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 Post subject: AGA losses in 2011 Congress
Post #1 Posted: Sun Jun 17, 2012 2:25 pm 
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The thread about Feng Yun's candidacy evolved into at least two separate discussions: one about conflict of interest, and the other about 22,000 dollars that the AGA lost in the 2011 Congress. In the interest of improving the readability of both discussions, I wanted to separate them. Since the conflict of interest has been the most recently addressed issue in the main thread, I decided to leave it there and I extracted this subject into its own thread.
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Feng Yun wrote:
...
I want to make AGA decision making more transparent... The AGA lost tens of thousands of dollars at the 2011 Go Congress without explanation to members...


I like this part.

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Post #2 Posted: Sun Jun 17, 2012 2:28 pm 
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Joaz Banbeck wrote:
Feng Yun wrote:
...
I want to make AGA decision making more transparent... The AGA lost tens of thousands of dollars at the 2011 Go Congress without explanation to members...


I like this part.


Is that actually true?

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Post #3 Posted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 9:58 am 
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Javaness2 wrote:
Joaz Banbeck wrote:
Feng Yun wrote:
...
I want to make AGA decision making more transparent... The AGA lost tens of thousands of dollars at the 2011 Go Congress without explanation to members...


I like this part.


Is that actually true?


This is true by all accounts I've heard and was reported in the E-Journal. From what I've been told by those in the know this is a semi-sensitive issue between some AGA personnel. I believe they are keeping it private at this time because they dont want to cause a bigger stir and let it be known that the issue was taken care of.

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Post #4 Posted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 10:01 am 
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Feng Yun wrote:
...
I want to make AGA decision making more transparent...


Jie Li also wanted to make the AGA decision making more transparent. Can anyone who reads the minutes or the EJ find examples of this that are NOT ones sent out by DanielTheSmith?

Ill even sweeten the pot to a couple beers for someone at a congress if they can find a couple of examples.

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Post #5 Posted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 3:52 pm 
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vash3g wrote:

This is true by all accounts I've heard and was reported in the E-Journal. From what I've been told by those in the know this is a semi-sensitive issue between some AGA personnel. I believe they are keeping it private at this time because they dont want to cause a bigger stir and let it be known that the issue was taken care of.


Which issue of th E-Journal reported this?

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 Post subject: Re: Upcoming Elections - Feng Yun appears in the line up
Post #6 Posted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 5:28 pm 
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Quote:
Quote:

Is that actually true?


This is true by all accounts I've heard and was reported in the E-Journal. From what I've been told by those in the know this is a semi-sensitive issue between some AGA personnel. I believe they are keeping it private at this time because they dont want to cause a bigger stir and let it be known that the issue was taken care of.

Originally I thought nothing of this... Any organization that runs its conventions as profitable ventures needs to be prepared to accept losses. But the fact that there is a secret explanation that normal people aren't allowed to know is very disappointing, and starting to look like a pattern.

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Post #7 Posted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 5:39 pm 
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jts wrote:
Originally I thought nothing of this... Any organization that runs its conventions as profitable ventures needs to be prepared to accept losses. But the fact that there is a secret explanation that normal people aren't allowed to know is very disappointing, and starting to look like a pattern.


You may recall that the Rochester congress also initially showed a loss. After finalizing the books (and, I think, realizing that they were overcharged by the venue) the event showed a small profit. I don't expect the AGA has any desire to push an E-Journal headline about a significant loss in the congress, but if it doesn't appear in the board minutes (when will they be posted?) then I would be worried.

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 Post subject: Re: Upcoming Elections - Feng Yun appears in the line up
Post #8 Posted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 5:42 pm 
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It's alluded to in the notes that have been published. It doesn't sound like another miracle in line with Rochester is forthcoming.

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 Post subject: Re: Upcoming Elections - Feng Yun appears in the line up
Post #9 Posted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 8:02 pm 
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snorri wrote:
vash3g wrote:

This is true by all accounts I've heard and was reported in the E-Journal. From what I've been told by those in the know this is a semi-sensitive issue between some AGA personnel. I believe they are keeping it private at this time because they dont want to cause a bigger stir and let it be known that the issue was taken care of.


Which issue of th E-Journal reported this?


I found a link in my email:

http://www.usgo.org/news/2012/02/%E2%80 ... d-meeting/

At the following board meeting, I asked what happened to the report that we said we were going to make, and the general feeling was that the issue had blown over and didn't need to be brought back up (more detail may or may not be in the minutes). I didn't push hard, now I'm wishing I had. That's my own mistake; next time I'll make a bigger fuss.

My understanding (and this is just me, not an official statement of any sort, and I'm saying this from memory without going back through my email) is that the loss was primarily due to there being many more cancelations than expected, and a few more comps than were budgeted. I also understand that adjustments have been made so as not to repeat this in the coming years.

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 Post subject: Re: AGA losses in 2011 Congress
Post #10 Posted: Thu Jul 05, 2012 4:56 am 
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Maybe the reason this was no published is one of the organizers was on the board and is now president of the AGA. Sounds like this could have been an embarrassment to the AGA leadership at a time when their leadership and vision was being called into question.

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 Post subject: Re: AGA losses in 2011 Congress
Post #11 Posted: Thu Jul 05, 2012 5:20 am 
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Direwolf, IMO Andy wasn't so involved in the 2011 congress that a loss would reflect badly on him in any way. I'm not even sure he had an official role, though he may very well have, since he was local.

I think I already said how it came about that my press release was not followed up on in the thread Joaz split this one from.

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 Post subject: Re: AGA losses in 2011 Congress
Post #12 Posted: Thu Jul 05, 2012 6:50 am 
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Sorry but one of the few AGA board minutes shows different.

Quote:
Allan: Happy to put breakeven discussion off till next month.
Paul: To put board at ease, the 2012 Congress, at 400 attendees we expect $30,000
surplus. We’ll have a safety net.
Lisa: The problem in Southern California is how ridiculously expensive So Cal is.
Chris K. We took a risk with our eyes open.
Andy: My club is one of the local clubs and I had visible role.
Jie: How are we going to publicize this issue to members?


http://www.usgo.org/files/boardminutes/ ... -27-12.pdf

having a Role in this along with a financial loss at the same time trying to negotiate the monies with the pro league could have be embarrassing at the time don't you think?

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 Post subject: Re: AGA losses in 2011 Congress
Post #13 Posted: Thu Jul 05, 2012 8:23 am 
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direwolf wrote:
having a Role in this along with a financial loss at the same time trying to negotiate the monies with the pro league could have be embarrassing at the time don't you think?


Not really. Do not get me wrong - I am not trying to dismiss this issue, but I do not think Mr. Okun is to "blame" here, and to his credit, in the minutes, he steps up to the plate and acknowledges his role.

But this begs the question - what is the role of the US Go Congress? Should it be the primary funding source for the AGA, or should it be a tool for helping the AGA strengthen around the country?

I have always been of the view that the Congress should first, makes sure it does not lose money and second make sure it is affordable enough so that as many folks can come as possible.

We have had so many Congresses, and yet we had NEVER had a Congress in Southern California - a region where go players have always been thick on the ground, but AGA efforts to corral them had been not as successful. The AGA decided, despite cost concerns, despite the need to import directors from the other side of the country, that is was important and about time that the Congress flew its flag in So Cal. I think this was a reasonable decision, a laudable goal, and it was not like they turned down other bidders to do so. It was certainly a great Congress, and while it was an expensive one, the organizers tried to keep it as inexpensive as possible.

So if there job was to deliver a $30,000 profit - well, they needed to charge attendees $125 more per person. Not only would that have been really painful, it would have meant less people to cover fixed costs and a need to charge even more.

I think the organizers did a great job. I think having a Go Congress is important, and having one in So Cal was a great idea, and the volunteers there, and the ones that travelled in made it happen. As Chris K. alluded to, this was a risk - the costs were high. There was an expectation that many more local players would swell the numbers, and that a Congress in this part of the country, for the first time, would be a nationwide draw.

In case you have not noticed, from the time the decision to make this congress was made, our economy has had major issues, and certainly this dampened attendance.

So yes, Andy Okun had "a role in this". A role in making sure the Congress happened, in a new part of the country, and it was a lot of fun for those who attended. He should be commended for that role.

Yes, it is certainly wrong that 400 of us had a $50 better time than we should have had, and the AGA as a whole has to take that hit. Philosphically, however, normally those of us who attend Congresses essentially overpay $50 for the time had, and the AGA as a whole reaps the reward. Too me, both outcomes are not ideal, and, unfortunately, it is very difficult to hit the price point exactly.

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 Post subject: Re: AGA losses in 2011 Congress
Post #14 Posted: Thu Jul 05, 2012 10:25 am 
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direwolf wrote:
Sorry but one of the few AGA board minutes shows different.

Quote:
Allan: Happy to put breakeven discussion off till next month.
Paul: To put board at ease, the 2012 Congress, at 400 attendees we expect $30,000
surplus. We’ll have a safety net.
Lisa: The problem in Southern California is how ridiculously expensive So Cal is.
Chris K. We took a risk with our eyes open.
Andy: My club is one of the local clubs and I had visible role.
Jie: How are we going to publicize this issue to members?


http://www.usgo.org/files/boardminutes/ ... -27-12.pdf

having a Role in this along with a financial loss at the same time trying to negotiate the monies with the pro league could have be embarrassing at the time don't you think?


My point was more that if you're going to hand out blame in proportion to responsibility, there are a lot of people in line ahead of Andy. The congress co-directors and treasurer, the AGA congress liaison, and all the people that registered and didn't show up all probably deserve more blame than Andy.

As others have pointed out, a surplus implies that attendees are overpaying. I think the most desirable outcome of a congress is a very small profit. I agree with HKA that overall, the congress was a good thing, and we shouldn't be handing out too many demerits here in the first place. I'm just saying that if we do need to hand out demerits, Andy is mostly the wrong person to give them to.

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 Post subject: Re: AGA losses in 2011 Congress
Post #15 Posted: Thu Jul 05, 2012 11:36 am 
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direwolf wrote:
Sorry but one of the few AGA board minutes shows different.

Quote:
Allan: Happy to put breakeven discussion off till next month.
Paul: To put board at ease, the 2012 Congress, at 400 attendees we expect $30,000
surplus. We’ll have a safety net.
Lisa: The problem in Southern California is how ridiculously expensive So Cal is.
Chris K. We took a risk with our eyes open.
Andy: My club is one of the local clubs and I had visible role.
Jie: How are we going to publicize this issue to members?


http://www.usgo.org/files/boardminutes/ ... -27-12.pdf

having a Role in this along with a financial loss at the same time trying to negotiate the monies with the pro league could have be embarrassing at the time don't you think?


Andy Okun was not in charge, and was not responsible for the loss.

I have probably more knowledge of Andy Okun's role in preparing for Congress than anyone but Andy himself. We literally worked side by side doing much of the legwork here in Southern California. During the spring/summer of 2010, we were in contact almost every day, and visited potential venues together.

Andy was not directing Congress. Although he was an AGA officer at the time, he was doing the lowest level work, not functioning as managment at all. He did it because he was local, not because he was an officer. He did the same thing that I did - because we were both local members willing to do the legwork.

Andy reported to the directors, as did I. They made the final decisions. He did not.

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 Post subject: Re: AGA losses in 2011 Congress
Post #16 Posted: Thu Jul 05, 2012 1:40 pm 
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I think HKA's post really helps to clarify some confusion about the money issue. Being a layperson myself, the post leaves me with a couple of questions:

1.) "So if there job was to deliver a $30,000 profit - well, they needed to charge attendees $125 more per person"

The quote above seems to suggest that the aim is to make a $30000 profit, whereas Feng Yun's note suggests that the $30000 was a loss - that is, not even breaking even. Is this just a play on words, or are HKA and Feng Yun talking about different events?

2.) With the same quote, above, how is the $125 figure calculated? Doesn't the amount made depend on how many people attend? This seems difficult to forcast accurately.

3.) It sounds like, from HKA's post, that it was known beforehand that a Southern California congress would not likely be profitable for the AGA. Is this true? If so, why have congress there? Sure, it might be a novelty to have the event in a place like that, but $30000 is a lot of money. To me it seems slightly prodigal to risk that amount of money provided by other people if you anticipate beforehand that a loss will be incurred. Am I missing a rationale for deciding to have congress in such an expensive location?

---

I think that HKA has done an excellent job in his post above, but perhaps if he or someone else "in the know" provided answers to these questions, the situation would be crystal clear to a guy like me... :-)

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 Post subject: Re: AGA losses in 2011 Congress
Post #17 Posted: Thu Jul 05, 2012 2:11 pm 
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Thanks for the compliments, although I believe if you read my post a little more carefully, some of your answers are there.

I am NOT suggesting that the goal should be to make $30,000, although some might think that should be the goal. Again, to me, the perfect Congress should break even exactly, but, in order to make sure you do not lose money, it is usual that some money is made. When I ran the Congress, I lowered prices from the year before and increased the prize fund. I was diligent in cost controls and some folks complained, and others said I should raise the price since folks paid more last year and make more money. I cannot recall how much profit resulted, but it was under $10,000 and more than I would have liked (by the way, I do not mean to brag - though I take credit for a frugal overal philosophy - Sam Zimmerman handled far more of the detail work and the follow through than I did - he gets 90% of the credit). Because I think we should make it as affordable as possible.

My understanding the loss was approximately $20,000. There were about 400 folks at the Congress, therefore, breakeven would have meant $50 more each to close that gap. Of course, $50 more means a few more folks do not come, and the problem continues.

The Minutes excerpt referred to a $30,000 profit this year - to turn a $20,000 loss to a $30,000 gain with 400 folk would be, I believe, $125 more each.

Yes it is difficult to forcast - which is precisely what I said. You have some per person costs, some fixed costs. You need to charge enough to cover both, but if you set the price point at an attendance of 400, and 500 show, the fixed costs stay the same, and a profit occurs. If only 300 show, a loss results.

Why hold a Congress there? Again, did you read my post? First of all folks were willing to do it. Second, it was thought that finally having a Congress in So Cal was an important thing to do. It was hoped that a new location would bring in fresh locals and more folks from other places with the event being in a new area.

I do not have any inside info on what went wrong, but I have alot of experience with how these things are run. It is easy to not think of everything you need for an event that moves to different locations each time it happens. And it is important that this be a movable feast, because people's first Congress is usually one closest to them, and it is usually not their last.

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 Post subject: Re: AGA losses in 2011 Congress
Post #18 Posted: Thu Jul 05, 2012 2:24 pm 
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Kirby wrote:
3.) It sounds like, from HKA's post, that it was known beforehand that a Southern California congress would not likely be profitable for the AGA. Is this true? If so, why have congress there? Sure, it might be a novelty to have the event in a place like that, but $30000 is a lot of money. To me it seems slightly prodigal to risk that amount of money provided by other people if you anticipate beforehand that a loss will be incurred. Am I missing a rationale for deciding to have congress in such an expensive location?


I don't think anyone deliberately plans to run a loss when they run a big event. Surely they knew that Southern California was expensive and that the margin for error was smaller than some other locations, but the risk was regarded as acceptable.

The comments from the organizers that are on the record seem to indicate that the loss was largely due to a number of cancellations and the larger than expected number of people receiving complimentary congresses. The cancellations are a problem, but presumably can be dealt with by appropriate cancellation penalties.

The number of comped attendees is something that will need to be considered in the future, however. The AGA and the congress will have to decide whether they can invite an unlimited number of pros, and they'll need to decide how many others should be free. How much E-Journal coverage is really necessary, and is it all that beneficial?

For my money, I'd say the comps should be the previous year's congress director(s), the current congress director(s), the US Open TD(s), the pros and the AGA president(?).


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 Post subject: Re: AGA losses in 2011 Congress
Post #19 Posted: Thu Jul 05, 2012 5:10 pm 
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pwaldron wrote:
Kirby wrote:
3.) It sounds like, from HKA's post, that it was known beforehand that a Southern California congress would not likely be profitable for the AGA. Is this true? If so, why have congress there? Sure, it might be a novelty to have the event in a place like that, but $30000 is a lot of money. To me it seems slightly prodigal to risk that amount of money provided by other people if you anticipate beforehand that a loss will be incurred. Am I missing a rationale for deciding to have congress in such an expensive location?


I don't think anyone deliberately plans to run a loss when they run a big event. Surely they knew that Southern California was expensive and that the margin for error was smaller than some other locations, but the risk was regarded as acceptable.
...


Yes, of course, we knew the risks going in. And, no, we did not plan to run it at a loss.

However, we did not judge the margin of error to be substantially smaller than previous congresses. There are disadvantages here, but also advantages. We knew that there was the disadvantage of Southern California being relatively expensive. We also believed that there was an advantage of having relatively large local Asian populations which had additional go players who had never been involved in the AGA. We figured that we would have extra costs balanced with extra players.

It was only with the assumption that we could recruit those extra Asian players that we proceeded.

We had substantial plans for recruiting those players, starting with the Cotsen in the previous year. But the people who were going to follow through on those plans never did. There was no significant recruitment of local Asian players. The disadvantages of Southern California were still inevitable, but the advantages were allowed to slip away.

When I learned of this ( along with a few other events that indicated impending doom ) I resigned.


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Post #20 Posted: Thu Jul 05, 2012 6:09 pm 
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Thanks, joaz. That's the sort of detail that would be obvious to everyone involved in planning, but would never have occurred to an outside observer in a million years. it makes things fall into place.

(meta: this is the sort of verstehen the third estate is looking for when we say we want more "transparency" from our institutions.)


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