Important Update from the SOVAC Board Chair, Susan Damone Balch

I wish I had good news for all of you for the end of 2023, but sadly, I do not.

Most of you already know that due to the flood and other unforeseen circumstances, enrollment in our workshops was dismal in 2023. Since we rely so heavily on revenue from tuition, this has left our organization in a tenuous financial situation. We are very grateful for all who attended classes and for a few generous donors who have provided emergency funding to help us keep going. In addition, we recently discovered wire fraud connected to our bank account that went unresolved for 21 months. We are taking steps to mitigate the damages.

Our struggles are not only financial. The Society of Vermont Artists and Craftsmen is also experiencing personnel issues.

Most of you know that along with my role as Board Chair, I have been managing the day-to-day operations of the organization. In light of all that has happened and the amount of effort that it takes to juggle so many responsibilities, I have made the difficult decision to step down as Board Chair as of January 15, 2024. I will continue in my administrative role. 

In light of all these challenges, the SOVAC Board has made the difficult decision to press pause to reset and regroup during the 2024 season. This temporary status will allow our Board of Directors and small volunteer staff to focus on attaining the support and the resources we need to re-open with a new vision in 2025.

I realize that this news is unsettling. Our organization and school are facing great uncertainty, and we are at a pivotal point right now. However, this is also a time to consider new opportunities. Moving forward to create a viable and sustainable organization for the future is going to require strategic planning, new leadership, and a substantial financial investment. 

New Leadership – By Vermont law, all nonprofit organizations must have a chairman (or president), a finance director (or treasurer), and a secretary. The Chairman cannot also be the secretary. Two of our current Board members are filling the positions of Secretary and Financial Director until new elections in May. If the chairman position is not filled by Jan 15, we will be required to cease all operations and plan the eventual dissolution/closing of SOVAC and Fletcher Farm School for the Arts & Crafts.

Strategic Planning – A strong volunteer team was making good headway with our recently launched strategic initiative, but because of the financial restructuring and leadership being stretched thin, the project has temporarily ceased. We are looking for the resources to hire an external consultant to help us move forward with this project.

Financial Investment – Our organization has always relied heavily on tuition as our primary source of revenue. With tuition way down, our annual fund campaign can no longer bridge the gap between tuition income and operating expenses.

What we need in order of Importance:

  • IMMEDIATELY: An interim Chairperson to lead beginning January 15, 2024 through May 31, 2024.
  • Chairperson, Secretary and Finance Director to serve for the 2024-2025 year and beyond.
  • Additional board members who are interested in change, so the organization can sustain itself in the future. 
  • A cash infusion of $200,000 
  • IMMEDIATELY: $20,000 to hire an independent strategy consultant/company to guide us onto a sustainable path for the future.
  • $180,000, to build a team and program that gets us moving in the right direction to reopen in Spring 2025 with paid staff and an interim roadmap toward our sustainable future.

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