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Community News

May 13, 2020

Update from the Boston Society for Architecture

Dear BSA Community,

I am writing to share some very difficult news, but also optimism for the BSA’s future.

All of you are aware of the effect COVID-19 is having on our work, our members and partners, and communities. The impact on the BSA is also profound. We forecast a 2020 revenue shortfall of $1.5 M, and regrettably, 501 (c) 6 organizations like the BSA do not qualify for PPP funding. We are working hard to develop new revenue streams, but face significant challenges. A month ago, we took initial steps by furloughing front-line staff and reducing our general operating expenses over $500,000.

Last Friday, we had to take additional steps by laying off eight (8) staff, reducing salaries for remaining staff, and putting flagship businesses like ArchitectureBoston on pause. These are painful decisions. Those leaving us are:

Managing Director of Finance
Managing Director of Advancement
Managing Director of Communications
Editor of ArchitectureBoston
Communications Coordinator
Production Artist
Executive Administrator
Facilities & Visitor Services Manager

I assure you that these decisions were not made with a lack of forethought or notice. We reviewed our financial position with the executive committees and Boards. We have shared messages with all of you about our financial challenge. Throughout this process, we have shared our status and intentions with staff. The message is consistent—we anticipate a loss of $1.5M due to COVID this year and we need to act. I cannot begin to express how incredibly sad and disappointed I am for all eight laid off staff. They are not just wonderful colleagues, but friends. We thank them for their incredible work, dedication, and passion.

We are outsourcing our accounting, communications, and some of our development operations—functions that are necessary but not directly part of our mission. We engaged DiCicco Gulman & Company to manage our accounting. We extended our agreement with Resilient Philanthropy, who advised us for the last year, to guide our major gifts and fundraising efforts. Our negotiations with a communications firm are wrapping up this week and will be announced soon. In the long-term, we may be stronger from these moves as we engage experts and concentrate on our mission. We will continually assess progress and make changes as necessary.

Staff are concentrating on core areas for our members and communities, including professional knowledge, advocacy, design policy, community design, and public design education. We are hard at work developing revenue streams to fund this work. There is a lot happening at the BSA, including resources and programs responding to COVID, 43 member-led Knowledge Communities, Triple Decker Thursdays, mentorship programs for emerging professionals, and renewed alliances with colleges and architecture students seeking professional exposure. We have an upcoming professional programming series on embodied carbon, projects for communities in need, architecture online activities for youth, and advocacy focused on reactivating design and construction safely and equitably.

Many of you are wondering why ArchitectureBoston is being paused and its future. The short answer is cost. In the final print years of AB, the magazine cost $600,000 more to produce than it earned in advertising revenue. The online transition cut this net loss in half. However, at a time when we are facing significant financial losses, we cannot afford to carry such a substantial investment. We need to reconsider its operations. We have put it on pause and, working with our new communications firm, will explore how to continue the AB legacy. In the interim, we will be sharing some of the past stories from AB that remain relevant today.

How can you help the BSA? Even with these changes, we still have a deficit to close and ambitions to help the profession and the communities where we live. We know many of you are not in a position to help financially. Those who can, we ask you to consider support to continue this work. You can make a donation at architects.org/donate or we can help find a sponsorship opportunity that advances your business. If you would like to discuss your support, please contact me at [email protected] or 617-391-4005.

We are operating in a time when there are more questions than answers. We believe these changes, while extremely painful, position the organization for short-term survival and long-term re-growth. We will monitor our financial position for new information—positive or negative—and make additional changes as necessary. The BSA is an incredibly robust, passionate, and resilient community that has been through many challenges. We will come through this challenge too—together and stronger. In closing, please remember to be safe, be healthy, and be kind.

Thank you.

Eric White Hon. AIA
Executive Director
Boston Society for Architecture


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