Here is the deal - would the duck hunters, the ducks, the kids, legislation, education, etc... in MN be better off with the MN Waterfowl Assn being in existence? Or worse off? If you think worse off, read no further.
Waterfowl association is near bankruptcy
Doug Smith, Startribune
June 12, 2005 DOUG0612
The financially troubled Minnesota Waterfowl Association -- long one of the state's major conservation groups -- is seeking donations from its members in a last-ditch effort to save the organization.
If it doesn't raise $150,000 in less than a month, the 39-year-old waterfowl group will be forced to shut down and possibly file for bankruptcy.
"If we don't raise the money, we're going to have to cease operations by the end of August," said Les Jones, executive director. "That's when we run out of money."
The MWA is sending out letters to its 4,000 regular members seeking special contributions to pay off about $90,000 in debt and to provide some operating capital.
"The survival of MWA requires your support of this emergency request," the letter states. "Our hope for survival lies with you."
Said Jones: "We don't have the cash flow to make any more payments on the debt. We're just able to keep the doors open."
The group is seeking pledges by July 6. If it reaches $150,000 in pledges, it will ask members to mail their donations by Aug. 15. It doesn't want members to mail checks now, because it would have to return them if not enough money is pledged to save the group, Jones said.
"If we only raise $75,000, that's just not going to do it," he said.
Jones said raising $150,000 in such a short time will be difficult, but not impossible. "If our members all gave us $40, that would take care of it," he said. "It would be a big boost for us to get rid of our debt."
If the MWA survives, Jones said the board will change a fundamental way the group operates and will adopt the Pheasants Forever model: Chapters will get to keep all the money they raise, except membership fees, to be spent on local waterfowl projects.
The group has pared its staff from about 10 to just three employees, including Jones, who took over last January to try to get the group back on its feet.
The association went into a financial tailspin in 2003 after the state Legislative Auditor issued a report charging that the group improperly administered some state grants and used questionable accounting practices. That report and subsequent investigations by various auditors showed the group had overextended itself and was in serious financial straits.
The group fired executive director Mike McGinty and has struggled to pay off its debts and resume its wetland and waterfowl conservation efforts. At one time debts totaled about $700,000, but it repaid federal and state agencies and some vendors and now owes about $90,000.
"The organization just got in over its head," Jones said. "It didn't have the expertise or structure in place to manage the big projects it got."
The financial woes and bad publicity also caused members and entire chapters to depart the group; membership fell from about 8,000 to fewer than 4,000. But there were recent signs the group was making headway.
Membership has increased 10 percent this year, to about 4,500, including youths. The group helped organize the Ducks, Wetlands and Clean Water Rally on April 2 at the state Capitol and again co-sponsored the annual state waterfowl symposium.
Jones said agencies are willing to work again with the group on habitat projects, but the association must pay off its remaining debt to move forward.
The group was founded in 1967 to help preserve and restore wetlands and other wildlife habitat. It helped launch the state duck stamp, which has raised millions of dollars for wildlife habitat. It also pushed for the Game Lakes designation and the Minnesota Wetlands Conservation Act.
"We're in serious trouble, and we may not make it, but it would be a sad day -- not just for waterfowlers but for everybody -- if it goes under. We affect waterfowl habitat, but also water quality."
Added Jones: "We're the only organization in Minnesota that works strictly for Minnesota waterfowl and works here locally. I think there's a real need in this state for a grass-roots organization for local projects and local political action."
Jones and other MWA supporters will find out July 6 whether the group will survive. If it doesn't raise the money, it could possibly reorganize under bankruptcy law.
Or it could disappear like the lost wetlands the group has tried to save.
Doug Smith is at email@example.com.
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