When I was running for the position of SHARE treasurer, I heard hallway conversations that the organization’s finances were in trouble — that SHARE might even fail because the organization was running out of money. When I was elected to the role, I kept those conversations at the top of my mind. Why were people saying these things?
What I quickly learned was that SHARE was, and remains, financially healthy. For a time, it had just looked as though things were heading south. The reasons were two-fold.
Before the transition from SHARE Inc. to a non-profit organization, called SHARE Association (see this Message from SHARE explaining more), the organization had a lot of money in investments. Over a period of many years, these investments were very profitable. Those profits were unrealized gains. When we transferred those assets to SHARE Association, those unrealized gains became taxable. Knowing that this was going to happen, leadership chose to spend that money on SHARE initiatives, to reduce the tax liability. Secondly, over the years when SHARE Inc. was profitable, the organization paid taxes. So over a period of time, SHARE Inc. looked as if it was losing money, and those taxes could be recouped. What looked like a loss on paper wasn't as bad in reality.
With 2018 being our first year as SHARE Association, the budget was micro-analyzed to see where we could save money. We looked at what initiatives weren't performing well and began eliminating unnecessary expenses in those areas. Although the 2018 budget was set to lose money, in reality, the actual funds lost were significantly less than planned. When we set the 2019 budget, we had learned from the previous years: what did and didn’t work, and what could be done differently, and we set objectives accordingly. For example, we stopped the SHARE Live! and session recordings. We also held the May 2019 Board of Directors meeting as a virtual meeting, rather than all of us traveling. The key point I want to share is that we looked at what we could do to avoid or limit a negative impact on our strategic goals and event attendee experience.
We wanted to continue to be creative and challenge historical practices and assumptions. We wanted to get away from a mindset of, “We’ve always done it this way.” We knew there was a better way of doing things — there almost always is. If initiatives were not meeting our success criteria, we wanted to sunset them.
But not all budget adjustments had to involve eliminating activities. We wanted to find ways that SHARE activities would continue or improve attendee experience at events. You may have noticed that at SHARE St. Louis and SHARE Phoenix we went offsite for the welcome reception, which was a cost reduction, as additional time spent at the convention center was more costly than an offsite location. It also opened up sponsorship opportunities — a whiskey tasting in St. Louis and transportation in Phoenix — that would not have presented themselves had we stayed in the convention center.
SHARE also adjusted headquarters staffing roles in 2019. Under our new executive director, Brian Langerman, we were able to think creatively about how to more efficiently utilize staff resources, and we are seeing tremendous success from that.
At the Virtual Status of SHARE in April, we were pleased to show the positive progress that has been made in a very short period of time. (As an aside, that virtual meeting was well received, and I hope it is repeated in the fall.) The association’s improvements continue, not only financially, but in terms of event attendee experience. For example, I’m pleased to share that on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, a full-spread lunch will be available for attendees in the SHARE Technology Exchange. Traditionally, light hors d'oeuvres were provided, but we’ve decided to take a step forward and provide a full sit-down meal for attendees, to improve overall experience.
Of course, making SHARE the best it can be is a two-way street — we encourage all SHARE delegates to do their part and take ownership in the success of this association. There are two key ways this can be done. First, there are volunteer roles that do not require attendance at events, such as serving on a committee or program. Many hands make light work, and greater volunteer activity can increase the potential for other activities and offerings from the association. We can only be as strong as the passion and engagement from our delegates.
Second, to those who attend our events and seek to make the most of their membership, consider the three pillars of SHARE: Educate. Network. Influence. It can be relatively simple to attend an event, go to a session, and gain tremendous technical knowledge (“Educate”). But take that one step further: get involved, empower yourself, and create a network. If you’re new, it can be difficult to introduce yourself to others, but everyone at one point has been in that position and didn’t feel comfortable networking. Once they learned it wasn’t that bad, their experience only improved.
Last, there’s the third pillar, influence, which may be lesser-known. IBM has a process to gather requirements from the community, called Request for Enhancement (RFE). (A requirement defines a business need related to an IBM product, service, policy, or strategy, and must include a business justification.) SHARE has a process called SHARE Requirements, which feeds into IBM’s RFE process. SHARE members can submit requirements, evaluate them, and voice their opinions on how a requirement should be prioritized. You can learn more about that process here, or read Mike Shorkend’s March Message from SHARE, to learn why we need greater participation from delegates in this area.
The future for SHARE is bright, and I encourage everyone to help us continue on this path. Think of what you can do to not only help SHARE, but to enhance your own professional development by educating yourself, networking with others and using your voice to influence the industry.