IRS Tax Return Calls AUVSI’s Advocacy and Effectiveness into Question

Over the past several years AUVSI members have gone to management with ideas and proposals in an effort to improve both advocacy and the image of the UAS commercial industry. The common response was that there was no money available for projects towards what many considered to be community goals.

The track record of the association speaks for itself-

The membership numbers are anemic even with an astonishing increase in awareness and acquisition of small UAS. The public image efforts are not working and there is a lack of tangible accomplishment on the regulatory front. On the plus side, the show is a success if you don’t count the protests held by Code Pink.

We have to examine what is wrong with this picture and effort. It is for this reason the Silicon Valley Chapter President asked to see the books that are “Open to Public Inspection” for tax-exempt organizations. Being a businessperson that is the first place you look to find problems or way to better spend resources.

It would appear that a lack of resources is not the case. According to IRS Form 990, AUVSI’s Gross receipts for 2011 topped $11,702,000.00 including reserves in excess of $3,700,000.00 in stock (Members aim to find out whose stock we are holding.) The 990’s also document six-figure support for foreign chapters (Australia folded) while the domestic chapters get no financial support. Also puzzling was $301,931 in consulting fees for which the current Board Chairman told the Chapter President was spent on finding new markets for unmanned technology.

Does hiring an outside consulting firm to find expanding markets for the world’s “is the world’s largest non-profit organization devoted exclusively to advancing the unmanned systems and robotics community.” make sense? The best and the brightest are in the community and already understand well the emerging markets.

Furthermore, it appears that we are supporting a large staff with salaries and compensations totaling more than $3,388,000.00. Does that make sense for an industry with membership in regulatory limbo and who are suffering economically?

A DC salary comparison for 2011

Vice President of the U.S $230,700

Speaker of the House $223,500

Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court $223,500

CEO of AUVSI $216,520

Executive VP of AUVSI $182,962

U.S. Senator $174,000

U.S. Representative $174,000

Most of those on the list have a constituency larger than 7500 persons

Some of the other larger expenditures by AUVSI are $443,964 in travel expenses and $635,148 in equipment. We could only venture an uneducated guess about the travel and types of equipment purchased, but what figure the later was part of the furnishings for the $308,354 office remodel?

Whatever the case, I will again make my appeal to see the actual bookkeeping to better discern more effective ways of spending the memberships money towards the goals of membership building, grassroots advocacy and positive image building.

Link to IRS Form 990 (view the pdf)

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Patrick Egan
Editor in Field, sUAS News Americas Desk | Patrick Egan is the editor of the Americas Desk at sUAS News and host and Executive Producer of the sUAS News Podcast Series, Drone TV and the Small Unmanned Systems Business Exposition. Experience in the field includes assignments with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Battle Lab investigating solutions on future warfare research projects. Instructor for LTA (Lighter Than Air) ISR systems deployment teams for an OSD, U.S. Special Operations Command, Special Surveillance Project. Built and operated commercial RPA prior to 2007 FAA policy clarification. On the airspace integration side, he serves as director of special programs for the RCAPA (Remote Control Aerial Photography Association).