As I write my first President’s Column while still AAPG president-elect, I’d like to let everyone know that I feel really good about the challenge of leading AAPG in the upcoming year. In fact, I feel so good about it that I decided to celebrate by pulling $75,000 out of my retirement account to buy a new sports car. I know that the asset value of the car is dropping rapidly, but boy is it fun to drive.
I know some of you are thinking right now, “What an idiot,” and if I really had bought a new sports car with my retirement savings, I would agree with you. In some ways, AAPG has had to follow a similar approach to our finances over the last few years. During this time, AAPG has had to pull money out of our rainy day investment portfolio to cover our operational cash shortfalls. The COVID pandemic accelerated the need to use money from our rainy day fund, and emergencies like the pandemic are exactly what the investment fund was set up to cover.
The problem is that we had operational budget shortfalls for several years before the pandemic, even while the oil and gas industry was financially strong due to the horizontal drilling financial boom cycle.
"AAPG leadership and the AAPG staff will focus on forming and implementing new strategies to address these problems. The goal is simply to insure that AAPG remains a strong organization going forward into the future so that our science and other member benefits continue to have strong support."
Temporary Solutions to an Ongoing Problem
The AAPG staff and leadership have worked hard to address this problem. AAPG staff has been severely downsized in the recent past and we have adopted an “essential services only” program to reduce costs.
We have also introduced several new programs to help reduce costs and generate additional funding. For example, all of our major conventions are now jointly sponsored by several societies to reduce AAPG’s costs and to help boost attendance. The only exception is the International Conference and Exhibition, which returned a good positive cash flow this year due to the wonderful work of the organizers.
All of these efforts have helped, but despite our best attempts, none have stopped our operational budget shortfalls.
The major underlying cause of our budget shortfalls is our declining membership. The baby boomer generation is leaving and we are having problems bringing in younger members. Lower membership impacts not only our dues income, but also participation in our activities such as conventions and workshops. I first realized this problem when Lee Krystinik made it the centerpiece of the Leadership Conference during his term as AAPG president in 2014. (By the way, leadership conferences are one of the nonessential activities we have eliminated to help the budget.)
Several tactical action groups, other AAPG groups and the AAPG staff have worked to find strategies to address these financial and membership problems. The overwhelming result of these efforts was the recommendation that AAPG should merge with another petroleum-related professional society. An attempt to implement this strategy was initiated over the last year, but failed. Many folks were disappointed with this failure, but Winston Churchill summed up my feelings on the subject: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts,” he once said.
With that in mind, this year’s AAPG leadership and the AAPG staff will focus on forming and implementing new strategies to address these problems. The goal is simply to insure that AAPG remains a strong organization going forward into the future so that our science and other member benefits continue to have strong support.