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Avalanche Center Update
An Update from the Avalanche Center
November 18, 2003
Online in html: http://www.csac.org/Organization/updates/
(To translate this update enter the URL
"http://www.csac.org/Organization/updates/" and then follow the link
to this update. This way the entire page/update is translated, not
just part of it.)
This is a brief update on what is new and upcoming on the internet
Avalanche Center, http://www.csac.org/
Contributor Services Section
Education Section, Course listings
How You Can Help - Current Needs, Tax tip
The Sixth Annual Fundraising Auction will begin (officially) on
December 3. A few items will be put up for auction for a few days each
as the official start approaches. These pre-auction items will be from
the Avalanche Store and will include shirts and nalgene bottles as
well as select avalanche equipment, books and videos. So far we have
canvassed the industry with 2 faxes and 1 bulk mailing and donations
are trickling in. Once again the snowshoe industry has been quite
generous and we have at least three pair to auction off. Items are
being added to the auction cover page as they arrive, either follow
the link on the home page or go right to http://www.csac.org/auction/
Our grant seeking efforts have produced no results so far. Of the 25
proposals sent out we have received replies from 14 and are still
awaiting responses from 11. The replies from foundations have
generally indicated that their emphasis is on problems such as hunger
and poverty or in areas such as education. The replies from corporate
giving programs cane in the quickest and generally indicate that they
prefer to fund youth programs. Many of these foundation and giving
programs large and are unaccustomed to requests of such a small scale
from such a small organization. It seems that having money is a big
help in getting more money. (At some point it becomes typical to hire
a full time development expert.)
Our treasurer has completed an overview of our 2002-2003 season and we
probably operated at a loss of several thousand dollars last season.
"Probably" because some expenses close to the start or end of the year
tend to get carried into the previous or next season, but these tend
to balance out right now. We will continue to seek new ways of funding
the project but we can't scale back pay or hours since it is already
close to entirely volunteer. And being a non-profit, we can't
deficit-spend. We do need to be able to cover the overhead costs of
running the project.
We still have shirts with the famous skiing skeleton logo on sale.
This has been popular enough for us to need to reorder a quantity of
shirts, which is a stretch in terms of cash flow at this time of the
year. This was compounded by the popularity of our decals, which we
have also had to reorder. So we will continue the sale for a while, in
part to turn some of the new inventory into cash flow. However, our
cost on shirts has gone up $1 so both the sale price and regular
retail will go up by that amount within a few days. (These reorders
may present a cash flow challenge at this time of year, but it is nice
to know our logo is popular and widespread and that it reflects the
popularity of the project.)
Website Searching Improved
Our site has had search capabilities courtesy of free services from
Freefind for quite a while. Many other free services have gone by the
wayside but Freefind continues to offer a good service at no cost. We
recently took advantage of some of their features we had not been
using in order to improve searches.
On each section page there is now a checkbox below the search entry
which will limit the search only that section. Leaving it unchecked
results in a site-wide search as always. Hopefully this will assist
people in finding what they are looking for among our 1500+ pages.
We also applied our template to their results pages so that search
results are presented on a more familiar page which includes the same
standard navigation bar that is on our main section pages.
A great deal of work has recently gone into our Contributor Service
section, both to improve the registration and login process, to make
the flow into and through these pages much smoother, and to begin to
offer some enhanced services for contributors. The entry of e-mail
addresses into the (offline) list of contributors is automated now
too, so in most cases it is possible to register for this section
immediately after contributing $15 or more, including contributions
made as part of a store order. The "Thank You" page indicates this and
provides a link.
The entire registration, login, login verification and all such
services are now provided using a public domain php suite called
auth_lib, although significant reprogramming was required to customize
it. This is much smoother and better implemented than our previous
collection of poorly written perl scripts. Password recovery and
password or username changes are all very simple now.
New services, in addition to the existing ones of full incident
searching and store specials, include a simple interface for managing
list subscriptions without any need to send confirmation e-mail and a
persistent shopping cart which will automatically leave off shipping
When non-contributors subscribe to any of our mail lists for
distributing avalanche bulletins they get an e-mail telling them to
send an email with a specific code to majordomo, the list program.
This is necessary to avoid people subscribing other peoples addresses
or non-existent addresses, but our logs show that it clearly gives
some people problems. (For one thing, majordomo does not like html
mail and often chokes on it.) Since logging into the contributor
services area effectively confirms an e-mail address the interface
there will show you all of our lists and which ones you are subscribed
to. Simply by checking appropriate buttons users can subscribe or
unsubscribe from whichever lists they want to, all in one step and
without any confirmation e-mail hassles.
When a contributor logs in before shopping our shopping cart system
will now use a cart associated with their username rather than one set
by the system clock and only tracked in a cookie. This means that it
is possible to continue shopping from different computers using the
same cart (as long as you log in). Carts associated with usernames
also have no shipping charges added to them.
Most avalanche bulletins for North America have begun to come out,
even if only sporadically in most cases. These are being posted and
sent out to our mailing lists, in many cases in both text and html.
The html versions have been improved for mailing this season, but they
still may not conform to the expectations of all mail programs.
Hopefully they work well with most.
When a bulletin first starts up and is intermittent, and often issued
late in the day anyway, we run the posting and mailing script manually
to test it out and make sure that the formatting and glossing is all
working ok. As a result of doing this frequently lately our glossing
process is much improved with more terms than ever being linked to
their glossary page.
Plans for further improvements include the review and updating of
those glossary pages which are being linked to from bulletins, the
addition of an e-mail html option for more bulletins, and the addition
of a couple of new bulletins to our posting and e-mailing systems.
Incidents have already been posted for this season, we are sad to say.
Six reports which include 3 fatalities are on file so far. These are
being moved into the searchable database more quickly than in the past
and not all appear on the main incidents page, but all of them can be
found by searching for October and November.
We still hope to extend the database back a season, and have some
final verifications to wrap up for last year. These have been kept at
a low priority for the time being until our cash flow permits us to
re-hire our student who has experience with the incidents section from
Many course listings have been posted and made searchable, primarily
in California and Colorado but also in Washington, which we have
traditionally not received many submissions from. There are between 70
and 80 courses in the database which can be searched and sorted by
level, location, dates and cost.
A php suite of scripts for maintaining online tests is being evaluated
and modified, and it is possible we will begin to use it sometime this
season. Beginning with the few small tests we now have. The new
program would allow us to track scores on particular questions, and by
doing so to identify poor questions. This may take a low priority in
the short term however, due to the work required for the auction and
for getting bulletin systems fine tuned.
How You Can Help - Current Needs, End of Year Tax Tip
Right now our biggest need is fundraising. While we have year-round
expenses the majority of our funding comes in between now and sometime
Please participate in (and promote) the auction, we generally have a
pretty wide variety of items spanning a variety of interests and price
ranges. And it's fun!
If you use and value our resources consider making a contribution, and
if your employer offers any kind of matching program use it to
leverage your own contribution.
Contributors can help us by sending feedback on the new services area.
We may incorporate an optional a feedback form into the logout process
but until we do email comments and suggestions are welcome.
End of the Year Tax Tip
We have a page of year-end tips from one of our board members who
works in the non-profit arena, but for this update we'll share this
note from Wells Fargo:
"Make Charitable Contributions to tax-exempt organizations, says Kathy
Womack of Arlington, Texas-based Income Tax Consultants. You can
charge last-minute donations in 2003 to a credit card and and take the
deduction even if you pay the bill in 2004. If you make the donation
by check and the charity doesn't receive the money until 2004, you can
still take the deduction for 2003 if you mailed the check by Dec 31."
Cyberspace Snow and Avalanche Center (CSAC)
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