CASIS Has No Idea How To Raise Money - Only How To Spend It

Keith's note: The organization chosen by NASA to promote the scientific utilization of the International Space Station has been unable to raise funds it planned to raise. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) chosen by NASA in 2011 to manage the portion of the International Space Station that has been designated as a U.S. National Laboratory. Developed at the direction of Congress, CASIS was to be given NASA funds to promote research on the ISS while seeking to generate additional funds from the private sector to augment this research. The maximum annual value of this arrangement with NASA is $15 million per year.

According to the CASIS Strategic Plan, one of their operational strategies is to: "Develop a robust financial model to supplement government funding. CASIS funding from NASA is currently projected at $15M per year, to cover operating costs and to provide seed money for promising R&D. To meet the variety of demands on personnel, infrastructure, business processes and outreach that will grow over time, CASIS must develop additional resources in the form of partnerships and funding and create rigorous business and economic models in order to sustain these. Sources will include private financiers, corporate sponsorship, philanthropists and federal grants that may leverage cost sharing and equity investment in new ventures. Additionally, CASIS will practice management excellence in its operating models to ensure costs are minimized while ISS utilization is maximized effectively toward mission success."

Well CASIS has failed miserably in this regard. If you look at their IRS 990 forms from 2011, 2012, and 2013 (the only returns available) you will see that for at least the past 3 years 99.9% of CASIS' income was from NASA.

- In 2013 total revenue for CASIS Was $15,285,388. They received $15,273,635 from NASA; $9,193 from other sources, $2,525 from investments - and $35 from memberships (sounds like they only had one member). 99.92% of their income was from NASA. (source: 2013 Form 990)

- In 2012 total revenue for CASIS Was $15,279,936. They received $15,274,726 from NASA; $5,000 from other sources, $2,414 from investments - and $210 from memberships. 99.96% of their income was from NASA.(source: 2012 Form 990)

- In 2011 total revenue for CASIS Was $11,547,999. They received $11,544,789 from NASA (but they list it as "federated campaigns") $1,774 from investments - and $3,210 from memberships. 99.97% of their income was from NASA. (source: 2011 Form 990)

And if you look at Part IX of the 990 forms for 2011, 2012, and 2013, none of the "functional expenses" went toward "fundraising". CASIS did not even try to raise any external funds - at least that is what they told the IRS. Among the "functional expenses" is "travel". CASIS spent $906,987 on travel in 2013, $709,266 in 2012, and $468,000 in 2011. While their fundraising fell flat, their travel costs doubled in three years. Oh, and then there's another "functional expense": advertising. CASIS spent $862,234 on advertising in 2013 - that's four times the $235,753 they spent on in 2012 and twice the $359,105 they spent on it in 2011.

CASIS travel and advertising costs continue to rise, yet their external fundraising has only netted a few thousand dollars. None of the travel or advertising was for "fundraising". What was it for? CASIS lists someone on their 990s as "Director of Development" at a 2013 salary of $197,000 - the same year CASIS only reported $9,193 in income - other than what NASA automatically provides. The CASIS Director of Development can't even raise a single month's salary for himself.

Yet if you go to the CASIS "Dashboard" They claim that they have $12,106,425 worth of "funding commitments received". Since none of these funding commitments are showing up on their 990 forms (unless their 2014 form shows this windfall) most of this is just notional, as NASA is fond of saying. But wait - if CASIS has these commitments, how did they get them? Did people just walk up to CASIS and make these pledges? Or did CASIS seek out these commitments? If CASIS was out trying to drum up funding commitments from donors then they were "fundraising". One problem: CASIS did not tell the IRS that some of their expenses were for "fundraising". Or am I missing something?

Apparently this increasingly frequent travel by CASIS staff (which is ultimately paid for with money from NASA) has caught the attention of NASA. More to follow.

- NASA Challenges CASIS To Honor Agreement and Perform (Update), 2012
- Previous CASIS postings

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on October 14, 2015 2:37 PM.

NASA Re-Announces Something That It Already Announced 2 Weeks Ago was the previous entry in this blog.

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