A Year Like No Other
2020-2021 was a year like no other the Skills Society has ever experienced. The global COVID pandemic presented unrelenting daily challenges, large and small, for every member of the Skills Society family. Keeping everyone safe and well was the major preoccupation for the individuals we support, family members, Skills Society senior leadership and staff, as well as directors of the board. On behalf of the board of directors, we wish to express our profound thank you to all the heroes who contributed and continue to contribute to the safety and well- being of our entire family. While the pandemic has not yet abated, we can all see light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccinations and other public health measures will see us safely through to the end. Until then, the Skills Society will continue to support each other in the safest and most sensitive ways possible.
Skills Society 40-Year Anniversary
2021 marks the 40-year anniversary of the Skills Society. The Skills board and senior leadership wish to recognize and thank all those whose vision, principles, values and hard work built an exceptionally strong foundation upon which the Skills Society has built 40 years of progress. When it is safe to do so, we will hold an in-person celebration commemorating our collective achievement.
Strategic Thinking and Planning
Typically, the Skills Society holds a full-blown, in-person, annual retreat to take stock of emerging trends from the external environment that may impact the organization, think about strategic issues and make plans for successfully navigating the year ahead. This year, because of the pandemic, the board met in the Fall of 2020 for a half-day virtual Zoom mini-retreat. Two issues took center-stage: 1) possible Government of Alberta reforms of the PDD Program; and 2) taking stock of how the organization was performing in relation to the challenges presented to COVID-19. This year, the board and senior leaders were joined for part of the retreat by Ms. Carlie Scucatto, PDD Contract Specialist. We thank Carlie for her interest in the Skills Society and the people we support.
Influence and Advocacy
The Skills Society Advocacy Committee, headed up by Vice-Chair Amy Abbott worked together with many other organizations from the disability sector to influence Government of Alberta decision makers. Examples include making funding available for sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment, pandemic pay for sector staff and other issues affecting the availability of needed supports.
Since its inception, the Skills Society has been raising money to supplement the funding provided by the Government of Alberta for the support of people with developmental and other disabilities. For example, over many years, funds were raised through casinos, raffles and generous gifts from individual citizens and corporations. Some of these funds were used as needed while others were saved for future projects. For more than a decade, disability sector organizations like the Skills Society have been required by the Government of Alberta to do more and more without funding increases. During 2021, Skills Society leadership decided to improve our capacity to raise funds privately. As a result, we entered into a relationship with the Alberta Treasury Branch to invest our savings more strategically and thereby improve our rate of return. In addition, board member Darcy McDonald authored a paper providing insights into current and potential future fund development strategies. In the next fiscal year, we will follow Darcy’s lead and form a fund development team comprised of board and senior leaders. This initiative will develop and oversee a set of new fund development strategies.
PDD Program Reforms
In 2019, the newly elected UCP Government signaled its intention to reform the PDD program because its growth was considered to be unsustainable. Prior to the onset of the pandemic, the Honourable Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Community and Social Services, organized several opportunities for individuals, families and community service providers to express their views about potential reforms (e.g., modify eligibility criteria for the PDD Program). Once the pandemic hit, the Minister curtailed all in-person reform get-togethers. In addition, the Government decided not to implement PDD Program reforms during the pandemic. On behalf of the Skills Society, I want to thank Minister Sawhney for this decision. Individuals, families, advocacy organizations and community service providers had more than enough on our plates, doing our very best to make our way through the perilous pandemic while keeping all concerned safe and well. Once the pandemic has subsided, we look forward to additional opportunities to influence the direction of any future reforms.
Welcome Two New Board Members
At last year’s AGM, we introduced two new board members. Both Kate Gunn and Dr. Dianne McConnell have been everything we expected and more. I want to thank both of them for their passion, their caring natures, their inspiring energy, their deep wells of experience and their wise counsel regarding all manner of complex issues.
University of Alberta Board Interns
Each year, the Skills Society invites one or more students from the University of Alberta to intern with the Skills board. This year Folakemi Jolaoso and Lisa Manners joined our team. Both women jumped right in and made significant contributions to our fund development and advocacy initiatives. Thank you both very much. We’ll miss you!
Thank You Skills Staff Team
Last but certainly not least, the Skills board thanks our amazing senior leadership team and all of our brave and valuable staff. Your performance during the pandemic has been nothing less than remarkable. The board had front-row seats – watching your high-performance team operate day-in and day-out for an entire year without once taking your eyes off the ball. For this we are truly grateful. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Hart Chapelle, Board Chair
The pandemic has remained the largest challenge to Skills Society. However, I am pleased to say that to date it has not significantly affected our financial position.
The 2020/2021 fiscal year for Skills Society has ended on a positive note. Our fundraising efforts have resulted in a larger than expected surplus for the year. The federal and provincial government also have provided additional funding for one time pandemic wage top ups for our hard working front line staff.
Skills Society recorded just over $22.20 million revenue in the current year which was almost $254,000 higher than the original budget. Total expenses for the year were $21.93 million, or about $91,000 higher than budget.
Skills Society has a small surplus prior to amortization and casino of just over $272,000 in the current year, compared to a surplus of just over $153,000 reported in 2020. After amortization and casino, Skills recorded a surplus of just over $229,000 in the current year compared to just over $64,000 in the prior year. Due to efficiently managing our budget, Skills Society has been able to replenish reserves back to 2017 levels. This provides some stability as we move ahead.
All government contracts are now in year two of three year terms. Looking to the 2021/2022 year, Skills Society is anticipating a balanced budget.
Rochelle Mitchell, CPA, CA