2020 was a difficult year for ASCE and the world.
Globally, we faced unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the need to stay safe and healthy while also ensuring the continuity of our businesses and profession. Many of these challenges also extended into our daily lives. But it was in these vulnerable times that we as a community stayed strong and resilient. In short, despite being forced apart physically, we came together.
Civil engineering thrives on connectivity. Therefore, to maintain the level of service our members rely on, ASCE quickly pivoted its operations to meet the needs of the “new world.” This was sometimes a balancing act based on uncertain or evolving information, but believe us, your needs were always front of mind.
For instance, 2020 served as the launchpad for several of our new virtual events and webinars. The most notable was the Virtual Technical Conference. This all-virtual, all-technical multidisciplinary global engineering event explored the latest advances across the civil engineering industry. Many existing ASCE programs also made the virtual transition, including the Society’s flagship event, the ASCE 2020 Convention. In this customizable conference experience, attendees chose from more than 40 sessions led by industry trailblazers. Its digital platform allowed members around the world to cultivate innovation and gain valuable insights and skills for their careers.
In our evolving profession, it is also important for civil engineers to embrace change and stay on top of industry developments. Knowing this, ASCE introduced the Civil Engineering Source. This all-new news and information website, combined with an artificial intelligence-driven, daily digital newsletter, was created specifically for civil engineers. And because the newsletter can be personalized, users can tailor it to meet their individual needs and preferences. By creating products like the Source, ASCE strives to ensure engineers are better prepared to advance their careers and, above all, protect the public’s health, safety, and welfare.
As the profession addresses today’s societal needs, we are also shaping the future. ASCE’s Future World Vision initiative encourages civil engineers to reimagine the built environment. This year, we explored a new future world — the Mega City 2070. This tool allows us to anticipate change and start creating the resilient infrastructure that will endure decades from now.
Just as civil engineering evolves for the future, so does ASCE. Our long-term success calls for a more inclusive organization that is nimbler and more sustainable. And in 2020, we assessed the Society’s structure and operations to create a leaner organization that is poised to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.
We also embraced the future by leveraging our past. In a year of momentous decisions for the Society, the board approved a new Code of Ethics. This is the first comprehensive revision in 46 years. The new code shifts from a canon-based document to one focused on engineers’ stakeholders, and it is now much more relevant to the needs and actions of modern-day civil engineers.
ASCE could not have endured the challenges of 2020 without you — our members. You are the reason ASCE was able to respond to everything 2020 threw at us and come out even better positioned to meet the needs of our rapidly evolving profession and society. While more obstacles may lie ahead, our journey in 2021 is met with optimism and a renewed dedication to building the civil engineering leaders of tomorrow.
FISCAL 2020 financial report
For fiscal year 2020, the Society and its affiliates had unrestricted operating revenues of $47.3 million and unrestricted operating expenses of $56.3 million, with the Society funding expenses in excess of revenues by using earnings on our investment portfolio, program contributions from the ASCE Foundation, and reserves. The economic impacts of COVID-19 resulted in a significant reduction in revenues along with associated expense reductions. ASCE also implemented an organizational restructuring in 2020, significantly decreasing labor and operational expenses in 2021 and future years while incurring a one-time increase in related 2020 expenses.
The Society continues to be in sound financial condition. Our policy of building and maintaining a reserve fund, which totaled $28.1 million at year-end 2020, is a key factor in our positive financial condition. The reserve fund has been built primarily from earnings on our long-term investment fund, which earned $3.8 million in 2020 and $1.1 million in 2019 from positive returns in the equity and bond markets.
The relationship between annual operating revenue and program expenses is a key long-term issue that the Board of Direction is addressing to maintain our continued strong financial condition.