When I was asked to consider standing for a role on the CSEG executive as Assistant Finance Director a year ago, I thought long and hard before responding. I had previously served as Treasurer for the CSEG in 1996/97 when the role primarily involved overseeing the bookkeeping role of the administrative staff. Times were good in the industry and I gleefully started my report at the 1997 AGM with the words “We are rich”. As next year’s Finance Director for the CSEG, I certainly will not be opening my report next March the same way.
We’ve all faced challenges in the current downturn; my layoff from CGG’s Reservoir Characterization team in 2016 was my professional nadir and led me to collect EI for the first time in my life. The low point for the CSEG also came in 2016 when the joint GeoConvention lost money for the first time, helping to push our society’s yearly deficit to a record high of nearly $272k. Extreme measures were taken by the 2017 CSEG board to curtail expenses, managing to reduce them to half that of 2015’s, resulting in a net deficit of only $3K for that year – a gargantuan achievement.
With most of 2018 behind us, it appears that our deficit this year will be on the order of $60k. This is substantially lower than our budgeted amount of $128k, but still unsustainable in the long run. Figure 1 shows the society’s historic financial performance from 2007 to 2017 with the year-end projected (YEP) values as at August 2018. Blue bars show the revenue trend, red the expenses and green the net income or loss. As a not-for-profit society, our aim is to serve our members, and as our revenue increased from 2011 to 2013, we expanded the services offered to our members. We were prudently slow to increase our expenses from 2011 to 2013, but quick to curtail them when the downturn reared its ugly head from 2014-2017. In 2018, our revenues are projected to be about 36% of those in our 2007 heyday while our expenses are projected to be about 56% of that year’s totals.
Figure 2 graphs the trend in non-revenue generating expenses from 2007 to 2018 with administration (cyan) being the largest part. A large part of administration costs includes salaries of our managing director and administration staff, rent and other office expenses. We have reduced our office staff by one, while also reducing salaries and other administrative expenses so they are at their bare minimums. Expenses for member services are shown in red – this does not include technical luncheons, Doodletrain or other events that also generate income and are generally revenue neutral, but does include the cost of our yearly election and other member communications as its major components. The green part of the graph are the expenditures related to Outreach which were transferred to the Foundation in 2016, and the purple part reflects costs of the CSEG Journal, which has not published in the last 2 years. In dark blue is expenditures related to the “Digital Media Committee” – the cost of maintaining and developing our website, as well as database hosting and archiving. These DMC costs are in considerable flux as we investigate ways to enhance our online presence and merge the RECORDER publication and associated advertising revenues with our current exposure on the web and social media.
It’s obvious from these graphs that we are operating on bare bones while drawing on our savings to cover our shortfalls. Equally obvious is that this is not sustainable.
The mission statement of the CSEG is to: promote the science of geophysics, especially as it applies to exploration, and to promote fellowship and co-operation among those persons interested in geophysical prospecting, and the byline on our home page is: showing the world how to understand the earth. The mission is self-explanatory and the byline a rather lofty (and yet achievable!) goal. To continue doing both, we need help in sustaining our society beyond our 70th anniversary in 2019.
Like most oil industry organizations, the CSEG society has reacted to the current price and differential crisis by paring back on staff, salaries, expenditures, and operations. Unlike most organizations, we cannot rely on rebounding oil prices to boost our bottom line – we rely on YOU.
If you’re reading this in December 2018, I’m preaching to the converted. Although historic RECORDER editions are freely available on the CSEG website, only members in good standing get access to the most recent 3 issues. This may change in the future as we investigate ways to improve our web presence and increase member services. But please, pulleeze DO renew your membership for 2019 and encourage your colleagues to also support our organization. As well, please consider approaching the decision-makers in your organization to encourage them to support the CSEG with corporate memberships and to consider adding their names to the industry leaders who sponsor CSEG events like technical luncheons, Doodletrain courses, advertisement, the symposium or any of a myriad of the other events associated with our society. The society exists to serve its members in maintaining technical excellence, providing networking opportunities, and just plain having fun. Let’s celebrate our 70th anniversary by ensuring we make it to our 75th and beyond!