RDA Financial Sustainability

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09 November 2021 20618 reads


The RDA has grown significantly since its inception in 2013, and must now develop a new financial sustainability model, as original sources of seed funding are no longer available or sufficient to keep running the organisation. If we continue with our current and limited income streams, the organization will face major financial challenges, with the possibility that the operations supporting the governance, management, promotion and communication of the working and interest groups will be substantially downsized. Given the incredible success of the RDA thus far, a diminished presence would be unfortunate, and would limit the RDA’s potential value and impact.  

The Research Data Alliance (RDA Foundation) is a non-profit charitable organisation registered as a legal entity in the UK and is the official and legal representative of the RDA community as a whole. The RDA Foundation provides the core business operations of RDA and represents RDA globally. RDA Foundation income is primarily from two sources, Funding Agencies (Grants and Donations) and Organisational Memberships, with a further smaller ad-hoc Other Funding revenue stream. The current state of RDA Foundation financial issues is alarming. RDA has limited or no capacity to absorb new tasks. At the same time, the RDA Strategic Plan 2020 - 2023 is now being rolled out for implementation. It is essential to align the strategic plan with a concrete growth and sustainability plan.

In November 2020, the RDA Council established a short-term Financial Sustainability Task Force (FSTF)  focusing on the identification of appropriate and achievable revenue models for RDA, aligning financial plans with the strategic focus for 2021-2023  and engaging with regional offices and regional representatives to align revenue and business models. The members of the FSTF were Ingrid Dillo, Hilary Hanahoe, Robert Hanisch, Natalie Harrower, Rebecca Koskela, Mark Leggott. The FSTF investigated a series of income streams and business models to allow RDA to sustain the current momentum, cover planned expenditure, ensure annual bank reserves as well as increase staff, enhance the web platform, host events. The goal of this task force is to present and discuss a range of options and recommendations to the RDA community and its funders by mid-2021, with a view to finalisation and implementation by the start of 2022. Achieving these financial goals would allow the RDA Foundation to manage and deliver fundamental RDA community services.

The systematic core funding needed to maintain basic activities of RDA Global on an annual basis is £400,000 or $566,000 USD. Expenses for the RDA Foundation, include the following cost items:

●    Personnel Expenses: salaries and travel
●    Fiscal Expenditure: corporate tax and VAT fees
●    Other Expenses: including legal, accounting and bank costs, web site hosting and technical assistance, annual software subscriptions and licenses, as well as ad hoc expenses related to events.

In addition to these expenses, the Foundation must build up some bank reserves to support the income fluctuations and uncertainty around the exact receipt of payments.

A series of consultations, presentations, information sessions and surveys with different components of the RDA community. The final version of the Financial Sustainability Recommendations was approved by the RDA Council in September 2021.



Task force activities and presentations: