As I stated in my letter at the end of last year announcing staff and programs cuts, Dahlem Conservancy Center has been in difficult financial circumstances for the past five years. Dahlem had been operating with budget deficits since 2011.
In the conclusion of 2016 for the sixth consecutive year, we were facing a deficit of $50,000. The Board of Directors made a decision in December that Dahlem would not operate with a budget deficit in 2017 and mandated me to produce a balanced budget. The 2017 budget that was approved featured deep staff cuts resulting in the layoff of over half the staff. The cuts went into effect December 31st. The full time Education and Development Directors were laid off as well as the part time positions of Naturalist, Receptionist, Clerk, and a Maintenance person. The layoffs have resulted in program eliminations and scaling back on others. However, there were no changes to our very successful Little Acorn preschool program regarding staff and class programing and schedules. While regrettable the cutbacks have enabled us to take deep introspective look at our operations so that Dahlem can be reinvented to make it the premiere nature and science center by 2020.
Dahlem is not closing its doors. Dahlem is a gem in Jackson County that must survive. I have made a solemn commitment to our long term donors, supporters, and members that Dahlem will emerge better and stronger from its current economical conditions.
The first priority is financial sustainability. Our number one priority is to restore confidence with our supporters and the financial community by being economically viable and debt free. At the end of 2016 we were beneficiary of several large donations. These donations have given us working capital to start 2017 and enabled us to finish 2016 without a deficit and be in position to retire all debt carried on the IRS 990s. The $50,000 line of credit taken out in February 2016 to cover payroll and expenses was paid off in February. This is a remarkable turnaround from 2015 when the year ended with a $107,000 deficit. Through careful budget planning and fiscal discipline we will build up cash reserves.
The commitment is to finish with balanced ledgers. The goal is to make all our classes and programs financially sustainable. Below is a brief financial summary of 2016 and the projected 2017 budget. Only the major items are reported and not the entire budget. Please contact me if you would like more detailed information.
Finally, we need your help rebuilding and creating the New Dahlem 2020. A deep thanks to our supporters who generously gave at the end of last year to give us the opportunity to rebuild Dahlem. I know there are some longtime supporters who have become disillusioned and have withheld financial support as a result but I would encourage you to renew your commitment to Dahlem. We must look forward and not back. There is a plan for Dahlem 2020 that will be realized making Dahlem the premiere Nature and Science center in Jackson County. We need your help be it time, treasure or talents. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns and most of all offers to assist us as we persevere through this difficult period.
- On March 15, 2017