ARS National Convention, May 1986
Bill Tietjen, President
Now we come to the point where I'm supposed to say something important. By way of introduction let me tell you I'm a P.K. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the abbreviation, P.K. stands for Preacher's Kid. There was a saying around our house "that not many souls are saved after the first twenty minutes" and we reminded Dad of this quite regularly. But he let it be known that he knew better than we how long it took to save souls. Since I'm not here to save souls, this talk, won't be twenty minutes long. What I hope to do is give you two good reasons why the ARS, which is your favorite plant society, should also be your favorite charity.
When I was ten years old, my brothers eight and five, (we are four, the youngest are twins), moved to a new house. I still remember the day Dad took us to see it for the first time. It was a big house, three stories high with 13 very large rooms and a front stairway and a back stairway to get to the second floor. We spent a great deal of time exploring this house and found nothing but empty rooms. However, off the dining room was a strange closet. It had no door but it did have a window and a sink and a built-in closet consisting of five drawers and several shelves enclosed with glass doors. We learned this was a butler's pantry, whatever that was. The only thing we found in this big empty house was in the bottom drawer of the butler's pantry. It was filled with old National Geographic Society Magazines. In cleaning out the house, the former owner just could not bring himself to throwing out the National Geographies and so they were left for us to enjoy. We had never seen this magazine before and the four of us spent many, many enjoyable hours learning about the distant places in this world in which we live.
Earlier this month it was our youngest grandson's birthday and when we arrived at his house for the party, there on the coffee table was the current issue of the National Geographic in its very familiar cover. During the course of the afternoon I picked the magazine up to browse and noticed that the current price had changed very little over the years and that the subscription was still quite affordable. It certainly had not been changed by inflation as for instance the New York subway fare which has gone from five cents to a dollar during the same period of time.
The reason, as you all know, is that the founders of National Geographic looked ahead and established an endowment fund that is still growing and not only provides the funds for printing the magazine but underwrites the costs of the many expeditions that provide its story line.
The ARS Journal is a very fine publication. It has become the finest magazine I know devoted to the genus Rhododendron , and it is our intent to keep it that way. Right now its cost per member is $10 per year. The remaining $10 of our dues is divided between the chapter and the national organization. Many chapters supplement their income with plant sales and raffles. National does not have that opportunity and has to look for another means of support. An Endowment Fund was established, where the interest would be used for education and publications. I hope that the tax free contribution of our members and friends will build up this fund so that in time the interest from the fund will pay for the cost of publishing the Journal. This would free up dues money now spent for the Journal to help cover the increasing operating costs of the Society. What I'm suggesting is that we learn from history and follow the example of the National Geographic Society and support the Endowment Fund.
Now for the second point and it is of equal importance. In 1975, the ARS Research Foundation was established. Annual contributions have been increasing. By 1983 the yearly contribution grew to over $10,000. For the years 1984 and 1985 the contributions dropped to $3,500 and the projection for 1986 is also $3,500. This year we have received gifts to the fund from 71 members totaling $1,835. This includes a gift of $200 from the Princeton Chapter and a gift of $1,000 from the Potomac Valley Chapter and we are very grateful. The annual interest from the investment of the gifts has grown to a maximum of $10,500 in 1984. Due to a decline in interest rates of Certificates of Deposit, the income decreased to $8,500 in 1985 and the projection for 1986 is the same. As interest income increased the Foundation was able to increase its funding of programs. In 1982 funding amounted to $8,500, in 1983 it was $14,500. In 1984 and '85 the funding dropped to $10,000 in both years and this morning the Trustees could only fund programs totaling $8,500.
While contributions to and interest from the fund are declining, our requests for funds are on the increase. This year the Research Committee received 31 proposals totaling over $50,000. With only $8,500 available the committee was not able to fund all the projects they felt were deserving of funding.
This morning the Trustees of the Research Foundation took two important steps. First they voted to secure the services of an investment company to manage the Research Foundation Fund which now totals almost $120,000. This should increase our income by two percentage points after fees are paid. Secondly they voted to separate the appeal for gifts for the Research Foundation Fund from the annual dues notice and send an independent appeal for gifts to the members and non-members alike. Gifts to the ARS Research Foundation Fund and ARS Endowment Fund are tax deductible. The support of the officers, directors, membership and chapters will go a long way toward improving the financial picture of the American Rhododendron Society.