ASES is a member organization for the distribution of science-based information on renewable energy technology and policy, with the explicit mission of accelerating broad deployment of clean energy and efficiency measures in the United States and around the world.
In pursuit of that mission, ASES needs to reach a broad and expanding audience within the academic, engineering and scientific communities; in the consumer and wholesale markets for energy, energy products and services; among voters, elected officials and regulatory agencies at all levels of government.
Over its 60-year history, ASES has had strong relationships with government agencies and national laboratories, and has generated influential policy initiatives. The organization grew steadily during the decade leading up to the recession of late 2008, but has been slow to adjust to new economic realities and to the rapid consolidation of a growing and maturing industry.
ASES has now come through a trying year. We’ve had to shed staff and offices, but have managed to administer key programs: the National Solar Conference, the publications, and the National Solar Tour.
In their traditional formats, these programs have proven inadequate to sustain growth and even to sustain adequate staffing.
- The National Solar Conference lost money for three years running, due to sharply reduced sponsorship and overcommitment to outside support services (hotel blocks, AV, professional as opposed to volunteer planning and onsite administration). As a result, ASES entered 2013 with more than $200,000 of accounts payable. Conference losses in 2013 pushed that to roughly $280,000. Risk of further conference loss has been negated for 2014, through partnership with Intersolar North America. For 2015, ASES plans a low-cost conference on a university campus near the Eastern Seaboard.
- The publications have seen sharply reduced advertising revenue due to falling circulation and industry consolidation. Content quality remains high enough to attract a rapidly growing audience, but that audience is on line, and does not pay to support production costs (editorial, design, cost of sales, connectivity, general overhead). The key to competing in a volatile market is membership growth. The organization, along with its Chapters and Divisions, must find a way to convert nonmember colleagues to paid membership and print circulation. We’ve established an online discount program to encourage Chapter members to join ASES. Eight Chapters now participate. We need to design an analogous program for Divisions. This may involve bringing the Divisions into active management of the Emerging Professionals program, recruiting student members and converting them to professional members.
- The National Solar Tour produces national sponsorship, but at a level that barely pays to print and distribute a Tour Guide. ASES has, after all these years, never found a statistically valid way to count tour visitors, and has essentially ceded promotion and revenue-generating potential to local tour operators. The ASES Solar Tour website can be a valuable resource to local chapters. Promotion of the 2014 Tour began in May and by mid-June tours had been posted to the website in four states. We need enough sponsorship to support distribution of posters, lawn signs and other items of value to tour organizers, homeowners and tour visitors.
- The ASES archive – 60 years of scientific publications – has huge unrealized value to all ASES stakeholders and we’ve begun a process to digitize this content and make it available online. Arrangements have been made to ship the bulk of the archive to Penn State University during the third week of July, 2014. We’ve redesigned the websites to accommodate this material and moved to a larger, faster, greener and cheaper server.
2013: ASES benchmarks
During 2013, ASES
- Brought expenses in line with revenue.
- Finished the year with a positive cash balance.
- Paid down roughly 55 percent of debt incurred over the past two years.
- Stabilized membership decline.
- Expanded publications audience to more than 50,000 monthly readers.
- Maintained key programs (Conference, Tour, publications).
- Reorganized the staff, led by a new Executive Director and Director of Operations.
2013: Notable fiscal events
- In January, ASES launched a new campaign under the Solar Citizen banner, supported by large donations from individuals.
- In April, the National Solar Conference lost money – about $127,000.
- In May, reorganization of staff yielded payroll reduction of about 80 percent.
- In September, ASES sublet its office space, saving about $7,000 a month.
- In September, ASES conducted the National Solar Tour with vigorous support from volunteers, and $25,000 in sponsorship to underwrite
- In November, ASES sold its interest in the FindSolar lead generation venture.
- The year-end giving drive generated about $100,000 in November and December.
- From May to December, ASES paid down roughly 55 percent of the vendor debt arising from Conference operations.
- From May to December, ASES generated revenue of $350,000 against expenses of $250,000, including debt reduction.
- The real value of ASES is in reliable science-based information of use to students, faculty, researchers, Chapters, policymakers, regulatory authorities, voters, consumers, business owners and the financial industries.
- Content is contributed largely by Division members, professional members and ASES editorial staff.
- Content is distributed to audiences through the Divisions, Chapters, ASES publications (including online products), the Solar Tour and National Solar Conference.
- ASES needs partners to bolster the following areas of weakness:
- Membership development, especially Emerging Professionals.
- Grantwriting and fundraising.
- Staff resources for editorial and revenue development, and for program administration (Conference, Tour, archiving).
- General administration (office space, invoicing, member service etc)
The Board of Directors has identified a critical need to develop formal relationships with academic institutions, possibly on the model of the relationship between ISES and the Fraunhofer Institute. Academic affiliations will provide grantwriting partnerships, new opportunities for program development, new partnership relationships through government funding agencies, publishing and interning opportunities for students, venues for ASES events, library facilities for ASES archives and infrastructure for ASES administration/overhead functions.
Accordingly, ASES has entered into discussions with several universities with strong renewable energy departments, who have expressed interest in working with us. Preliminary informal discussions have been held with personnel at Penn State University. The discussions are not exclusive – as time and resources permit ASES will investigate opportunities with other institutions. ASES intends to establish regular channels of communication between academic departments and Division members for the purposes of funding research and publication; and to maximize opportunities for Student Chapters at a broad range of institutions.
During 2014, ASES has
- Scheduled its National Solar Conference in San Francisco, July 6-10, in collaboration with Intersolar North America.
- Scheduled the National Solar Tour across the country, Oct. 3-5 (to accommodate Yom Kippur on Oct 4).
- Implemented a formal fundraising plan.
- Published this Annual Report for distribution at the National Solar Conference.
- Expanded member-recruitment collaboration with its Chapters.
- Expanded role of Divisions in writing for ASES publications and recruiting Emerging Professional members.
- Begun digitization of the ASES Archive through collaboration with university libraries.
- Stabilized revenue and paid off remaining vendor debt.
- Transitioned to a new Executive Director.
Revenue Sources and Expenses, 2013
Starting balance, Dec 31, 2012 $250,559
Ending balance, Dec 31, 2013 $120,089
Membership in May rose 3.5% to 4,284
- Basic Members – 2,806
- Professional – 688
- Professional Senior – 150
- Professional Students – 53
- Student Digital – 45
- Professional Supporting – 20
- Dual Chapter Membership – 18
- Life Members – 376
- Business, Libraries, Nonprofits – 128
- Plus 767 paid subscribers: print magazine circulation is 5,051, plus bonus circulation at trade shows and conferences (10,000 in July/August = 15,000 qualified readers)
- Over the past year, visits to the digital edition of Solar Today average 18,131 per issue.
- Total magazine readership (print and digital) averages 23,164.
- Website visits average 16,000 per month, split between ases.org and solartoday.org
- Solar@Work mails to 10,332 qualified names.
- Total audience including websites and Solar@Work: just shy of 50,000.
- Solar Citizen goes to about 44,000 unique names, but we don’t count it as incremental circulation because of the large but indeterminate overlap with our other audiences.
ASES Donors, 2013
John Ailey – Ailey Solar Electric
Arkin Tilt Architects
Taylor Jonah Bea
Carolyn Beach – American Solar
Richard Behlmann – Urban Wind
Alternative Energy Solutions, LLC
William F Bradley
Dale Brentrup – Daylighting+Energy
Bruce Brownell – Adirondack Alternate
Jeffrey Brownson R. S. – Penn State
Cleveland Public Library
Kenneth Colburn – Symbiotic
David Comis – SRA International
Community Shares of Colorado
R Gordon Dailey Jr.
Denis & Machelle Davis
Francis De Winter
Michael J DiGrazia
Edward Jennings Doyle
William Scotte Elliott
Marie & Joseph Field
Flagstaff Public Library
John William Gallup
Ron Gehl – EOS Research, Ltd.
Robert Gilberti – Retired
Susan Greene – American Solar
Veera Gnaneswar Gude – Mississippi
Ortiz Mario Guzman
Timothy Earl Haas
Daniel E. Harp
Hart Area Public Library
Elaine Hebert – Norcal Solar
Carlos Horne – Horne Brothers
Dr. Dwight Jaeger
Scott Johnstone – Vermont Energy
Investment Corporation (VEIC)
Samuel Kendall – Florida Renewable
Frank Laird – University of Denver
A B Lavigne
Richard S Levine
Seth Masia – American Solar Energy
John J.B. Miller
William Morrison – Austin Community
David W Mount
Dr. Paul Nielsen
John Noel III
Puget Sound Solar
Dr. Ramachandra Ramakumar
Real Goods Solar, Inc.
Dave Renne – International Solar
John S Reynolds
Jr Haydon Rochester
Gerald Vilkas Roman
Kelli Ross – Quick Mount PV
Molly Owings Ross
Anthony Joseph Sarno
Thom Schiavone – Wild Blue Group
Joe & Sally Schiller
Erich Franz Schimps
Edward Seliga – Advanced Solar
Sequoya Cross Backwoods Solar
James William Serene MD
Solar Energy International
Soldiers Grove Library
Faye Spratley M.
Fred Stanback Jr.
Texas Solar Energy Society
Anthony Vasilas MD
Elmer Reed Walters
William R Young
plus four anonymous donors