The official PASS Blog is where you’ll find the latest blog posts from PASS community members and the PASS Board. Contributors share their thoughts and discuss a wide variety of topics spanning PASS and the data community.

FY21 Budget

Every year PASS posts our fiscal year (FY) budget to provide transparency into our finances. It’s a wealth of information so we include a summary, and FAQ docs to help our members understand the information.

This year, with the impact of COVID-19, there are more challenges, and questions, than ever before. Creating the budget was well under way when the realities of COVID-19 hit PASS, so as I wrote in June, we regrouped, re-planned, and built a new FY budget for the organization. By taking that time to step back and build a new FY budget and approve it months later than we typically would, it allowed us to reforecast revenue for a virtual conference vs an in-person conference. Budgeting was an incredibly difficult exercise this year as we have never been faced with a virtual conference taking the place of our in-person, primary fundraising event. The budget is the result of forecasting done in June and July, based on the information available when the budget was developed. Like any budget, we set it at the start of the fiscal year, and measure against it going forward.

Looking at the budget, you will see a $1.58M deficit this year. This is a huge challenge for the organization. PASS has been hit hard by COVID, with our largest fundraiser being an in-person conference. We are excited for a world class and interactive PASS Virtual Summit, but it will bring in significantly less revenue than the in-person conference. The shift from an in-person PASS Summit to the PASS Virtual Summit has resulted in approximately ~$3.6M reduction in annual gross revenue for the organization.

Where we were prior to COVID-19

In early 2020, PASS was sitting in a strong position. We had a record year for sponsorship for both Summit 2019 and 365, a strong partnership with Microsoft, and we were ahead in our PASS Summit 2020 registrations. We had an approved budget deficit of about $40,000 and were on track to, in fact, break even on the year. We had begun making progress in diversifying revenue, with PASS Summit shifting from ~94% of our revenue to 88% and had a little over $1.2 million dollars in reserves. We had begun building out a paid membership offering – a crucial addition that would not only allow us to accelerate our revenue diversification, but also meet the shifting needs of our members.

PASS was poised to have the strongest year yet.

Spring 2020

When the realities of COVID-19 hit we knew that we needed to take immediate action to ensure the survival of PASS.  We reinvented PASS Summit with a new approach, platform, marketing model, sponsorship offerings, and pricing structure. We accelerated our plans with paid membership, launching PASS Pro a year early with an initial, discounted offering - while adding no resources to the organization.  This provided an alternate revenue source for PASS to build on. We reduced expenses where we could, without cuts to programs, and HQ instituted reductions to their management fee (from 10% to 3% at the time), rolled back their team’s salaries, avoided replacing any vacant roles, and the Executive Director salary was removed entirely – reducing their monthly cost to the organization by over a third. As a result, we ended the year with about a $550K profit. Approximately $500K of which came straight from the reductions HQ made (Our FY20 audit, a rigorous process, is still underway, and we will share that once it is complete).

As we rewrote the FY21 budget we knew we would be facing a significant deficit. The virtual conference would not bring in the revenue that an in-person event would. PASS Pro would provide some small help in the immediate, but would take time to grow (as we add both members and value) as a renewable and significant revenue source for the organization.

Passing the Budget

In July I presented the Board with a budget containing a $1.58 million dollar deficit for the year. A budget that scaled back everything we could, while maintaining what we offer to the community, and driving a world-class virtual conference experience. This was not an easy budget to create, or to approve, but the Board recognized the reality of our situation, and knew that we had reserves on hand to get us through such challenges. After scrutinizing the budget, the Board unanimously approved it along with approving the use of PASS reserves as needed to support the continued operations of the organization. In addition to the use of our reserves, we continue to see reduced billing from C&C, which puts us in a position to be able to weather this challenging year, without drastically reshaping what PASS is, and what we provide to the community.

What’s next

This is a challenging time for PASS and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. We don’t know what next year holds, but we know that we will be challenged again.

Following PASS Virtual Summit the board will be regrouping on where we are at, and where we need to be to navigate the remainder of this challenging time.  The financials are being monitored closely  as we review cash flows and actuals weekly  with monthly reporting to the entire board. We will also, of course, maintain quarterly reporting to our community.

While PASS is facing many challenges this year in light of COVID-19, there are some bright spots on the horizon. We have a strong relationship with our partners. We are seeing strong interest in PASS Virtual Summit sponsorship, as well in what we offer 365 days a year to our partners. We are on a good path to diversify our revenues, with a perpetual revenue stream that enables us to best serve a global community, PASS Pro Membership. We have also seen support across the community, as many members look at what we can do to support an organization that has done so much for our own careers.

If you are like me, and the PASS organization has helped shape your career, or even your life, please consider supporting the organization now. Register for PASS Virtual Summit, or upgrade to PASS Pro. Even better: do both! Every registration counts. Every membership upgrade counts. Driving registrations and partner relationships are what will help to close this budgeted deficit and put PASS back on a growth trajectory. We look forward to sharing the next addition to the PASS Pro suite of offerings in the coming weeks.

Take a look at the budget, read the FAQ. If you still have questions, reach out and ask them.

Tim Ford
About the author

Tim is a Microsoft Data Professional with over 20 years of experience. His career in data started accidentally and he contributes much of his success to the near 20 years spent as a PASS volunteer. He is currently the Subject Matter Expert for the Microsoft data platform at Mindbody, the leader in SAAS tooling for the wellness and beauty industry where he focuses on Cloud migration and High Availability. 

Tim is also a business owner, launching SQL Cruise events in 2010 under his Tech Outbound brand. He also has experience as a Consultant, Speaker, Trainer, and even as a Certified Yoga Teacher. 

As a technical author of hundreds of articles, Tim has a passion for reaching audiences at the start of their journey in SQLMag.com, ITpro-Today.com, MSSQLTips.com, SQLServerCentral, Simple-Talk.com, and theSQLAgentman.com. He is the co-author of a book on Dynamic Management Objects with Louis Davidson and creator of The Periodic Table of Dynamic Management Objects. Tim presents on technical and professional development topics at many events, including PASS SQLSaturday, PASS Summit, SQL Cruise, and Local Group meetings.

Tim currently resides in Issaquah, Washington. His CV is available here.

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