The 2012 Strategic Meeting took place from Friday September 7 until Sunday September 9. All Alcor directors attended in person, as did Alcor president Max More. The Strategic Meeting is the annual, intensive review of the organizations priorities and performance. You will find a more extensive discussion of several of the outcomes in a forthcoming issue of Cryonics magazine, but here are the main resolutions and priorities on which agreement was reached:
The current officers and board of directors were reelected.
The board accepted the CEO’s recommendation to accept Kim Suozzi as a charity case, based on arrangements that will reduce Alcor’s costs. The full allocation of $25,000 to the patient care trust fund will be made. Alcor members have contributed to the fundraising effort to enable Kim to be cryopreserved.
The following resolution was formally passed: “Alcor shall tender to the PCT the full amount of the current PCT minimums for all underfunded cases, as soon as practicably consistent with Alcor’s cash flow needs, except to the extent that the PCT board waives some amount. Any amount not immediately paid shall be recorded as a liability to be discharged as soon as practicably possible.”
The allocation to the Comprehensive Member Standby (CMS) fund for whole body and neuro members was equalized.
Alcor has previously offered terminal members up to $5,000 to relocate to the Scottsdale area. Relocation close to Alcor both substantially reduces costs and improves the expected quality of procedures by greatly reducing transport time and enabling the team to go straight to cryoprotection rather than first doing a remote blood washout and long-distance transport. The board increased that allowance to $10,000.
As minimum requirements for funding of cryopreservation inevitably go up over time, members who did not take out insurance well over the minimum of the day – or who do not regularly add to their savings in the form of a trust or other fund reserved for cryopreservation – may find it difficult to meet new, higher minimums. For older members, adding to life insurance may be too expensive or not an option. Other assets may be illiquid yet substantial, real estate being a common example. At the meeting, the board and president discussed alternative funding methods and resolved further to pursue possible options.
If cryonics is to become more widely accepted in the general scientific community, we need to add to existing evidence for the effectiveness of our procedures. One way to do this is to gather more data during all stages of stabilization, transport, and cryoprotection. We can also gather evidence of the quality and effectiveness of brain perfusion and structural preservation by routine CT scanning of neuro patients and by conducting biopsies of spinal cord and possibly other samples for all patients. The board expressed general support for carefully moving forward with this, ensuring that members understand what we propose to do.
Various changes to the language in the Cryopreservation Agreement for new members were agreed to. The board also agreed to a proposal to alter the discounts we offer for membership dues. The aim is to makes changes that are nearly budget-neutral but are more fair than the existing discount structure. From the start of 2013, this means that discounts for older students will be reduced, while discounts will be introduced for long-term members who have been paying dues for many years. The exact discounts will be announced separately.
The Strategic Meeting not only reviews current priorities, it acts as a forum to set new priorities or to reaffirm existing ones. The board and the president came up with a list of almost two dozen potential high priorities. Each person then voted for no more than three of the priorities. Five priorities emerged as the most strongly supported:
1. Fundraising. Alcor would be strengthened by bringing in new funds, primarily to be added to the Endowment Fund in order to generate operating income over the long term (the Fund allowing only a 2% annual draw), assuring funders that contributions will not be spent recklessly on a project-of-the-moment. Pursuing this goal will involve cultivating relationships with wealthy patrons and adding significantly to the endowment fund over the next couple of years.
2. SOPs and backup training. Jobs and roles at Alcor tend to be unusual. It’s not easy for a new person to step in and take over at short notice. To minimize the disruption of losing a staff member, we want to produce detailed standard operating procedures (SOPs) for every staff member as well as to think about who could take over any given position. This project is to be completed within 12 months.
3. Improved communication and coordination with Suspended Animation (SA). Since SA now handles standby, stabilization, and transport for all Alcor cases outside Arizona but within the United States, it’s important that the two organizations have excellent communication and coordinate their activities as fully and smoothly as possible.
4. Membership growth. Growth cannot solve all problems but it can help. This is especially true when new members are fully funded and when the organization can reap economies of scale. Currently, Alcor finds itself in something of a Catch-22 situation: Providing high quality services without running at a perpetual deficit means membership dues at a level that are making it difficult to retain and attract members. If we can find a way to accelerate membership growth, we should eventually be able to continue raising our quality of service while actually reducing membership dues. The board set the goal of doubling the rate of growth.
5. Structural balance in finances. Although Alcor’s finances have looked good in the last couple of years, this is partly due to unusual (or at least unpredictable) income, and to some salaries being paid by donors rather than out of general operating funds. The goal here is to be able to cover all operating expenses without relying on extraordinary income.
Other topics discussed included the Underfunding Plan, research goals, the Wealth Preservation Trust, the Endowment Fund, and progress in more accurately assessing the costs of long-term cryopreservation of whole body and neuro patients.