Noteworthy Decisions from the October 2018 Board of Trustees Meeting

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Judy Van Cleave

By Judy Van Cleave, trustee, Urantia Foundation, Idaho, United States

Book Sales and Distribution

Tamara Strumfeld and Henk Mylanus, our European sales manager, reported on year-to-date book sales. At the end of Q3, book sales were down about 13% and downloads from urantia.org were also down about 13%. The most significant reason for the decline was the exceptionally high sales of German books in 2017 that did not reoccur in 2018. The good news is that English sales are up slightly and Spanish sales are up 19%.

One thing is for certain—selling books in 2018 is difficult! Barnes & Noble is in serious financial trouble, and most other major brick-and-mortar bookstore chains are already out of business in the United States.

Relevant Book Industry Information to Our Mission

How many new books are published in the United States every year?

There are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the United States alone. Many of those—perhaps as many as half or even more—are self-published. The relevancy of these statistics is the sheer number of new books each year competing for the shrinking brick-and-mortar shelf space. With Amazon and other online booksellers increasing their dominance in the world book market, we are learning how to help spiritual book shoppers find The Urantia Book in the vast and growing sea of published books.

The average book sells 3,000 copies in its lifetime. What a remarkable testament to the strength of the Urantia Revelation that a book published in 1955, which begins with a difficult-to-read Foreword, continues to sell so well. There are over 800,000 physical Urantia Books in circulation, and hundreds of thousands more have been downloaded. The Urantia Book is spreading and the text inviolate is protected.

The board reviewed the pricing of the Foundation’s e-books. The current price of the English e-book is $4.99, but all other translations were priced at $8.99. Amazon indicates that the best price range for an e-book is between $2.00 and $4.99, therefore, the Trustees approved setting the price of all e-books at $4.99. This decision means a major price reduction in the price of e-books for each translation.

2018 Budget

Our objective in 2018 is to raise $700,000 in unrestricted donations, $25,000 in restricted donations, and $250,000 in restricted donations earmarked for future generations in the Revelation Bridge Fund. Assuming we have a successful year-end matching fundraising campaign, we feel positive about reaching the $725,000 target for unrestricted and restricted donations. At this moment we have $440,000 to raise between now and December 31.

We expect to be at or below the 2018 operating expense budget of $750,000 except for a onetime write-off of $21,000 for old Hungarian books due to slow sales and aging inventory. These books are still in storage and are sellable, but good accounting practices require we write off slow-selling inventory based on an agreed-to formula. It will make no difference to our cash flow.

The great unknown for 2018 was an unexpected property tax increase from the city of Chicago for Urantia Foundation Headquarters at 533 W. Diversey Parkway. The increase they levied this past year was abnormally high. We are currently in the process of appealing it and have reason to believe that there will be a successful outcome, bringing the taxes back in line with past years.

A special thanks go to Sherry Cathcart Chavis, Guy Perron, and Minoo Treichler for their outstanding work in developing a fundraising campaign this past fall that provided the funds necessary to enable the Foundation to send 600 Spanish books to many areas in Latin America where there is no established book distribution.

2019 Budget

October’s board meeting was important because it was the annual budget meeting. The trustees reviewed the 2019 budget and adopted a resolution to approve a break-even budget annually. The effect is that Urantia Foundation will create a balanced budget each year. Expenditures must equal annual income, and no deficit spending is allowed except under dire circumstances. This policy protects the Revelation Bridge Fund and the Perpetual Printing Fund from being used to pay annual expenses.

We are on track for a productive 2019 even though some difficult belt tightening was required to balance the budget. This upcoming year comes with tougher than usual challenges because the financial markets appear risky, there are many important programs to fund, and costs continue to increase. We are prioritizing mission-critical programs that further spread the revelation throughout the world while maintaining the financial stability of Urantia Foundation. On the next world, we will be held accountable for how we spent our time on earth. On this world, when analyzing our budgets, we are accountable for how effectively we spend our time and donors’ money.

Investments

The Foundation’s treasurer, Trustee Gard Jameson, presented the investment results year to date. As always, we continue to invest the Foundation’s funds in moderate-risk stocks, bonds, and money market funds.

Translations

The board received the Translation Committee Report from Georges Michelson-Dupont and Marilynn Kulieke. The progress of the current simplified Chinese translation was discussed. The importance of securing a copy editor for this translation, along with the long-term need for a traditional Chinese translation, was presented. There will be a special fundraiser in 2019 to secure funds for this very important translation.

Thanks were expressed for the efforts of the Portuguese revision team, led by chief reviser Ms. Susana Hüttner Palaia. She has been a mothering presence to team members and is beloved by those who are working with her.

After many years of diligent hard work and thousands of volunteer hours, the long awaited Spanish revision of El libro de Urantia is moving towards completion. The arrival date for this significantly improved revision is in early 2020. You will be hearing a great deal about plans for the revision during 2019. Gaétan Charland and Víctor García-Bory, co-chairs of the Spanish Revision Launch Project, gave a PowerPoint presentation on the projected timeline and schedule for the rollout. Our deepest gratitude goes to the selfless team of revisers who are dedicating many years of their lives to creating a higher-quality Spanish translation of The Urantia Book.

Education

In September, Urantia Book Internet School (UBIS) unveiled a newly upgraded Moodle platform for students to register and take their online courses. During this fall trimester, thirteen courses were offered—seven in English, three in French, and three in Spanish.

It was also announced that the new executive director of UBIS will be Joanne Strobel. Congratulations Joanne! If you want an excellent educational Urantia Book experience, UBIS might be perfect for you. Please visit us at ubis.urantia.org.

Claire Mylanus, Marta Elders, and Marilynn Kulieke gave an update on the agenda for the Cultural Symposium, scheduled for April 11-15, 2019, at Urantia Foundation. More about this event will be presented in January.

Gard Jameson reported on the progress of 1) the multi-organizational exploratory committee for the Center for Urantia Studies, 2) the History of The Urantia Book project, and 3) the Truth, Beauty, and Goodness seminar by Jeffrey Wattles that took place in early November.

Outreach

The objective of the Outreach Committee is to partner with individuals and organizations in projects such as the Parliament in World's Religions, conferences, book shows, book placement programs, and the creation of Urantia Book–related materials.

Urantia Foundation is one of four organizations that provided funding and staffing for a booth at the Parliament of World's Religions from November 1 to 7. Joanne Strobel, Cristina Seaborn, Minoo Treichler, Gary Tonge, Alain Cyr, and the Parliament Organizing Committee did an amazing job preparing for the event. Over 70 Urantia Book readers attended the Parliament, many of whom worked at the Urantia Book booth.

During Q3, 600 Urantia Books were sent to Latin America as a part of an Outreach Committee project. These books are being used for various book fairs and other outreach efforts in Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, and Peru. Many thanks to everyone who generously donated to make this happen!

Community Relations

The presidents of Urantia Association International, the Urantia Book Fellowship, and Urantia Foundation met via videoconferencing during Q3. All three presidents want and will work toward positive and cooperative actions between the organizations.

Urantia Foundation and the Urantia Society of Greater New York are planning to meet and discuss translations. With both organizations translating and distributing translations in the Korean and Russian languages, we hope to better understand each other’s purposes, quality control processes, and long-term plans, and to discuss readers’ experiences with multiple translations in a country.

Foundation Info

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