This month, I’m writing to you in the spirit of transparency. I want to share both ABRF’s wins and opportunities for improvement as a society, and today I’m going to tell you about two recent setbacks. First, ABRF partnered with InnovATEBIO and several community colleges to submit an NSF proposal through the Advanced Technical Education (ATE) program with the goal of improving access to specialized biotechnology workforce education in the community college setting. The grant—ABRF’s first attempt at requesting federal funding—received a meritorious scientific review but was ultimately declined by NSF at this time. This is a huge disappointment, and while Todd and the Co-PIs are exploring options for funding, it does change the scope of ABRF’s participation in the grant and the financial and programmatic support we would receive.
Second, despite a wildly successful Annual Meeting in Boston this year, ABRF is facing a budget shortfall going into 2024. Although this was partly due to last minute changes to our meeting footprint that limited our ability to recruit sponsors, it highlights how financially dependent our society is on our meeting, with up to 70% of our yearly revenue coming from this one event.
These challenges shine a light on the limitations of ABRF under our current structure, and as a Board, we will be having some hard conversations in the next few weeks to discuss balancing the need for revenue and programmatic diversification to keep ABRF growing as an organization with the time and talent constraints inherent in a volunteer-driven association. We’re going to need to strictly evaluate ABRF’s core capacities and our programmatic goals and ensure we’re putting our limited resources where we can make the biggest impact to serve our membership and promote Shared Resource Facilities going forward. As always, I welcome member feedback to make sure we’re focusing our efforts where ABRF can provide the most value to you and your institutions.