The Financial Health of Our Organizations: COMTA

This is my third 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, less than 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 03/01/09 to 02/28/10.

COMTA’s revenue increased by $167,345 over the previous filing. While they still showed a deficit overall of $98,102, it is a vast improvement over last year’s deficit, which was in excess of $277,000.  I guess this does go to show my ignorance on the financial matters of non-profits…COMTA isn’t the only one operating in the red, and you just have to wonder how our non-profits keep on going whenever they’re showing such losses. Presumably, some of that money comes from savings and other assets. COMTA’s assets have dropped by almost $100,000 in the past year, leaving them with net assets of a little over $93,000.

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. Their 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, including benefits, is slightly over $57,000. Only one other executive salary was paid, and that amount was a little over $14,000 to former interim director John Goss. COMTA also 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.

This is the second year in a row that COMTA did not receive any grant money from AMTA, and presumably will not be receiving it in the future. The future of COMTA, and their financial stability, is dependent on their ability to bring in income from their accrediting services and their ability to cut expenses to the bone. Their office expenses more than doubled this year; the costs of conference and workshop attendance also increased by almost $14,000. However, I won’t criticize the conference attendance; I think that’s a necessary part of networking and it gives them the opportunity to recruit new schools.

I’d like to see COMTA enjoy a substantial increase in the number of schools and programs they accredit. And of course anytime you’re working to increase business, you’re going to see a subsequent increase in costs. It costs money to recruit through marketing efforts, it costs money to train volunteers, and it costs money to do site visits. It’s a worthy credential that 93 schools and programs currently have. COMTA is the only accrediting body focused on the massage profession. There are others accrediting agencies, but some of them accredit everything from airline pilot schools to lawn mower repair programs. I appreciate the organization being focused on massage education.

The economy has been tough for all non-profits, and COMTA is no exception. Schools and programs that may want the accreditation have probably held off due to the recession. May next year be better for them and for us all.

Disclosure: I have taken the COMTA Peer Review training and will conducting my first site visit at the end of this month.

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

  1. Wow, do you think COMTA might go out of business? If you project these trends forward a year it looks risky. What happens to the students who are attending COMTA accredited schools if COMTA goes out of business before the students complete their programs?

  2. Thanks for such a supportive report, Laura! That was indeed a tough year for COMTA, following on the tail of another even tougher year. I am proud to report that our year that ended in February 2011 was much better; we ended the year with some extra funds to replace what was lost in 2010. We continue to reduce expenses and look for ways to serve our member schools more effectively. And we thank you and our other volunteers for all your hard work and devotion to make the process continue!

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