Glad Tidings for Massage Therapists from the World Massage Festival

The World Massage Festival brought glad tidings to over 50 massage therapists yesterday when founder Mike Hinkle held the drawing for the Christmas in July contest, gifting all of them with free tuition to the 2011 Festival that will be held July 14-17 in at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC.  That’s what I call “community service.” The $350-value tuition covers all the classes you can pack in over the course of the three days. The plan was to have a winner chosen from every state in the union, all the Canadian provinces, DC and the American territories; only 5 states didn’t have anyone enter the contest. There was also an international winner chosen, who was from Poland, and two winners chosen from Canadian provinces (the others didn’t have any entrants).

Mike Hinkle has one mission: to help as many massage therapists and industry supporters as he can. Recognizing that people want great continuing education at an affordable price, he started the World Massage Festival in 2006 as an alternative national event.  The WMF is not associated with any of the national organizations–who are ALL welcome to be there. Politics are not a part of the Festival; vendors are not excluded based on which organization competes with another and that kind of thing. All who wish to sponsor an event or have a vendor exhibit are welcomed with open arms. The Festival still needs sponsors for 2011, and I in particular urge those who have been turned down at other places due to politics to get on board.

There’s a vendor exhibit hall that anyone can enter at no charge, including members of the public who’d just like to know more about massage; there’s some very exciting live entertainment happening (I get to be the emcee), and the lineup of classes and instructors is nothing short of downright impressive. The 2011 theme of the conference is “Research and Education is Our Future.”  Over 40 instructors, including Ruth Werner, President of the Massage Therapy Foundation; Nancy Porambo, AMTA National Vice-President; Dr. Ben Benjamin, and so many more will be presenting more than 285 hours of CE classes.

I cracked Mike up last year when I started touting the Festival as the “Woodstock of massage gatherings.” I called it that because it’s three days of peace and harmony…a big family reunion. I ran into so many friends at last year’s event in Berea, I couldn’t even spend time with them all. There was picking and grinning going on, too, as well as a number of free student events, social gatherings, and just a general good time. The Massage Nerd was there making free videos for anyone who wanted one. You couldn’t beat the whole thing with a stick.

Leave your coats and ties at home, and you don’t have to bring a pile of money. Accommodations and meals are available as low as $60 per day for those who wish to purchase a package. WCU has beautiful dorm rooms and a cafeteria that rivals most chain buffet restaurants, including vegetarian options. There are also a number of other food outlets and a convenience store on-campus. Transportation to and from the airport is available, and so is ride sharing and opportunities for room sharing to keep the cost as low as possible.

I’d really like to applaud the organizers for their generous gift. They don’t have a membership organization, they don’t collect dues or anything of that nature that would subsidize such a selfless act. Mike and Cindy’s generosity in giving this gift represents a personal cost to them of close to $20,000. A lot of this campaign was conducted over Facebook, and I noticed the comments immediately start rolling in from winning therapists as soon as they were announced.  People are so excited, and I’m excited for them. Merry Christmas to the winners, to the Hinkles, and to all of you. I hope to see everyone in Cullowhee.

The Financial Health of Our Organizations: AMTA

This marks the second year I have reported on the financial health of the non-profit organizations that represent the massage profession. I am not an accountant or a financial expert. The information reported here comes directly from Form 990 as filed with the IRS; non-profits are obligated to make their tax reports public knowledge, and these can be easily accessed on Guidestar.

Last year I reported that the American Massage Therapy Association had taken a hard hit from the recession. The AMTA has gone through some major changes this year, not the least of which was the sudden departure of Elizabeth Lucas, the former Executive Director. Lucas’ compensation accounts for a big chunk of change on the filing, $279,438 to be exact, almost $6000 less than last year. Shelly Johnson, the former Assistant Executive Director who is currently Interim Executive Director, actually received $14,000 more in 2009 than she did the previous year. I personally support Shelly for moving permanently into Lucas’ vacated position; I do have to say, however, that I thought Lucas was overcompensated and I hope that the next ED, whomever it is, will not be getting more money than the governor of most states, which was formerly the situation. Compensation overall increased by $144,004. Since the membership dues collected went down by over $150,000, and the total revenues have declined by $459,000 since the previous year, I have to wonder why we’re paying out more money to provide services for less people.

The balance sheet shows accounts payable of almost $3.5 million and accounts receivable of only $241K.

AMTA spent $40K less on lobbyists during the 2009 fiscal year than 2008. I’m not sure that’s a good move, unless the organization is sending out board members in place of the lobbyists. When it comes to protecting the legal rights of massage therapists and putting a stop to detrimental legislation, I think that’s one of the obligations of this organization to the stakeholders. I’d rather see the lobbyists paid and that money cut somewhere else.

Travel expenses were cut again this year by about 15K, but office expenses rose by more than twice that amount. In fairness, total functional expenses decreased by $568K, so they’re saving money somewhere. Total net assets declined; total liabilities increased, which is still a move in the wrong direction.  Grants and assistance to organizations declined by over $265,000. The main beneficiary of that money has in the past been the Massage Therapy Foundation; hence Ruth Werner’s presentation at the open BOD meeting in Minneapolis about the necessity of seeking other partners to support the Foundation sounds all the more like a good plan to me.

AMTA is certainly not alone in being fiscally challenged by the economy. In the coming weeks I will be reporting on financial status of the other non-profit organizations. I need to say that I am a card-carrying member of AMTA, and reporting on their finances is obligatory to me as one who tries to keep up with what’s going on in the world of massage and keep my readers informed. I report the news, whether it’s good or bad, and that doesn’t always suit everybody all of the time. I don’t apologize for it.

The Massage Therapy Foundation

If you’ve been reading my blogs for any length of time, you know that I often report on the politics of massage as well as my perceived shortcomings of some of our professional organizations. There is one organization that I have never criticized, and that’s because they’re above the fray: the Massage Therapy Foundation.

The Massage Therapy Foundation advances the knowledge and practice of massage therapy by supporting scientific research, education, and community service.The goals of the Massage Therapy Foundation are:

1. Advance research on therapeutic massage and bodywork

2. Foster massage therapy initiatives that serve populations in need

3. Promote research literacy and capacity in the profession

4. Support the evidence-informed practice of therapeutic massage and bodywork based upon available research, client factors, and practitioner experience and judgment

5. Fortify the Foundation’s financial resources and organizational effectiveness

If we are to keep the massage profession moving forward, it is vitally important for us to start at the beginning–with students.  As educators, the responsibility lies with us to teach students research literacy, not with the intent that everyone turns in to a researcher, but so they at least become a therapist who is capable of looking up existing research and interpreting the results, and being able to share that with clients and other health care providers. The MTF website contains a research database, as well as opportunities for students to submit case reports–but they have to be taught how to do that.

To this end, the Foundation offers a very low-cost opportunity to to massage schools to train instructors in research literacy. This class will also soon be available on line.  The AMTA national convention is also annually featuring research track classes; a dozen or more will be offered this year in Minneapolis.

The Foundation’s President, Ruth Werner, particularly wants to reach out to schools and instructors and encourage them to join the MTF mailing list.

Finally, the Massage Therapy Foundation is a non-profit that depends on donations to survive. AMTA, ABMP, the NCBTMB and many industry partners support the Foundation, and the rest comes from individual therapists like me and you. Please give whatever you can, even if it’s only a dollar. Every little bit helps.

Laura Allen