USA Dance Financial Issues

On March 28, 2015 USA Dance released a financial report to its members. I have reviewed it and found it quite troubling, not only because of the information it reveals, but because of the necessary information that is inconsistent or missing.

Membership

The March 28th report indicates that membership revenues in 2014 amounted to $392,033. If this is accurate, it is the largest drop in membership monies year-to-year that I have seen in USA Dance in the seventeen years that I was on the Governing Council. Here are the collected membership dues amounts as they were reported in the annual outside audits for the years 2008-2013 versus the unaudited 2014 figure:

2008 – $579,660 – audited figure

2009 – $576,359 – audited figure

2010 – $545,842 – audited figure

2011 – $534,458 – audited figure

2012 – $524,999 – audited figure

2013 – $513,492 – audited figure

2014 – $392,033 – unaudited figure

These figures show that for the five year period encompassing the end of 2008 through the end of 2013 membership dollars declined by a total of $66,168, which is an average decline of $13,234 per year. But membership revenue during 2014 declined by an additional $121,459, which is over nine times that of the average decline of the previous five years.  Such a one year drop in the 2014 collected membership dues requires an explanation to the members as well as an annual outside audit for 2014 to verify the accuracy of this figure. It would be useful to know if part of the dues monies collected in 2014 were deferred into 2015 and if so, were they balanced against dues collected in 2013 but deferred into 2014.

An organization may suffer a drop in membership dollars for a variety of reasons, only some of which may be under its direct control, but a sharp drop in any one year does require careful analysis to determine the cause.  It should be noted that during the period 2009 to 2013 while memberships were gradually dropping, USA Dance succeeded in offsetting the drop in membership dollars with monies generated through several generous sponsorships.

The March 28th report states that:  “During the last quarter of 2014, over 1,000 new members were added.”   What is not discussed is how many members did not renew in 2014, and whether these non-renewals were among competitors, professionals or social dancers.  These figures should be made available so that members truly know where USA Dance membership figures stand today across all categories of membership.

Expenses

The March 28th report states that in 2014 the organization suffered a net loss of $231,888 in expenses over income. This is a staggering amount for an organization the size of USA Dance. In order to properly evaluate this number it is important to look at the actuals for 2013 and compare them to the actuals for 2014. According to the 2013 outside audit the organization had a net loss of $57,668. This loss can be largely attributed to the expensive staging of the 2013 Nationals in Los Angeles as well as the investment which USA Dance made in its youth via the Olympic Dance Camp held that year at Lake Placid. However, the Olympic Dance Camp was not held in 2014 and the Nationals returned to Baltimore where they are less expensive to stage than in Los Angeles. So where did the huge losses of 2014 come from?

Was there more Governing Council or other travel in 2014 than in 2013? Were there more administrative expenses in 2014 than in 2013 or more expenses for bookkeeping and accounting or for strategic planning that resulted in so much red ink for the organization? The members need comparative categorized figures year-to-year in order to be able to properly evaluate the net loss figure for 2014.

Another problem with the March 28th report is that actual numbers in the report are not stated consistently. For example, under Budget 2014 (p.5) the report lists “general and administrative expenses of $248,000”, yet in the Statement of Profit and Loss these figures are reported as $201,934. Does that $46,066 discrepancy mean USA Dance lost even more money in 2014? Such a discrepancy needs an explanation, and it is hard to tell whether there are further inconsistencies or discrepancies as the March 28th report lacks sufficient detail for a thorough analysis.

Budget

There needs to be a detailed budget available for the members’ review. Every year through 2013 such a detailed budget was prepared, encompassing multiple pages and detailing everything from travel and lodging for every individual Governing Council member to supplies, printing and postage, and every other national expense program by program. In order for members to be able to evaluate the 2015 budget discussed in the March 28th report, there needs to be a comparison to the 2014 budget, as well as a tie-in to the actuals for 2014, and these budget documents need to be in sufficient detail so that members may ascertain where money is being spent from year to year.

American Dancer Magazine

I am concerned by the implication in the March 28th report that the American Dancer magazine needs to be self-supporting.  The magazine is a major benefit of membership in the organization, and I suspect that in fact many individuals who join USA Dance as social members do so solely for the purpose of receiving the magazine.  A 48-page magazine that comes out only six times a year cannot generate enough advertising dollars to pay for itself without reducing the number of articles and dance photos to such a degree as to become of no practical value or interest to the members and subscribers. While attempting to grow advertising dollars via the magazine is a worthy effort, it is secondary to the role played by American Dancer as a necessary public relations vehicle for USA Dance, placing top athletes in the spotlight and enhancing USA Dance’s stature as a national sport organization.

Responsibilities of an NGB

USA Dance is both the National Governing Body of DanceSport as well as a service organization. It is not a for-profit organization. Monies obtained from membership dues, admission to events, donations and sponsorships are required to be plowed back into services for the members. And because USA Dance is an NGB, the main responsibility of USA Dance is to administer DanceSport and to ensure that DanceSport receives top priority in the allocation of resources for athlete training, development and travel to world championships. Therefore, comments in the March 28th report that “$157,000 of the overall loss (in 2014) can be attributed to DanceSport…” are not meaningful, because the monies collected by USA Dance from dues, admissions, etc. are to be used for the benefit of the athletes and their sport.

The National Championships should of course be a money-maker for the organization to the extent possible, and in many previous years they were just that. However, the major purpose of Nationals is to choose the best athletes who will represent our nation in world competition.

Electoral and Subsequent Promises

The current set of corporate officers of USA Dance promised the members during the 2013 election that if elected, they would improve the organization, bringing more transparency, improved communication and greater financial management to USA Dance.

In a membership-wide email on December 29, 2014, in response to requests for detailed expense information, corporate officers stated that:  “Recently, a discussion began on the USA Dance, Inc. Facebook Group raising questions about the allocation of funds in the USA Dance budget for accounting expenses.”

The email went on to say that a “comprehensive year-end Financial Report To Members” was being prepared. Unfortunately the March 28th report is not comprehensive nor does it provide sufficient financial data to answer members’ questions so that members may be in a position to decide if electoral promises that were made are in fact being kept.

Additionally, the questions raised regarding the organization’s finances are substantive enough that an annual outside financial audit (as has been done in USA Dance for decades by previous administrations) is not only recommended but must be considered the minimum bar for current corporate officers to begin to establish a track record of responsible financial management.

Leave a Reply