Report of the Chair
Chebucto Community Net Society
Annual General Meeting 2005
Presented by 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
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
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.
Chebucto Community Net