HMA in the Time of Pandemic

How do we measure the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic? In lives lost, there is no measure for the grief and sadness. In once-thriving businesses now with shuttered doors, there is no acceptable way to define the impact for owners, boards, employees, suppliers, transportation firms, marketers, investors, purchasers, and so on.

In non-profit arts and cultural organizations, the impact is also beyond the scope of understanding. It is suggested that in April 2020 alone, the first month of the pandemic in the United States, that arts and cultural organizations lost income of $4.5 billion.
The Handbell Musicians of America is not alone in facing extreme challenges during these times. We want you to be aware of the economic impact that COVID-19 has placed on our organization, and we want to you to know that the HMA is implementing multiple measures to ensure the financial stability of the organization.

The decline in membership, the cancellation of events and the near cessation of music sales are the three largest sources of negative impact, resulting in an approximate loss of income between $80,000 and $100,000. This, along with a current debt, will place the organization in a cash flow deficit projected to reach approximately $140,000. While a Payroll Protection Program stimulus grant was received, those monies have already been utilized.

Since revenue to the HMA has been impacted in a dramatic manner, we find that we must make some difficult decisions to ensure the solvency of HMA in the future. The following items will occur to reduce our debt:

  • Spending: Wherever possible, I will implement a directive to freeze any spending other than monthly expenditures required for business.
  • Staff Furloughs: During the months of October and November of 2020, all staff, including myself, will be furloughed for a period of two weeks (10 working days). A temporary furlough is essentially an unpaid leave of absence. Each employee will take one week (5 days) of furlough in October and one week (5 days) of furlough in November. To ensure as little disruption in daily business as possible, furloughs were scheduled in such a way that staff members not on furlough will be available to respond to phone calls, emergencies, and ongoing business.
  • Transition and Event Coordinator: Jenny Cauhorn, former Executive Director, has been acting as a salaried Transition and Event Coordinator since April and this was to continue until October 15. In September, with Jenny’s agreement and understanding, we transitioned Jenny from a salaried position into an hourly consultant rate that had been agreed upon with the National Board when she resigned.
  • Postpone Audit: A fundraising audit will be postponed until 2021 when our cash flow returns to a more positive position.

While minimal in nature, these are the first steps being taken to change the impact of economic challenges. In addition, the HMA staff is working to develop or re-develop programs that will contribute to the income of our organization. Some of these include: the development of a fall and mid-winter virtual conferences (Virtual Master Series took place this November), adding to and rethinking the Virtual Bell Academy, redesigning Certification for more virtual learning options, development of a lapsed membership renewal campaign, the creation of a new online subscription-based membership, and the implementation of an extensive fall development campaign, just to name a few.

While we are doing the work necessary to continue to move this organization forward, even during these challenging days, we also realize that this is a call for action from our entire membership. You can help us move forward and implement the necessary changes for our future. Your support can and will make a difference for handbells around our country. Ready to make a difference? I include below a few ideas for you to consider as we work together to refocus our future:

  • If you haven’t renewed your membership, please consider doing so.
  • If you are so inclined, consider moving your membership to that of a Sustaining Partner.
  • Consider making an additional donation before the end of the year to help HMA through this tough time. Our fall fund-raising campaign officially began in mid-November and any contribution made will help us as we move forward in the future. This year, for every gift donated we will contribute 10% to help students become more involved in our organization. The campaign rolled out in November.
  • Giving Tuesday, December 1, featured many fun and creative ways to contribute to the HMA, including a Ring-a-thon. We featured guest performances, interviews, swag and plenty of good times. During the event, we were ecstatic to have raised just over $15,000 toward our 2021 fund-raising goal of $90,000.
  • Or try this: give up one Starbucks coffee a week and you could easily donate $20 a month to HMA.

Together, we can refocus our future. Together, we will begin to reenergize and renew the Handbell Musicians of America. There is no doubt that these are trying times, but there is no doubt of our resolve to make the changes necessary for our organization to thrive in the future, with or without a pandemic.

Ed Rollins
erollins@handbellmusicians.org