Guest editorial: Changes needed if Park City Institute is to survive and prosper | ParkRecord.com

Guest editorial: Changes needed if Park City Institute is to survive and prosper

Deborah Edwards
Park City

It seemed unlikely, until now, that I would find myself responding to a letter from Robert Redford, but as my dear old dad used to say, "It's a funny old world." Having read Scott Iwasaki's article on the Park City Institute's financial crisis, along with the thoughtful and mostly supportive responses, like that of Redford's, published in a recent edition of The Park Record, I want to lend my support and heartfelt good wishes to the Park City Institute and its employees. The Institute's team does a great job providing us with first-class arts and cultural events that Park City can be proud of. As to its current financial crisis, I would like to offer my thoughts on how the Institute, and in particular, its board of directors, might address the challenges ahead.

I like to do my homework before making a charitable donation, and I usually review a charity's website, its financials, and its corporate governance commitments. A useful source of data is Charity Navigator's reports (charitynavigator.org), which I have found provide useful information and perspective on a charity's financial health, accountability and transparency.

There is much that the Institute does right, and its practice of distributing a portion of tickets to the underserved members of our community is commendable. According to Charity Navigator's website, the Park City Institute has been reviewed on seven occasions since 2014, covering fiscal years 2012-2017. Its most recent review was published on Dec. 1, 2018, and this provides a timely snapshot that a prospective donor may find useful.

In the past the Institute has rated well, scoring 3 out of 4 stars overall for fiscal years 2012, 2013, and 2016; yet in other years, including its most recent rating, the overall score drops to 2 stars. This most recent rating of 2 stars includes the Institute's lowest historical financial rating (2 stars) and its lowest historical accountability & transparency rating (1 star).

In addition to those ratings, CharityNavigator.org reports that the Institute this past year fell short in disclosing "audited financials prepared by independent accountant." Additionally, CharityNavigator.org states that the Institute has fallen short every year in disclosing information on whether it "Does not provide loan(s) to or receive loan(s) from related parties" as well as on "Process for determining CEO compensation." Charitynavigator.org also shows that the Institute has consistently missed on providing readily accessible information on its website about "donor privacy policy," "audited financials" and "Form 990." Finally, for the last three years the Institute has shown a deficit for functional expenses vs. revenue. While last year's events were financially traumatic to the Institute, the data shows that the Institute fell into a deficit in fiscal 2015-17, yet expenses continued to rise in spite of relatively flat revenue for the same period.

What this data says to me is that if the Institute survives this current crisis — and I sincerely hope it does — its board of directors has some tough decisions to make on what changes need to take place in order for the Institute to prosper in the new landscape that the events of 2017/2018 presented. Changes in how it runs and reports on its organization, how the Institute raises and uses funds, and how it sources and maintains corporate partnerships all must come under scrutiny. These are all governance matters that ultimately fall to the board's oversight.

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Coming from a corporate background in an industry that has seen seismic shifts in its operations and profitability, I know first hand how hard it is to make decisions that affect an organization's employees and community, but I believe changes must be considered if the Park City Institute is to survive and prosper.