Planning for a Profitable Future
Now, a month into my presidency, I am focused on the agenda I put forth in my introductory blog. With the shift away from the ATC as an in-person meeting to hosting it virtually this year, our society has suffered a significant decline in budgeted revenue. Fortunately, the board of directors anticipated this and began cost cutting meausures in March. Additionally, the Development Committee has been working with our Industry Partners to navigate these changing times and design solutions that meet theirs and the AST’s needs. As AST President, I remain committed to providing our members with the resources they need to carry out their activities and mission. However, I also have a responsibility to maintain the financial health of the society for future years. Ensuring that our relationships with Industry Partners are as beneficial to them as they are for the AST will be essential to sustaining our livelihood.
The AST is Taking Precautions to Manage its Budget
Since the inception of this pandemic, the AST has responded proactively to the challenges COVID-19 has placed on our fiscal health. During the CEoT meeting, the AST Board began discussing how to decrease spending to ensure the society would remain fiscally sound during this time of uncertainty. Anticipating that we would experience a loss of ATC income, we immediately cut board related expenses, placed a pause on staff hiring, and deferred planned capital expenses. Concurrently, we began to explore new funding opportunities.
Looking ahead, I will continue to work with the Board to develop the tools and plan needed to keep us financially secure. I am confident we will emerge from these trying times well positioned to continue delivering on our core mission. Moreover, the stress imposed by this pandemic has forced us to think creatively and the strategies we are developing to get us through it will serve the society well into the future.
The AST is Embracing Change and Being Proactive
Although the pandemic has disrupted our freedoms and interactions in many ways, it has also accelerated the embracing of technology and understanding of the value it brings. Our world has fundamentally changed and the use of technology will continue to evolve within our field and the AST. I want the AST to be prepared for these changes and the opportunities they present. I also want us to consider how to modernize the AST to make it more advanced and resilient. As with all things, this pandemic will pass; however, we would be remiss if we did not prepare for the next disruption.
I have been meeting regularly with AST staff and our Industry Partners to better understand how to balance member engagement while maintaining our principles. In this regard, our Industry Partners are like minded and I pledge that I will not compromise the society’s integrity while we search for ways to proactively confront our challenges.
Exploring Creative Opportunities with our Partners
During our Development meetings at CEoT this year, the concept of an Industry Partner “portal” took shape. We believe that building a portal, that would be managed by the Partner, would present an opportunity to provide information to our members without being intrusive. Similar to many of the Partner portals offered in the Sponsor Lounge during ATC, the AST Partner Portal would offer educational webinars and downloadable PDFs of original research manuscripts and white papers. Additionally, it would list industry sponsored research grant opportunities and clinical trials and offer our members a way to directly contact the Partner if they choose.
We believe it is important to give our Partners a platform to offer valuable resources to AST members, without excessive emails. Providing our members with a place to access this information, we hope, will meet the needs of our Industry Partners to remain connected to our members while allowing our members to choose their level of engagement.
Working with our Partners is a Reciprocal Relationship
We have a tripartite set of goals: to add value to your AST membership, meet our Partners’ objectives and maintain financial stability. Creating this portal will help us realize these goals. Our Industry Partners fund 56% of our annual budget. Therefore, it is our commitment to them to provide member engagement and connectivity. As we continue to eplore the option of creating a Partner portal, we will keep our members informed. We have already conducted three brainstorming sessions with the leadership of the COPs. These have resulted in very good ideas on how to enhance this project. Acknowledging our responsibility to balance Partner access with member privacy, we will send out a letter of transparency to the entire membership. The Board’s commitment to you is paramount and as AST President, it is my fiduciary role to act in the best interest of you, the members. This will always be the lodestar.
I will continue to seek your input on what resources are most important to you and how you think this portal will serve you. I look forward to working with our members and Industry Partners to achieve success for everyone.