Diary: Where does the money go? (Part 2)

The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, which the VOF (and this blog site) supports. The opening in the dome is where large coins are to be inserted...

In a previous post, I noted that the Vatican Observatory Foundation (which sponsors this blog) has to raise about $800,000 a year to cover its commitments, and at the moment we are running very much behind. On the order of $300,000 a year behind, to be exact. That's... distressing.

What do we plan to do about it? Lots of things, but one in particular concerns you, the readers of this blog.

The Catholic Astronomer has been around for about three years, and every year our readership is doubled and our support has likewise increased.

Let's just give an overview of where we are as of the end of July, 2017:

  1. We have 584 people who subscribe to our free email notification whenever there is a new posting. In addition, we publicize these on the Foundations's Facebook site (just under 3,900 followers), and on our Vatican Observatory twitter site (6,600 followers) and the Foundation twitter site (1,400 followers).
  2. We get on an average about 1,000 people viewing some entry on this blog every day. Mind you, about half of those people are directed to one particular blog entry, Chris Graney's posting about Biblical Signs in the Sky and the supposed event of September 23. Presumably some popular site out there is directing folks to us.
  3. We have 113 paid supporters: 89 at the Pleiades ($10/month) level, 16 at the Hercules ($50/month) level, and 8 at the Andromeda ($100/month) level.

Many of our paid supporters actually pledge more than those amounts, but taking them at face value means that we raise $10,680 per year from the Pleiades folks, $9600 per year from the Hercules folks, and another $9600 a year from the Andromeda folks. (It's been the case over several years that the amounts raised in these three categories are almost, if not exactly, identical. Fun coincidence.) That comes to about $30,000 per year.

We need to raise ten times as much. Do you see where I am going?

What you can do – besides joining up yourself if you haven't already – is simply to spread the word about our existence. Ten percent of our readers are supporters. If we could increase our readership by ten times, and increase the number of supporters by ten times, we'd have no problem raising the money we need. If we keep doubling our readership every year, within four years we could be there.

And I have to believe that, out of 1.2 billion Catholics in the world and 70 million Catholics in the US alone, there must be more than 1000 people who are interested in supporting our work in faith and astronomy.

So the biggest thing that you guys can do is to spread the word. Word of mouth is how people know about us. Spread the word on your social media sites. Spread the word in your schools and parishes. Let people know that we exist! And we'll take care of the rest...

Br. Guy Consolmagno

About Br. Guy Consolmagno

Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ is Director of the the Vatican Observatory and President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation. A native of Detroit, Michigan, he earned undergraduate and masters' degrees from MIT, and a Ph. D. in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona; he was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard and MIT, served in the US Peace Corps (Kenya), and taught university physics at Lafayette College before entering the Jesuits in 1989.

At the Vatican Observatory since 1993, his research explores connections between meteorites, asteroids, and the evolution of small solar system bodies, observing Kuiper Belt comets with the Vatican's 1.8 meter telescope in Arizona, and applying his measure of meteorite physical properties to understanding asteroid origins and structure. Along with more than 200 scientific publications, he is the author of a number of popular books including Turn Left at Orion (with Dan Davis), and most recently Would You Baptize an Extraterrestial? (with Father Paul Mueller, SJ). He also has hosted science programs for BBC Radio 4, been interviewed in numerous documentary films, appeared on The Colbert Report, and for more than ten years he has written a monthly science column for the British Catholic magazine, The Tablet.

Dr. Consolmagno's work has taken him to every continent on Earth; for example, in 1996 he spent six weeks collecting meteorites with a NASA team on the blue ice regions of East Antarctica. He has served on the governing boards of the Meteoritical Society; the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences (of which he was chair in 2006-2007); and IAU Commission 16 (Planets and Satellites). In 2000, the small bodies nomenclature committee of the IAU named an asteroid, 4597 Consolmagno, in recognition of his work. In 2014 he received the Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences for excellence in public communication in planetary sciences.

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