smO Response to the General Feedback

smO Response to the General Feedback 

This is in response to the general feedback survey (which is still live as of 8/13/2019) and the initial feedback that survey has generated so far.

Safety and Inclusion

First, the smOdyssey board wants to emphatically state that if anyone feels uncomfortable or unwelcome at our events to please reach out and tell us what you need to feel included or welcome. smOdyssey is nothing without the community and we want to ensure that everyone is welcome and included. We will intervene when people are being disruptive, or are a danger to our community and we actively work on making the events we host a more inclusive and safe space to be.

Outreach

The smOdyssey board has been actively working on outreach, but there is only so much we can do with what we know. We need help from you to tell us how we can be more diverse, inclusive, and where we should focus our outreach. These surveys will help us in getting constructive feedback to help shape smO to be a positive force in the community.

Growth

We are very excited about growth and want to be inclusive and have membership from a large demographic in the bay area. We are actively getting feedback on how to grow the organization with our future surveys on the mission of the organization.

We want to make sure any added areas of outreach and growth are supported by both the organization and by the community. This is why we are asking for feedback as we don't want to spend the meager savings we have on a party, facilities, or classes if it would lead to bankrupting the organization.

We have a legacy of education and are looking to get feedback on how to structure classes to best meet the community's needs and desires going forward in the form of additional surveys.

Locations and Events

Regarding venues and event spaces, currently we are fortunate enough to host our munches and discussion groups in locations that require little to no organization investment. We have looked at many options for hosting events and wanted to ensure there would be support from the community before spending $400-500 on renting an event space in the bay area for a class or activity. 

To give some context, most of our classes to date have had an attendance of less than 10 people with a low of only 3 attendees. Often the majority of the attendees are board members who have also helped organize the event or are hosting the event at their house for free. We have been fortunate to have volunteer presenters, but going forward we would like to have the ability to offer presenters an honorarium for their valuable information and the time preparing for and presenting content in an effort to get more and varied content to hopefully relate to a wider audience. Many presenters spend several hours preparing to give a class and then pay out of pocket travel to and present that material, even at $100 for a 2 hour class or demo, that results in an hourly amount close to $10-20/hour. For professional educators, this amount is unsustainable, for volunteers, we are grateful, and we want to be able to support more people coming and presenting to the community. 

With a normal split of 85% members and 15% non-members, and class rates of $20 for members and $25 for non-members, classes have been unsustainable. Historically, this has been the only revenue producer for the organization and the most tangible benefit outside of discounts and reciprocal benefits with other national organizations. Given our current annual dues of $10, going to one class pays for many peoples memberships, this is likely also unsustainable, but is a relic of a time when our organizational membership dropped down to less than 30 with the majority of the members being on or related to the board. 

Cost of membership and attendance at events

We have made a point to drop our membership prices to a minimum allowable to maintain our not-for-profit status while we have worked on cutting organizational costs to the bone. We have also relied heavily on community members to store what little equipment we have remaining as we worked to rebuild. Going forward, any program that involves added expense, will likely need to increase prices in some way. We can't do this without getting feedback from the community and ensuring we are doing what the community wants and needs. We currently have fewer than 50 active members, and we are barely able to pay our website hosting costs, our corporate taxes, and other required organizational fees with member dues. Most events are run at a loss, and a few members have stepped up in the past to help sustain the organization with generous injections of income to prevent insolvency. Please be considerate of our financial situation when providing feedback. The last large conference level event we hosted was run at a $10,000+ loss, largely due to the inability to get sufficient attendance. The cost of space in the Bay area is tremendous and we want to host activities that are needed by the community while being fiscally responsible. 

Going forward

We have spent multiple years working on digging the organization out of debt in order to be on solid footing when we come to the community asking for guidance and now we need your help to ensure we are doing the right thing for the community.