More on Two Posts About PASS

Yesterday I linked to two really interesting posts about PASS and I hope you read them. I’ll start with a couple thoughts about them:

  • I admire the post from Steve for trying to do something with that’s available. It’s the essence of remembering that the perfect is the enemy of the good. Should we do it? I think I’m a “no” because I don’t think we’ve held the Board accountable, but I could maybe switch that to a yes if we had a firm goal of what we would do with that money (a real task list) and we would have to see it as a one year stop gap.
  • Equally I appreciate the analysis by Steph. I don’t think it covers everything, but it’s a good start at trying to understand where the money goes. Does it go the right places is a really hard question to answer – do we agree on what the right places.

Both posts are generally about the budget, but I think both come back to the question that I think many of us ask – is PASS spending enough on non-Summit activities? That question is at the heart of the tension so many of us have with how PASS is managed and lead, and I think it’s equally a challenge for the Board members trying to find the balance. How much profit vs how much good keeps both sides of the coin going? If we don’t agree on goals and KPI’s, how can we assess if we’re spending in the right places? I think related to that is a perception that the management company isn’t aligned with community goals. Are they? Which goals? Is that the fault of the management company, the Board, or us projecting our view of what they should be doing?

How could we make that a better conversation? I have two suggestions:

  • Take the existing budget and figure out what percentage of gross revenue goes to the “free” side of things – the community site. It’s a little bit of work and some is gray, but say its 6% or 10% or whatever. Make the rule that going forward that the free team gets that percentage of the gross every year. Then “we” can look at that and how its sliced and have a fair debate about how we use what we have. Do we invest more in SQLSaturday this year, or more in Chapters, or more in something else? Do we want a full time evangelist, do we want to pay for Chapter leaders to attend the Summit? It’s a small change, a housekeeping one, but think of how the conversations would change. The Board would have conversations about managing the “pay” side – increasing Summit attendance, managing costs, etc, etc, then they would move to the next hour of the meeting and talk about how and where to invest the free team money. Now if money gets taken from X and put into Y, it’s all within Team Free and while we may argue (we will, Im sure!), we’d still be doing x dollars worth of good.
  • The other part may seem harder, but I think is equally important. Start the planning to hire the existing HQ staff as PASS employees. Let’s remove any daylight between the goals of the Board and the community and the full time staff. We need those people to run the Summit and to help support a lot of the free stuff we do. We’d be a real company with a real CEO reporting to a Board and the CEO would understand she had two separate missions – maintain/grow the revenue side and to maintain/grow the free activities.

I think structure and alignment matter. I think we spend too much time questioning whether HQ (our guys!) are doing enough or doing the right thing, I think the Board gets too caught up in business side, and I think we have no clarity on whether we’re doing the things that matter and if they are effective. I’m trying to remold PASS to fit my vision for sure. We have what every non profit dreams of, a fantastic fund raiser. We need money and staff to keep raising funds, but we have to be about more than just raising funds or the rest is a charade. We can find the balance and in doing so I think everything will work better.

Anyway, that’s my dream. Hope it inspires you to think about how it works and how to make it work better.



5 thoughts on “More on Two Posts About PASS

  1. Heya Andy, I think I’d be all for bringing management in-house. Outsourcing makes sense when the capability isn’t core and/or when you’re willing to pay a premium to have some flexibility against unknowns like not needing the function in a few years. PASS have believed they need these people for the past 10 years – it’s core and known – so it should be internalised.

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    1. Yes! PASS has been around so long that I thought management was part of the organization until this recent conversation.


      1. Josh, there was actually another management before C&C all the way back from day 1. C&C fixed a lot of the problems from that first team, but still remained a management company. If only we had hired staff then!


  2. Thanks for doing something I rarely see done anymore: Actually proposing a solution. Most people LOVE to point out issues, but rarely take on the responsibility for fixing them. Even if your suggestions aren’t accepted, at least you’re adding in a positive. Nicely done – thanks!


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