On a quarterly basis, the staff and management of the American Botanical Council report to the ABC Board of Trustees. Part of this formal reporting is an Executive Summary to the annual or quarterly State of the Organization Report. The executive summary and other detailed materials are submitted in advance of each quarterly board meeting. At the first meeting following the end of the fiscal year (October 31), the Executive Summary provides a snapshot of the activities and condition of ABC during the entire previous year. In an effort to better serve the public, ABC members, and other constituents, and to further the mission of ABC, we have decided to reprint the Executive Summary in HerbalGram so that all concerned can have an inside view into the functioning of ABC, including its many educational programs, projects, and publications. ABC welcomes any questions, comments, and/or requests for additional information as a part of this process. We plan to continue publishing these kinds of reports in the future.
—Wayne Silverman, PhD, Chief Administrative Officer
American Botanical Council
Fiscal Year 2004
November 1, 2003 through October 31, 2004
The American Botanical Council experienced growth in all of its core activities and created new initiatives that made 2004 the most successful year since the boom of the herb market of the late 90s. In some ways, it may be considered the best year in our history. Programs and services expanded, new programs were initiated, volunteer and governance support became deeper, finances are stable and healthy, and a skilled, experienced, and dedicated staff continues to run ABC to achieve its mission.
Trustees: An expanded Board of Trustees is playing a strong governance role under the able leadership of President, Peggy Brevoort. The Trustees met quarterly during 2004, including a 3-day, on-site meeting in Austin last September. Trustees are taking a more active role in guiding the organization and empowering the staff. This level of Trustee participation is higher than at any other time in ABC history.
Human Resources: The staff of ABC is the glue that holds the organization together. The 1990s saw tremendous growth in ABC’s revenues and staffing, followed by a general downturn in revenue and increased staff turnover. In 2003 and 2004 there were a total of only three staff changes out of our 18 employees and contractors. This contributed to a high degree of stability. Stability is further strengthened by longevity among some key staff members. Seven of the current ABC staff who have worked for ABC the longest have contributed a combined total of more than 95 years of service. This continues to provide ABC a depth of organizational history and continuity. The success of ABC and demand for its services continues to place a major stress on the staff who have more tasks to accomplish than time permits. Interns are now more of an integral part of the operation than ever before. Significant contributions in our educational activities were made from 21 interns who worked at ABC in 2004; these interns are university students in the fields of pharmacy, nutrition and dietetics, and journalism. Volunteers have also played a role in enabling ABC to keep the gardens beautiful and in some of our research endeavors.
Membership: ABC continues to serve its members in new and expanded ways. The membership program, created in 2001, is now solid with renewal rates for 2004 of 70% compared to 59% in 2002, and the total number of members is more than 3,000, a 6% increase over 2003. Membership at the Sponsor Level has grown steadily due to the expansion of an increasing number of benefits that bring significant value to the Sponsor Members. The number of Sponsor Members has grown from 152 in 2002 to 219 in 2004.
Financial Status: ABC is in the strongest financial position it has been in its history. Although the total revenue and expenses are not as high as they were in the late 1990s, ABC is far more stable due to conservative budgeting, elimination of most long- and short-term debt (except for the mortgage on the Case Mill Homestead property), and through the success of new programs and initiatives. In fiscal year 2004, ABC budgeted total revenues of approximately $1.37 million and expenses of $1.41 million. The fiscal year ended with an unaudited total of $1.53 million in revenue and $1.38 million in expenses for a net operating income of about $150,000. Conservative budgeting and spending, sound financial management at the staff level, and governing oversight at the Board of Trustee level provided this positive result. This has enabled an expanded budget for 2005 to provide better services to the public and more staff resources.
Educational Programs, Publications, and Initiatives
HerbalGram: A new managing editor of HerbalGram initiated his duties in March. ABC met its goal of publishing four issues during the fiscal year and efforts are underway to ensure that future issues will ship on schedule. Advertising revenue increased by 29% due, in part, to a commission-based sales representative who is also assisting in the promotion and sales of other ABC services.
HerbClip™: ABC’s literature review service was published on time twice a month for the entire year. Two hundred eighty-eight HerbClip reviews were added to the online database, which now contains more than 2,400 HerbClip reviews. Sponsor level members and others receive HerbClip in hard copy form with the original articles included when permission is granted from the publisher. Academic and higher members have access to HerbClip Online. The percent of HerbClip reviews being mailed with the original article increased from 62% in 2003 to 83% in 2004, exceeding the goal of 75% set at the beginning of fiscal year 2004.
Safety Assessment Program (SAP). Formerly known as the Safety Labeling Program, the name was changed to reflect the more comprehensive nature of the scope of this vital new program. In 2004, SAP was expanded to offer companies marketing herbal dietary supplements the use of ABC’s peer-reviewed Safety Assessment Reports as a basis for determining what safety information would be included in the companies’ marketing materials, advertising, and/or their website. Depending on the extent of the licensing agreement, SAP provides comprehensive safety information for companies to use in the development of expanded information for herbal supplement product labels to help guide consumers and health professionals on the responsible use of popular herbs.
ABC Web site (herbalgram.org): The ABC Web site has continued to expand, and access to it directly through ABC’s site or via its licensees’ sites continues to break records. The educational content on the Web site continues to be updated on a regular basis. The site features five databases and three sets of consumer information, along with latest news, links, two books produced by ABC, educational resources catalog, and other features. The complexity of the site continues to grow as new educational material is added and new methods of access are implemented. Part of the site is open to the general public, while much of the online educational content is available only to members of ABC (via password). Access to different databases and levels of information depends on the level of membership. Because of this complexity and expanded use, we are now faced with the challenge to re-engineer and redesign the system. This will be a long-term project scheduled to begin in 2005.
Herb-Ed-Web™ Content Licensing: ABC’s electronic educational content licensing program has now expanded to include more than 20 licensees ranging from small to large companies as well as organizations, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and some major universities. Herb-Ed-Web is now a solid and far-reaching education program and financial revenue center for ABC. More importantly, it has enabled us to expand our ability to provide high quality, science-based information on herbs and phytomedicines to hundreds of thousands of people. The average number of visitors per month at www.herbalgram.org through direct access and our licensees exceeded 85,000 in 2004, an increase of 59% over 2003.
Herbal Information Course: In January 2004 ABC, in conjunction with the National Training Institute of Virgo Publishing, launched its new online training program targeted for retail natural food store employees and network marketing distributors. The program provides basic information about dietary supplements, guidance about how retail employees should communicate with customers, and basic information on many of the most popular herbs. The course has succeeded beyond expectations with more than 1,100 Herbal Information Specialist Certificates awarded in 2004. The year two renewal curriculum will be made available early in 2005 and additional educational modules are currently being contemplated.
New Projects and Initiatives: In addition to the core activities listed above, ABC added 5 new projects during the year, requiring the resources of staff, interns, volunteers, and contractors. Some are complete and some ongoing. These projects included two herbal overview projects for print and electronic use which will become the Herbal Mind and Body Care database; two new herb profiles, the “ABC Clinical Guide to Elder Berry” (Sambucus nigra L., Caprifoliaceae) and another on Yerba Maté (Ilex paraguariensis A. St.-Hil., Aquifoliaceae), still in progress; and a pharmacy continuing education module on improving immune function and DNA repair in older adults. All of these projects were coordinated by staff. This presents challenges considering the staff’s primary priorities in maintaining ABC’s ongoing core educational activities. Expansion of human resources is planned for 2005 to address the numerous requests for new projects that have been received. In some cases, ABC has not been able to accept proposed new projects due to a lack of personnel and financial resources.
Summary: The American Botanical Council experienced stability and growth during the 2004 fiscal year. Most core activities, goals, and projects were accomplished. The net operating income for the year was far more positive than previously budgeted. Clearly, many factors have contributed to the success of the organization in 2004. These factors include sound, conservative financial management, effective governance by the Board of Trustees, a dedicated and hard working staff, strong membership support, and the support and confidence of all segments of the constituents served by ABC.