The Financial Health of Our Organizations: COMTA

Thank you for your interest in my annual reports on the financial status of the major non-profit organizations of the massage therapy profession. I am not an accountant or a financial expert. This information was taken directly from FORM 990, the Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, which is published on Guidestar. This filing is for COMTA‘s fiscal year ending 2-29-2012. Non-profits are on a different tax filing schedule than the rest of us.

COMTA, the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation, seems to be losing ground both financially and as an accreditation body. According to their website, they are down to just 68 accredited schools. It has always been distressing to me that more school owners and program directors don’t seek out accreditation, and I don’t believe they’ve ever had more than 100 accredited at any one time. The backward trend is not a good thing.
COMTA is a smaller organization than most of the other non-profits, because of the nature of their work. They are not a membership organization and they don’t have a big staff.

COMTA’s Executive Director doesn’t receive anywhere near the amount of compensation of those in comparable positions in the membership organizations; Kate Ivane Henri Zulaski’s salary is currently listed at $80,426 in reportable compensation from the organization, and an additional amount of $12,000 is listed as compensation from the organization and other related organizations. However, that is a pretty big jump from three years ago, when it was slightly over $57,000. Since the organization seems to be on a downhill slide at the moment, $23,000 worth of raises in three years seems a little bit optimistic while revenues are going down. Their October 2013 update listed 13 schools that have voluntarily withdrawn; the March 2013 lists three others, plus one school that closed, for a total loss of 17 schools this year.

COMTA  grew out of the American Massage Therapy Association’s (AMTA) Program Approval Review Committee and the Commission on Massage Training Approval & Accreditation (COMTAA) organization. In 2002, COMTA was recognized by the Secretary of Education to accredit non-degree and degree granting institutions that offer massage and/or bodywork training programs. In 2004, COMTA separated itself from the AMTA, becoming an independent organization. COMTA was subsidized by AMTA for a number of years. However, according to Larry LaBoda, Chief Financial Officer of AMTA whom I spoke with yesterday, they are no longer contributing funds to COMTA.

Other than Zulaski, COMTA  employs only one staff member. Site visits are carried out by volunteers who get their travel expenses paid and a $100 per diem. It’s great that volunteers will take time away from their offices to do the visits, as most would probably make a good deal more money if they stayed at home and did massage. Even though site visits are made by volunteers, COMTA does have to pay for their travel, and that is their heaviest expense. For the past two years, that has held steady at slightly over $122K per year. In 2011, COMTA spent over $11K on conferences and conventions; in 2012, that was down to a little over $8K–approximately the cost of a booth at 1 or 2 conventions.

In 2011, COMTA showed net revenue of over $511K. In 2012, that was down to a little over $441K. In 2011, total expenses were a little over $453K. In 2012, expenses were a little over $421K. Revenue less expenses in 2011 were over $57K; in 2012, that was down to a little over $19K.

Non-profits are just that–organizations that are not in business to make a profit. It does serve them to keep several years worth of operating money on hand, in order to sustain the organization. They are showing a net asset/net fund balance of a little over $170K. In the general scheme of things, I don’t think that’s enough. It’s not equal to one year’s worth of expenses.The fees for accreditation are not cheap; you can see those by clicking here. Personally, I want to see COMTA survive, and thrive. I’d like to see a lot more schools recognizing the value of accreditation.

In addition to the expense, I often hear the argument sometimes from school owners that “I don’t want anybody telling me how to run my business.” It isn’t about that. It is about having good policies and procedures and enforcing them–and documenting them. It is about saying “here are some good standards, and I’ve chosen for my school to meet them.” COMTA’s Self-Study Report is freely available on their website, and I would encourage any school owner to utilize it to see how you’re stacking up.

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