From The Executive Director
2004 is bringing about new awareness of the true meaning of membership in the American Rhododendron Society. Much of this focuses around our responsibility to properly handle gifts, income, and grants to the Society. With our first major gift from the John Swisher bequest, and a new-found interest in the Endowment Fund, we recently went through a learning curve about our existence as an educational organization.
Much of our activity is driven by requirements mandated by the IRS. What does the IRS have to do with the ARS? It's called a 501 (c) 3. Since making reference to this in the winter issue of Journal ARS, I've had several calls from members asking for more information. That magic status with the IRS is what makes us tax exempt; right up there with the church, science, literature, and all of your other favorite charities. As such, we have promised the IRS that we will not use our profits solely for our benefit. To determine whether or not we still qualify for our tax-exempt status, a comparison is made between the charitable purposes we serve and private benefits we, as members, receive.
The purpose of the Society, as defined in our policies is "...the encouragement of the culture of rhododendrons, including azaleas, and the increase of the general understanding of and interest in all aspects of these plants." Every time you distribute our publications at shows, garden centers, and other public gatherings, you are accomplishing our mission. Our website, rhododendron.org, is a vast pool of information available to all who visit. Public gardens sponsored by our chapters also express our dedication to serve a broader audience. When our spiders provide expert advice to all who seek it, we are spreading education.
Representing the only organization on the planet dedicated solely to the genus Rhododendron, you, the members, are doing a wonderful job of providing critical input into the survival of our planet.
Your membership in the ARS provides you with a beautiful journal, chapter newsletters, seeds, special access to the latest plants, great speakers, gardens, shows and great friends. But, it's what we all accomplish together beyond the basic membership that is what we're really all about. Giving something back is the greatest perk of being a member.