Dear Global SE Community,
The reality of being a nonprofit organization is that our resources are always more limited than our big dreams and ambitions. This has always been true, and we do our best to not let it limit our vision and potential, but it’s especially true right now, as we face some financial and organizational challenges. It is incumbent on our board, for me as Chair, to be as transparent as possible, so I want to share some of what has been happening at SEI these past few months and what’s ahead for us all.
We are in a time of financial contraction. In 2022, our revenue was less than anticipated and our expenses increased. Some of this is due to the long-term impacts of the pandemic and some is more recent with the changing economy, as well as our own miscalculations about how the SE training model would adapt and grow under these conditions. Additionally, our margins on training revenues are very thin, meaning we do not realize significant profit from our trainings. Any profit we do earn is immediately and fully reinvested in our charitable activities, such as scholarships, global disaster relief, research, and public outreach. On the expense side, we grew very quickly – too quickly in retrospect. We added a number of staff in 2021 and 2022 and made a major investment in technology to improve services for students and the broader SE community. These were important expenses, but our revenue didn’t cover them as planned. To stabilize the organization, we’ve had to put some activities on hold, implement pay cuts for higher paid staff, and lay off three employees – a heart wrenching decision.
We also are experiencing a change in leadership, which has added to some feelings of instability, but is actually an important opportunity to embrace during this time of change. As mentioned in last month’s letter, Marv Tuttle took a medical leave of absence in December. In his absence we have been working to appoint an Interim Executive Director who will start in March. We have also had great news that Marv is feeling better. We are hoping to have him return as a consultant and to work with the Interim Executive Director to lead SEI while a national search is underway.
Most importantly, please be reassured and know this: we have a plan to carry SEI through this more challenging time, we have the leaders we need to see it through, and we have the strongest foundation of any point in SEI’s history to weather these changes and emerge into our next phase of growth.
- We are adding a modest price increase for trainings, less than current inflation rates, to cover a portion of increased costs while shifting as little as possible to students;
- We will be offering more online trainings – the demand for online trainings is high and also less expensive and time consuming;
- We are making staff changes to right-size the organization to accommodate our budget; and,
- We are developing new programs which are expected to realize solid revenues.
These actions will help rectify the revenue-expense imbalance and stabilize SEI. It will also allow us to grow at a slower, more manageable pace. And, we also need your help right now – we need your donations, your understanding, and your moral support.
Difficult times, which we are clearly experiencing, often provide the most fertile ground to manifest the most innovative ideas, solutions, and approaches. We are in a time of contraction. It is normal in times of contraction to feel fear and uncertainty. It is normal to have questions and concerns. It is the typical path for any nonprofit organization going through a transition. We know from SE that we will soon pendulate back to expansion – it is the normal and inevitable response to contraction. And then, as we also know, our individual and collective systems will settle. As we work together with a common and unified purpose, the settling will happen more quickly and more easily.
As always, my door is open. Please feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions, concerns, a good story, or just want to introduce yourself!
Michele Solloway, SEP, LMT, MPA, PhD
Chair, SEI Board of Directors