Friends of LISA (FOL)
The purpose of the Friends of LISA Committee is to raise funds from vendors, professional societies, institutions, and individuals in order to help astronomy librarians in resource-poor countries to attend LISA conferences. FOL assists librarians by providing grants to cover part or all of the housing, per diem, and, in some cases, travel expenses. Historically, FOL has also assisted with registration fees. Donations to FOL benefit both the librarians who would not otherwise be able to attend without financial assistance, and the other meeting attendees who reap the rewards of a richer and more diverse conference.
Phase One- Collecting funds
- one or more special purpose bank accounts must be set up for receiving funds (be sure to specify correct 'payable to' in letters and messages); see the section about being treasurer
- FOL requested 4500-5000 from SLA Board each year but only received 2000 for FOL III and none for FOL IV. We did receive money from the SLA Endowment fund for III and IV- the double grant for III was before the roles of the two granting bodies (Board/Endowment fund) were clearly delineated. Note that there are specific deadlines for these applications- make sure to check out what they are, early.
- letters are sent to vendors; see FOL IV sample letter and chart for suggestions; these letters should be sent out at least 9 months before the meeting; if any committee member has a connection with a vendor, by all means use that contact
- a message soliciting funds from individuals is sent out on PAMnet- see example (different from above)
- a webpage (and spreadsheet) are set up to keep track of donations; you must restrict access to these
- note that fiscal year-end (which varies) may affect the ability of companies to donate, either positively (there's money left over to spend) or negatively (there's no money left); that's a good reason to leave lots of time for donors
- personal thank you notes should be sent to all donors, both institutional and individual, and of course a list of sponsors must appear in the conference materials (including 'anonymous', if any)
Phase Two- Collecting and deciding about applications
- a message is sent out soliciting applications; this message must be sent out about 5-6 months ahead of the meeting to allow lots of time for attendees to get visas etc.
- In this message, include:
- note of any other kind of funding possibilities (e.g. reciprocal agreements among institutions; grants available from governments or special boards etc.)
- deadline for applications, date by which grant announcements will be made (this latter should be a few weeks, at least, before the registration deadline)
- in the application form (which goes out with the message) request the following information:
- name, address, institution, email, telephone and fax numbers, position held in the institution and how long there, type of assistance needed (housing, travel, per diem, registration fee), any assistance received from employer or other institution - if so - what assistance
- you could ask for banking information for those requesting travel assistance here, or you could wait the acceptance letter as being more efficient
- we had problems in 2002 with a couple of FOL grantees retiring and leaving the field immediately after the conference- you should consider adding a question about to the application form somehow; note also the senior/junior criterion listed below- this might help avoid this problem somewhat (e.g. "If you expect to retire or leave your institution within one year of the date of the conference, please give US this information.")
- see FOL IV sample message/application form
- Note that there are all kinds of bureaucratic problems, e.g. visas, that participants encounter and a lot of time can be necessary for resolving and processing them. Visa applications usually require a special letter from the FOL or SOC specifying the conference details.
- we, through the LOC, try to arrange some kind of cheap accomodation for our grantees, e.g. a dormitory
- our criteria for selection
- the applicant should be a librarian (we don't say that in the message though); there are some astronomers who act as librarians- we count those as librarians for our purposes
- the librarian should be from an astronomy institution (but keep an open mind here- one of our applicants appeared to be from an educational institution which did not offer astronomy, but upon further inquiry we learned that they were developing an astronomy programme)
- the applicant should be from a developing country (sometimes we have offered the registration fee to others)
- broad geographical distribution
- consideration should be given to the balance between senior librarians/previous grantees who can mentor others and new, inexperienced librarians who perhaps stand to gain more from the conference
- we have on a few occasions given grants to people from non-developing countries if we had money left after funding appropriate applicants from developing countries. In most of these cases we have offered to pay the registration fee or to pay a flat amount of a few hundred dollars, and the applicants were then able to use our support to leverage additional support from their respective home institutions.
- the funds are not necessarily distributed evenly amongst the candidates. Some candidates will be able to get transport from their institutions but not lodging etc. A spreadsheet/webpage was set up with a row for each applicant (whether granted funds or not- you might want this info later when revisiting total funds available) and columns showing requested amounts and funds granted -everything to some; registration, per diem, lodging to some; registration only to some; and nothing to some, depending on the criteria used; the amount available and the applicants needs. This page had columns for other funding received, acknowlegement/commitment from candidate etc. See sample and real spreadsheets (latter is available only on request). Note that these spreadsheets (and the donor one) should not be mounted on the web in a manner that makes them publically accessible (findable by web browsers); there are several ways to restrict access to web files.
Phase Three- Communicating with grantees/ keeping track
- when you are satisfied with the potential distribution (and before the grant announcement deadline, previously set and announced by the committee) letters are sent to all applicants; examples are here (yes, no, no, but...) and a template is used but the yes letters do need to be customized for each person, with exact amounts etc. We divided this task alphabetically by grantee and then each FOL person had a little group to follow up with, etc. It is best to have the same person do all corresponding with those individuals in her/his group. Be very careful exactly what you say- specify the number of days of support, that per diem will be given out in the local currency; the exact travel fare amount etc. Use simple language. Try not to raise false expectations. If travel funds are to be granted, ask for the best way to transfer the travel funds, e.g. is the individual able to pay the fare now, with reimbursement later? (See treasurers' section.) Indicate that a receipt (showing amount) for airfare will be required at the meeting regardless of method of transfer. Request acknowledgement of acceptance.
- as acknowledgements come in, a separate section on the spreadsheet/webpage is developed for 'committed' funds; another section is set up for roommates, if the dorm rooms are double (see the bottom part of the applicants chart)
- usually a letter of invitation is required for obtaining visas etc.; these can be sent out by FOL on LISA letterhead (make up a letterhead) but may also be sent out by the SOC. (If they are doing it, make sure the SOC recognizes the importance of getting these letters out in a timely manner as visas can take a long time to process. For this reason it might be better for FOL to do it.) Only one or the other is required. It is important that the exact funding to be provided (e.g. not just 'lodging' but 'lodging for 5 days' etc.) be stated along with the dates of the conference
- as soon as you know that you will be wiring funds to someone, start trying to get their bank info from them; don't wait until you're ready to send- it is difficult and time consuming to extract this info from the grantees
- when the travel funds have been sent, let the grantee know and request acknowledgement that they've been received
Phase Four - Being the treasurer and distributing funds
- one or more special purpose bank accounts must be set up; factors to consider when choosing a bank are:
- the cost of wire transfers (domestic and foreign)
- whether a bank does much international business or has an international 'partner'
- whether you can keep foreign currency in that bank; you might want a separate bank account for Euros, for example
- note that the hosting institution might be willing to serve some or all of this function but check what they intend to charge and how easy it will be to deal with them (deposits, withdrawals, transfers, etc.); it is probably not desirable to rely on this and we never have
- find out exactly what information your bank requires in order to make a transfer (minimum and ideal)
- a portion of the funds are transferred to the host country/institution in various ways; wired, ATM etc.
- per diem funds are distributed in cash, in local currency, on site, at registration (be aware that if hard currency is distributed it will be taken back to the grantee's country and not used for the purpose intended)
- lodging is paid for directly by FOL to the dorm or whatever
- likewise registration is paid directly by FOL; sometimes some registrations are waived by the LOC/SOC depending on their financial situation
- travel funds are handled in various ways- wired to the individual or to the individual's institution (note that some institutions are as likely to confiscate some or all of the funds as are individuals; some claim some portion of such grants for 'overhead'; check with candidate); handed over in cash onsite (in US$, Euros, or some other hard currency- make sure that receipts are provided); each of these methods has advantages and disadvantages
- grantees often will not be able to pay for their travel without the FOL funds in hand
- sometimes the institution (or grantees family etc.) will advance the funds, to be repaid later by grantee
- large amounts of cash given to the attendees makes it vulnerable to loss/theft; if you do this, give it to them on the last day (keeping it safe in the meantime), warn them about mugging etc.; this might be true of the per diem too- must it all be carried at all time?
- interim reports and a final summary report is provided to the whole FOL committee; tips on reports:
- keep separate columns in your spreadsheet for different currencies; that way the exchange rate used to determine balances can be changed easily as time goes by
- report in the currencies in which the funds are held; e.g. "we have xx US$ and nn Euros"
- be aware that the exact amount of funds available will vary over time depending on the exchange rate
- apart from currency rates, currency conversion fees vary and can be complicated; for example at LISA IV our US funds were transferred into Euros before being transferred into Czech karunas and we paid fees accordingly (at each transfer); allow a slush amount for such fees and for currency fluctuations
- resist the temptation to allow the host institution to keep any leftover FOL funds pending the next meeting; corporate memories are short and we have had a bit of trouble extracting such funds, when we tried that (sometimes leftover fund meetings have been donated to the next FOL fund)
- keep some of the leftover available in hand for emergencies etc. At LISA IV we had one person lose her purse and another mugged and we were fortunate enough to be able to help out with extra cash. Leftover funds can also be distributed to people who were not initially granted full funding- a bonus for which they are very grateful
- leftover FOL funds for seeding the next meeting can be kept by the current treasurer or by PAM. If PAM does hold the funds, there should be a letter from the PAM
treasurer documenting the amount held.
Phase Five - Aftermath
Usually a report is written up for SLA publication(s). Last time one was written up for IAU commission 46 newsletter. (Consider also the IAU Commission 5 Newsletter for a report.) Various other local ones may be appropriate. It's good to publicize!
More- General Reports, Reports to Funding Agencies
The committee may be faced with a privacy/scholarly issue. The SOC may ask for a list of grantees. There are two points of view on this issues. One of our members (and a member of the POC) felt strongly that it was a violation of the privacy rights of the individuals concerned and that the SOC should make decisions based on merit alone; acceptance of a paper, even if not presented, may boost the status of a librarian at her/his institution. Furthermore, it is feasible to present a poster paper (or even an oral paper) in absentia. The counter-argument, of course, is that programme planning will be made more difficult and time consuming if papers are accepted and then withdrawn because the individual cannnot actually attend the meeting. Furthermore, the SOC could surmise who had received grants anyway. You may have to decide among these two (or more, unarticulated here) positions. (If the info is shared, it should be only with the SOC Chairs, not the whole committee.)
Note that, especially at LISA IV, almost every FOL person who gave a paper thanked us publicly during their speech, so they clearly had no problem with people knowing they'd received traval grants.
Related Documents / Samples
Appendix A. Restricting access to web files
There are several ways to restrict access to web pages. If you put the files in question into a separate subdirectory, that subdirectory can be specified as no-access in the server robots.txt. Note that this does not actually restrict access but just ensures that complying search engines do not index those pages.
Password access could be set up.
Or, perhaps simplest, an ".htaccess" file can be put into the same directory with the restricted files. This .htaccess file disallows or allows access as you specify. An example of text for such a file is below. Note that the filename must begin with the . and that # indicates unexecuted comments.
# this file controls web access to files in this subdirectory
deny from all
allow from .astro.utoronto.ca
allow from 22.214.171.124
# repeat above line with the ips of each of the FOL committee members; you
# may use domains or ips
Compiled by Marlene Cummins with the help of the other members of the FOL committee Ellen Bouton and Brenda Corbin (the committee was the same for FOL II, III, IV).
Last update April 5 2004