DC Budgets and Sacred Zombie Cows (R)

The current debt ceiling debate going on in Washington right now has me thinking about how associations manage their budgets.

In the case of DC, it seems that the assumption is all current programs must be maintained, more or less. In other words, every program is somehow sacred to someone, and must thus be funded.

I would prefer to see DC take a “zero-based” budget approach, where everything starts at zero and each program has to be justified. For example, there was a kerfuffle recently when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made a point about the Cowboy Poetry festival that is supported by grants from the National Endowment of the Arts.

Which brings us to sacred zombie cows. David Gammel, executive director of the Entomological Society of America, coined the phrase. Simply put, sacred zombie cows are association programs that continue to exist, and continue to be funded, but are really serving no purpose and providing no real value. Far be it from me to suggest that the Cowboy Poetry festival provides no value, but one does have to wonder, given the US’s current fiscal situation, if this the best way to spend obviously limited funds.

So look around your association. I’d be willing to bet you’ve got some sacred zombie cows, lingering on, simply because no one had the will to finally put it to rest. If you’re willing to, add your favorite sacred zombie cow in the comments.

About Wes Trochlil

For over 30 years, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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