For most of WPSR’s history we have maintained the tradition of an annual gathering and gala. The event serves several important functions, as I’ll review, but the primary value has been this: the dinner provides an opportunity for members and supporters to gather, and to renew and sustain relationships. Especially for many long-term members, our organization has provided a social glue, a vehicle for sustaining important relationships that help us persist in our advocacy - advocacy on behalf of very complex and daunting issues.
This was evident again at our March dinner, but also evident was the heartwarming presence of new members, younger professionals and students and guests, some unfamiliar with our mission. The evening provided an opportunity for these attendees to meet leaders and longer-term members who welcomed them into this world of socially conscious health professionals confronting the most global threats to human health.
Another valuable aspect of the dinner is the opportunity they provide for updates on each of our three strategic programs. We believe this helps our members stay better informed on both these programs and our progress - and challenges. Each year we designate one program as our theme, and we rotate this focus. This provides an opportunity for members and supporters to get more involved if they choose.
More recently, as our programs have strengthened and our work has become even more visible in the region, the dinners attract a larger number of new members and supporters. This year’s dinner demonstrated quite dramatically the importance of this outcome. WPSR added about 45 new members from this event alone, which is a growth of over 5% in our overall membership. At a time when many PSR chapters nationally are experiencing dwindling membership, this is tremendously encouraging. It suggests our mission is relevant to more health professionals and activists in Washington.
A few years ago we made another significant addition to the goals for the dinners, fundraising. In the past this had been primarily a hopeful byproduct of the dinners - if surplus funds remained, fine. But recognizing that many of our members have had very long commitments to this organization as well as histories of philanthropic giving, we believed the gala could provide an opportunity for new revenue. It has been extremely gratifying that this is exactly what has happened. Over the past three years the dinners have brought in an increasing amount of revenue which now represents about one-third of our annual income. This year our net revenue was just over $100,000 - unprecedented in WPSR’s 40-year history. Our board and staff are deeply appreciative for this expression of respect and confidence in our programs.
This has, of course, helped us to expand our organizational capacity which has a major impact on program effectiveness. While still a small organization, the expansion of our staff has had a dramatic multiplier effect on the productivity of our members (volunteers) in all three programs because we are still largely a member-driven advocacy organization. It is, after all, the voice of our health professionals that gives the credibility of science and evidence to our positions.
For those of you who joined us this year, I want to extend my most sincere thanks, and for others, please consider doing so next year. I think you’d appreciate becoming part of this family of committed social activists, activists “undaunted by the odds.”
Bruce Amundson, MD