): US$230,000
This number includes hardware purchases as well as regular monthly expenses, in-person meeting, staff development and outreach fund, and more.

Thank you for your support—your generosity makes our work possible.