A storm is brewing over the governance of the Grand Mesa Nordic Council (GMNC), as longtime members set off alarm bells about the way the group has been operating recently.
GMNC is a nonprofit group made up of local cross country skiers. It was founded in 1990 to groom and maintain popular ski trails on the Grand Mesa and work with the National Forest Service to develop new trails. Over its 40+ years of existence, it has been remarkably successful.
Originally, GMNC was made up of volunteers and operated on a shoestring budget of donations from skiers and businesses that support the sport. Their pursuit of their mission was driven by members’ love and passion for the sport. But after growing steadily over the years, donations increased to the point where the GMNC now pulls in about quarter million dollars a year, and for the first time, the group was forced to hire paid staff to manage its affairs.
The result has been worrisome to many.
Now, after watching how these changes have played out, people who’ve been involved with the GMNC for a long time believe that this new version of GMNC is not being a responsible steward of those precious donated funds.
After hearing about these concerns, I contacted Greg Randall, retired Plateau Valley School District superintendent and long time member of the GMNC, who says he has discovered alarming financial discrepancies and dubious reporting practices within GMNC.
Greg said he got involved after a founding member of GMNC asked him to get on the group’s board and look into the finances, because the founding member thought money was being spent on things that were not in the mission of GMNC.
Greg took a close look at the group’s finances and he and other members found that:
- GMNC’s administrative costs have soared over just the last three years, from 8% in 2020 to a budgeted 45% next year;
- Administrative costs are currently a staggering $120,000, or 44% of the group’s entire revenue. Normally nonprofits put about 20-25% of their revenue towards administrative costs. People watching GMNC’s changes also say the group’s annual report is deceptive, that it manipulates financial data to present artificially low administrative costs at 1%;
- Numerous board members noticed that the budget information going out to GMNC members has been incorrect;
- While the group’s income has increased about 175% in the last 3 years, expenses have increased more than 350% in the same time frame;
- The percent of the group’s budget that goes towards grooming trails, which is really GMNC’s main mission, dropped from 77% of budget in 2020 to 39% budgeted for next year;
- The group spent $22,000 on a new website, and then just abandoned it;
- After years of organizing events together, Colorado Mesa University’s Cross Country ski team pulled out of hosting races jointly with GMNC;
- GMNC originally advertised for an executive director at a salary of between $50,000-$60,000, but the Board told members at a meeting that the executive director was actually being paid $70,000 plus payroll and taxes of $5,000, making the ED’s gross salary $75,000, or $15,000 over the maximum $60,000 that was originally advertised for the position. Other salary expenses include:
- An Event Coordinator at a gross salary of $30,108 for 5 months of a part-time position;
- A part time bookkeeper at a gross salary $12,918;
- Administrative bonuses of $9,000;
- All this makes total administrative salaries for next year $127,051, or 42.9% of total spending, meaning every month $10,588 is going to 3 administrators.
You can see the GMNC 2023-2024 budget here.
“Forty-three cents of every dollar donated to GMNC goes to three people’s salaries that have nothing to do with grooming a ski track,”
“GMNC has basically moved from [being] an organization that relies on contributions and grants for grooming and maintenance to one who relies on contributions and grants for administrative employment.”
GMNC will need to purchase a new Snowcat soon since the old one is wearing out, and new Snowcat can cost $500,000, but cash is leaving the organization at an unprecedented rate, and it is unclear whether the organization has the cash reserves to buy a new one.
After Greg analyzed the budget and expressed his concerns to the Board about what he saw, the Board stopped communicating with him. Others who have protested similar issues have also gotten frozen out by the organization’s governance.
Let’s hope the Grand Mesa Nordic Council, which has long served such a vital purpose for so many skiers in the area, heeds this information, takes it to heart, turns things around, survives and gets back on the right track soon.