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Report of the Chair - AGM 2005
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Report of the Chair
Chebucto Community Net Society
Annual General Meeting 2005

Presented by Chair Marilyn MacDonald

[Photo: Chair Marilyn MacDonald]

The year 2005 was not a great one for Chebucto.

Many of the details of our experience will be included in the committee reports to be presented to you shortly. I am going to make a brief report concentrating on several points. I would like you to keep them in mind as you hear the committee reports and also to take them away with you as you reflect on Chebucto's future after this meeting.

Late in 2005 Chebucto held a Board retreat, its first since 2000. This followed months of planning by a steering committee composed of Tom Daly, Bernie Hart and Tanya Moxley. The first session with the Board was followed by a second early in 2006. Many, many ideas came forward from these sessions and the Board adopted two for concentrated effort this year: the development of a business plan and of a strategy to increase membership through the recruitment of volunteers. Two sub-committees were formed to take leadership on these issues. But although a few meetings were held, no significant progress was achieved. Two members were obliged to resign from the Board, Bob Ashley, to relocate for employment reasons and Dale Crory to deal with family issues. But the main reason for the lack of progress reflects the current plight of Chebucto: lots of plans; too few people to execute them.

The human resource deficit we face is easily the equal of our financial deficit and the two are interrelated. We lack the revenue level to sustain our expenditures and we have done what we can by cutting expenses. We've negotiated a new rate with Eastlink which will result in significant savings this year, thus helping our bottom line. And staff salaries have been frozen for the current fiscal year. But just something to reflect on: it goes without saying that Chebucto could not function without staff. Far beyond that, however, it could not function without the hours of UNPAID time which staff have been willing to volunteer to keep things moving. They bear a burden which is increasing steadily and at some time will prove impossible to maintain.

One example. Our retiring Board member, Mark Alberstat, who began The Mousepad column in the Chronicle-Herald and continued it for three years was unable to continue further. It has been taken up by our office manager, Andrew Wright, on his own free time.

Another example. Over the past year we have added an array of new services: updated webmail, encrypted email access, improved spam and scam filters, secured credit card renewals and many more features, all adding significantly to the already heavy workload of our technical assistant, Johnathan Thibodeau, with no hope of compensating him for the change.

Too much to do. Too few to do it.

By now, you're probably asking yourself if this is a prelude to some sort of suggestion that Chebucto has outlived its usefulness and perhaps should think of retiring from the fray. It is nothing of the sort. That question has been mulled over within the Board and in my own case in numerous one on one talks with both Board members and others. In every case, while it is acknowledged that the time may come when there is no longer a need for Chebucto, that time is NOT NOW!

The digital divide still exists. The need for the use of Internet technology to further community betterment still needs a champion. It will never be smooth sailing. There'll be gusts of wind and high waves and the boat will continue to rock a bit. But hopefully it won't be swamped.

I've spoken of our efforts to cut costs. We also need improvement on the revenue side. Our funds come from three sources: memberships, donations and the sale of special services.

Memberships declined last year from 1749 in 2004 to 1630 in 2005. Text account losses represented the greater part of the loss and in December a milestone was reached: our Plus memberships exceeded our text memberships for the first time. But we are still not getting enough NEW Plus members and this must be addressed.

Under the direction of the External Committee last year we undertook several advertising initiatives, in the Chronicle-Herald, two in The Coast and a six-month run in the giveaway Flying Cow publication. They did bring in a few accounts but the fact remains that most of our new members by far have heard about us from someone who has had previous experience with Chebucto or through our website. We have to develop this more fully, consider new initiatives in fundraising, market our services more effectively.

Much to do, too few people to do it.

I know that in making these points I am preaching to those at least converted enough to show up at an AGM. But the survival of Chebucto is going to depend on the willingness of you and others like you to shoulder the responsibility for the Chebucto of the future. It cannot be left to the same small set of people, year after year.

One new direction on which we have already embarked will be presented to you later in tonight's meeting. It too will require your participation and that of others. Put as simply as I can put it, Chebucto is YOURS to keep, or to lose.


Marilyn MacDonald

Chebucto Community Net




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