The Financial Health of Our Organizations: COMTA

This is my second year of doing an annual report 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.

COMTA is the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation. Obtaining accreditation from COMTA is a voluntary and rigorous process that few schools choose to go through; of the hundreds of massage schools and programs in the US, only about 100 have the credential. It is a banner of excellence, requiring that the school do an in-depth self-study and meet high standards meant to insure that they are offering a program and learning environment of the highest caliber.

Non-profits are on a different filing schedule than the rest of us; this form covers the fiscal year of COMTA from 03/01/08 to 02/28/09, and was filed in January of 2010.

COMTA appears to be another organization that has taken a hit due to the recession. In this particular case, COMTA’s financial state this year may be partially attributed to the fact that AMTA’s fiscal year ending 2008 filing shows a grant of over $261,000 to COMTA; no such contribution was forthcoming in the fiscal year ending in 2009. In fact, COMTA’s Schedule A shows that 2008 was the first year that they haven’t received grants totaling at least $240,oo0.

When a non-profit depends largely on grants and public support, and a recession hits, that’s not a good thing. COMTA’s return is showing a deficit of over $277,000 for the year. Expenses go on, whether there’s money coming in or not. And of course COMTA does not rely only on largesse; the organization received $271K in program revenues and investment income, but expenses were just a few thousand dollars short of being twice that amount.

For the fiscal year, the balance sheets show assets of $462,165 at the beginning of the fiscal year, and only $191,213 at the end of the fiscal year. COMTA’s expenses do reflect a decrease of about $15K spent on site visits to schools. The 2008 Form reflects that the then-Executive Director, Stephen Fridley, received a little over $49,000 that year, down from $66K the previous year; that may be accounted for his departure in the midst of a fiscal year; Kate Henrioulle, the present ED, took over the job May 1 of 2009.

In the general scheme of things, I’d like to see the number of schools and programs that are COMTA-approved multiplied exponentially. The organization has been approved by the US Department of Education as an accrediting body since 2002. In order for the organization to be self-supporting, that really needs to happen.

When a recession hits, and donations dry up, only those organizations that can make it without those grants and contributions can survive. And part of the fallout of the recession is not only a lack of grant money, but also that schools who perhaps had planned on seeking COMTA approval may have held off in the past couple of years due to their own financial  issues. Hopefully COMTA isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

3 Replies to “The Financial Health of Our Organizations: COMTA”

  1. A well-informed friend of mine who prefers to remain anonymous sent me the following comment:

    It’s also relevant to note that COMTA’s commissioners receive no stipend or other compensation. (The same has been true for the FSMTB Board members.)

    On the other hand, the AMTA National Board of Directors received a collective total of $160,164 in compensation for the 2009-10 fiscal year. NCB Board members received a collective total of $238,500 in their 2008 fiscal year.

    It could be argued that COMTA’s commissioners work harder and do more for the profession than their “volunteer” counterparts serving on AMTA’s and NCB’s boards. There has been a culture of compensation with both those organizations’ leaders; perhaps it’s time for them to voluntarily relinquish their stipends for a few cycles to help COMTA grow its accreditation program.

    All things considered, our field is better served with massage schools being accredited by a dedicated agency like COMTA, than a broad-spectrum career college accreditor like ACCET, ACCSC or ABHES. The problem is that COMTA doesn’t have the resources to get out there and recruit. AMTA and NCB could help it along.

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