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EESF Holds AGM Meeting

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Participants at the EESF AGM meeting

Modernization underway for the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation (EESF).

EESF met for its Annual General Membership (AGM) meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta Airport North in Atlanta on March 8. For the past year, EESF has been undergoing a “modernization” project of sorts. Old programs are being updated, the board is being realigned, new strategies are being pursued and new technology utilized. Like an elevator or escalator modernization, the process includes several steps: assessment, research, decision-making, planning, installation and maintenance. What follows is a progress report on the Foundation’s project.

Assessment

With total revenue at US$468,176 and total expenses at US$387,862, Treasurer Gary Saxon reported the Foundation followed its budget by lowering its expenses at a higher rate than the contributions dropped. It is no longer running on a deficit as in past years. Provided the income stream continues steadily, it has some room built in for new ideas and initiatives. Saxon concluded:  

“[I’m] very comfortable in saying we did a pretty good job of responding to the environmental situation, and finding ways to keep the Foundation a) afloat and b) actually progressing, moving forward.”

It was also noted that the Foundation relied on the William C. Sturgeon Fund, which has now been depleted to the lowest level allowed by its bylaws without refunding it. Secretary Ricia Sturgeon-Hendrick said the Foundation is considering going back to a calendar year for its financial planning, because, since the Foundation doesn’t only serve children, it would serve EESF’s purposes better than a fiscal calendar. The Finance Committee is also employing a new accounting firm.

In his personnel report, Sybert said Program Director Laurie Dueitt and Executive Director Nikole Gore-Layton had been reviewed and received raises. National Association of Elevator Contractors (NAEC) representative Robert Merlo commented that they are “both obviously short-handed and doing a great job.”

In her program update on Safe-T Riders, Dueitt reported that teachers and principals were notified of the rebranded program in December. The Foundation will buy new school listings for the upcoming school year, and Dueitt and Gore-Layton will return to school conventions to promote the rebranded program. They will attend conventions hosted by the National Education Association in Washington, D.C., in July; the New Jersey Educators Association in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in November; and the Texas Association for Healthy Physical Education, Recreation & Dance in Galveston, Texas, in November. Once the program with its new website is complete, EESF will be better able to communicate with schools and set an appropriate goal for how many children it will reach via its digital or print materials next year. For a long time, the Foundation has wanted one million children to receive the safety message each year, and it may be able to meet that goal through its digital resources.

The college program, Rise Up Safe Rider, and the other resources on the website continue to receive views. This year, National Elevator Escalator Safety Awareness Week will be observed on November 5-12. There were few governor and mayor proclamations of it last year, but the board feels there is less of a need for that, since the Foundation has been around for many years.

In her fundraising report, Gore-Layton said the industry seemed hesitant to fund the rebranding program. Nevertheless, between special events, the annual campaign and the workplace campaign, the Foundation raised US$363,670 in 2014-2015. It has set a goal to raise US$367,400 in 2015-2016. 

Research and Decision Making

EESF seeks to serve as the worldwide source on safety in the vertical-transportation industry, reaching children, parents and adults with its educational programs. To that end, members of the Strategic Planning Committee met with a consultant from Lathrop & Gage, LLP in September 2015. They found that many donor-funded nonprofits face similar challenges. To overcome these obstacles, they were encouraged to tweak EESF’s board, website and marketing communications, programs and fundraising. Since the board was deemed too large, they decided to reduce the number of members by removing the “Alternate” language from the bylaws, which effectively cut the board in half. While a larger board made for a more energetic meeting, it was not as effective at getting things done. The committee hopes expanded committees will create more involvement and serve as recruiting pools for the board. They also decided to redesign the website to target the general riding public, rather than the industry. They will continue to update the look of current programs and develop a safety training program for employees, the Employee Safety Ambassadors Program (ESAP). Lastly, to further its programing efforts, the Foundation will revamp the Safe-T Riders website with two games, budget for a classroom print version and advertise online.

Planning and Installation

The rebranding process of Safe-T Riders took longer than expected, but EESF is happy with the outcome. Matt Pike said he conducted field research at home. His wife is an educator, and his three boys are the perfect age demographic for the program. Their feedback was helpful in developing the characters.

The rebranding project had been approved at last year’s AGM meeting. Marketing firm 2X4 was hired to create a new video and activity sheet, which were revealed at the NAEC conference in Boston in September 2015. Two online games and a new interactive website (www.safetyrider.org) are scheduled to be complete this month. These should be easy for schools and parents to use, and they will be marketed online through a Facebook and Google Adwords campaign. A social media marketing team was formed to update EESF’s social media accounts. Once the programs are rebranded, the Foundation will advertise them online and network with other safety-oriented sites and organizations.       

In addition to the online option, there will also be a paper packet that includes the video on a flash drive, an activity page, a sticker and a teacher-guide letter. There is broad consensus that a tangible, paper program is not only necessary in some cases, but also desirable. Since flash drives are cheaper, the Foundation plans to produce more of those than DVDs, but it will keep some DVDs in reserve for those who prefer them. Nevertheless, spending US$0.13 per child (for 200,000 children or 8,000 classrooms) on the program is a large reduction in costs. Both online and offline statistics will be tracked for efficiency.   

The update on Rise Up Safe Rider is partially complete, but the one for A Safe Ride has not been started yet. A pilot project of the new ESAP will begin during National Elevator Escalator Safety Awareness Week. Ten companies will gain publicity for signing up for this test run of the program. They will receive a certificate of completion for display, and their company logo will appear on ESAP materials for a year. NAESA International representative Emerald McGehee said 0.2 CEUs could be offered to NAESA members for completing the program.

The Fundraising Committee will create a campaign to target potential donors, promote the workplace campaign among contractors and union members (with an option for companies to match employee contributions) and track the fundraising budget each month. Making it easy to donate online and communicating where funds are being used is helping fundraising efforts.

Speaking on behalf of Elevator World, Sturgeon-Hendrick reported the company provides free advertising and design services, pledges US$5,000 a year, participates in the workplace campaign and sponsorships, and various staff members serve on EESF committees. For NAEC, Merlo reported it will continue to support EESF at the same level, and Executive Director Teresa Witham is now officially on the EESF board. Representing NAESA, McGehee said the organization will continue to support EESF, begin to provide space in its monthly electronic newsletter, Progress, for news or an article, and provide a platform at a safety summit in Phoenix in the near future.

Maintenance

Toward the end of the meeting, Merlo summed up the Foundation’s current status saying, “This industry understands modernization very well. [EESF] is being modernized. We are 25 years old, and we need a modernization.”

The Foundation has taken the time, energy and resources to rebrand its key program, and it plans to do so for the rest of its programs, too. It is ready to go. It invites the industry to be part of the maintenance process of its modernization project. The next AGM meeting will take place on February 16, 2017, in Mobile, Alabama, where participants can attend a Mardi Gras parade.  

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