Gravy days are long gone

Money is tight. Just ask most businesspeople in Pagosa Country and they will tell you. Overall, there is less money circulating in the community than there was a year ago and, in the doldrums between seasons, the effect is pronounced. It is nothing we haven’t seen before, and it is something we will see pass.

In the meantime, individuals, government departments, non-profit interests and local projects continue to seek funds.

For these individuals and groups, the question is: How do you ask for money when there is little to go around?

The gravy days for these efforts are gone, at least for a while. When money came easy, the number of fund-raising efforts and events put on by non profits and people with local projects grew to the point there was something happening nearly every week —groups and causes sought donations on a regular schedule. And, in a community as generous as Pagosa, most of the efforts were successful. Some were so successful, programs relied on continued success.

The same scenario held for tax-supported activities — government agencies and departments. When revenues were flowing, staff was added, services extended. The fat grew (and, in the case of the county, grew beyond the ability of the host to sustain it).

Now, however, the days when a proposal dressed up in its Sunday best can produce desired monies are few and far between. The days when multiplier math works to convince government or the public to fork over funds are behind us. The most notable and clear examples of this kind of effort were continual efforts by a previous manager at Stevens Field arguing for project funding on the basis that, since the airport logged a certain number of takeoffs and landings per year, and there were an average number of passengers per aircraft and an average number of days were supposedly spent in the area with an average amount of money spent per day, the facility therefore produced tens of millions of dollars in revenue for the area and led to the creation of hundreds of jobs. When the details of the argument were examined, (for example, what were the specific jobs and how could one verify the link between their creation and airport activity?), the absurdity of many of the claims became obvious. Today, such arguments fall on deaf ears when advanced to funders who must demand concrete details.

There is not enough money to go around.

In order to succeed with funding requests, other ways of selling an idea involving government or private funds must be developed.

What do you need to sell a funding request now?

First, a sound concept, absent glassy-eyed sloganeering, dubious “facts” and loosely-formed objectives. How, exactly, will the idea bring the greatest good to the greatest number in Pagosa Country? And how can the claim be proven true?

Second, a sound business or organizational plan. A three- to five-year plan. And a real budget — not an uninformative knockoff designed to conceal the inadequacies of planning or administration.

All this is necessary if there is to be any chance to wedge money from public or private pockets. Take a look at the local economy and it is obvious private sources are tight. Look at the condition of local governments: sales tax revenues are flat, at best, and are down for some reporting periods. There is little money to fund entertainment, adult recreation or cloudy “economic development” projects. We have basic needs: education, roads, emergency medical and hospital services, law enforcement, fire protection, social programs to assist those in great need. These are where most dollars will go.

If you want the bucks, the plan must pay big dividends for the greater community. And the claims that it will do so must be rock solid.

Karl Isberg