By Kelly Schwalbe, Sage Communications LLC
At the PIF business meeting during Ag Media Summit, I closed the meeting with some observations from my 13 years of serving on the PIF board of trustees, including six years as Secretary/Treasurer and the last five years as Chair. During that time, the growth and impact of our Foundation have been amazing, thanks in large part to AAEA’s gifting a significant portion of past AMS profits to PIF and a sound investment strategy and oversight by Paul Queck and Den Gardner.
For example, PIF investments in 2009 totaled $266,000; today those investments total nearly $410,000. At the same time, thanks to significant growth of these investments, PIF has been able to increase its financial support for a broad range of programs and activities important to AAEA members and our profession. In 2017 and 2018, the foundation doled out nearly $50,000 per year, more than three times the amount of funds compared to 2008-2009.
During the last three years when annual income from AMS profits diminished significantly, PIF was able to grow its investments and still utilize some investment income for funding. However, due to the tougher environment we find ourselves in this last year, the board decided to make 2019 a re-balancing year and put renewed focus on income generation while tightly managing expenses. As a result, we expect to end the year in the black, without having to dip into investment income for the first time since 2015.
In addition, we’ve put new financial and investment policies in place that will help ensure a solid, stable future for the foundation while making it possible to annually support a variety of programs that benefit all ag communications professionals. This includes IFAJ stipends and program support, scholarships and internships for students, award programs, and career-advancing education programs for all members.
Moving forward, Julie Deering will serve as the new PIF Chair, along with two new board members: Mark Moore and Karen Simon. I know that they, along with the rest of the board, will diligently lead our Foundation as AAEA celebrates its centennial anniversary next year, and for decades to come.
Lastly, both AAEA and PIF thrive because of dedicated members who are passionate, engaged and generous. Because of you and the leadership of the AAEA and PIF boards of directors, along with the oversight and support of Samantha and the ASG staff, I’m confident both organizations will not only succeed but flourish, even during these tougher times.