Noteworthy Decisions from the July 2016 Board of Trustees Meeting
By Judy Van Cleave, Trustee, Secretary, Urantia Foundation, Idaho, United States
1. Recent Activities
The second quarter of 2016 was another productive quarter for Urantia Foundation. The Foundation hosted a booth at BookExpo America, The Chinese translation was evaluated, the basement was partially remodeled to accommodate a library pertinent to The Urantia Book, the Science Symposium was held at 533 with live video streaming, a financial book analysis was completed, the annual report was published, the French translation and the Polish translation were reformatted, the revision of the Korean translation was formatted electronically, distribution of the Lithuanian translation recommenced, continued progress was made on the index, and normal day-to-day duties were conducted. Special thanks go to Joanne, Tamara, and Ashley for outstanding performances during this last quarter. As always, we thank trustees, associate trustees, volunteers, committee members, and special project teams for doing so much work.
2. Community Relations
The Summer conference in San Antonio was a new high water mark in community building since the difficulties of the late 1980s. Urantia Association International (UAI), Urantia Association United States (UAUS), The Urantia Book Fellowship, and Urantia Foundation came together in a joint conference for the first time in decades. The overall quality of the presentations was excellent, but what is more important, the social interactions were friendly and cooperative.
The presidents of the Fellowship, UAI, and Foundation continue their quarterly meetings. They are committed to building bridges of cooperation and trust between all Urantia Book organizations and individuals working to foster these teachings in the world.
3. The Book Show
Urantia Foundation had a booth at BookExpo America, the largest book show in North America. It was a wonderful experience because we debuted The Parables of Jesus―Complete Teachings from The Urantia Book. Its reception was of whole-hearted support because it allows our distributors to reintroduce The Urantia Book to bookstores. It is extremely difficult to keep a book published in 1955 on the bookstore shelf in 2016. We are hopeful that this book will bring renewed interest in The Urantia Book this fall and winter.
4. Financial Book Analysis
Over the last several months we have conducted a detailed cost analysis of every book the Foundation sells. These costs include formatting, printing, shipping, storage, distributor discounts, and returns. We ran the math on hardcover books, paperbacks, leather books, audio books, and eBooks. Simply put, virtually all printed books lose money worldwide, including in the United States. There is simply not enough volume or margins to make money selling Urantia Books. The Foundation is engaged in a truly non-profit venture!
Here are some specifics the analysis highlighted: 1) The English text of The Urantia Book books makes money only because of the profit on eBooks and audio books. All printed copies of the English text lose a small amount of money, and we cannot raise prices because of competitive pricing from another publisher. It is difficult to justify the selling of the English text of The Urantia Book to wealthy North Americans on Amazon.com for $13 while hearing stories of people in Ecuador paying $50 per book. It would be better to price the book higher in North America and make the book more affordable in poorer countries. 2) The translations that sell fewer books lose more money than the translations that sell more books. Storage costs significantly reduce the profitability of the book. 3) Except in North America, there is no opportunity to raise prices. In developing countries, people simply cannot afford to buy expensive books. 4) When you compare the costs of printing and storing very slow selling Urantia Books, it seems wiser to build up a reader community via the Internet before printing physical books. Since downloads in all languages significantly surpass physical book sales, starting on the Internet may be the way to launch new translations in the future.
5. Financial Results Through June
The good news: At the end of the first half of the year, year-to-date expenses were $49,165 below budget and $539.57 less than the prior year. The bad news: Donations are below last year. In the first half of 2015 we received two large, one-time gifts totaling $200,000. In 2016 no such gifts have been given. Taking those two gifts out of the calculation, we are still $45,000 less than last year. We have a lot of work to do in order to break even in 2016! After a splendid 2015, it is sobering to have such a tough start this year. The office team is searching for cost savings, and I’m thankful that committees are saving money wherever possible. Your donations are needed and greatly appreciated!
6. The Chinese Translation
After the April visit of the Chinese translation team, Urantia Foundation is more committed than ever to producing a beautiful, accurate, and affordable Chinese translation of The Urantia Book. A second draft of a high-quality, “simplified” Chinese translation should be completed in 2019.
Reports and Decisions Made at the July 2016 Meeting
Lucretia (Lu) Schanfarber
1. Associate Trustee News
The board elected Lucretia (Lu) Schanfarber from British Columbia, Canada, as an associate trustee. We welcome this gifted reader of The Urantia Book to our team.
2. Board Reports
The board received the following reports: 1) a report from the president, 2) a financial report from the accountant, 3) a report on investments from the treasurer, and 4) reports from the following committees: Book, Education, Finance, Fundraising, Public Relations, and Translations. A few highlights of what we learned:
- With students from around the world, the Urantia Book Internet School (UBIS) continues to grow. Classes are taught in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.
- Book sales are up 18% in the first half of 2016.
- All translations and revisions of translations are proceeding according to our expectations. Growing emphasis is being placed on the Spanish revision and the Chinese translation.
- Education—specifically the Urantia Book Internet School—is becoming a stronger component of Urantia Foundation services.
- Our outside investment team is prudently managing donor funds during these rather uncertain economic times.
- The Parables of Jesus―Complete Teachings from The Urantia Book from Urantia Press became available in mid-September.
- The new “secondary source” education library in the basement has been built, and thanks to a generous donation, hundreds of books relevant to the development of The Urantia Book are in the collection.
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