Executive Director's Report
For the year of 2015
I was hired to start on March 30, 2015 and given that I am new to the tech industry, I took a good few months to find my feet in a new industry.
It wouldn't have been possible without training from outgoing Executive Director, Nick Ouzas, staff members André, Bill, James, Naftali and Nathalie, the Board – particularly outgoing Chair Mike Kelly and returning Chair Chris Cope, and Treasurer Lynn LaHam – our amazing volunteers, and the members who called and emailed during that time to touch base. Thank you.
Increased Staff and Volunteer Capacity
Thanks to a Canada Summer Jobs program grant, we were able to hire and train a summer student, Amir Hariri.
Then, thanks in part to the Career Focus Program, we were able to hire Andrew Asare as a full-time HelpDesk Analyst in September. This meant that starting in October, we could increase our office hours, a frequent member request, from Monday to Friday 9am-4pm to Monday to Friday 8am-7pm, Saturdays 10am-5pm.
An additional improvement that came out of this increased staff capacity is that we can now book appointments for modem configuration so members don't have to wait if there's a backlog of work when they drop in. (Thanks to the member who first suggested the idea!)
We have also improved the response time on all the service tickets opened when members call, leave a voicemail, drop-in, or email us their concerns and are working to /ping ever-more efficiency to this work.
In terms of volunteers, we have been refining our volunteer recruitment and training process so that members can count on high-quality service while volunteers get a positive experience. As such, we were particularly proud to win a Volunteer Ottawa “VOSCAR” for Best Non-profit Volunteer Program.
We were also pleased to host long-time volunteer Nader Hussain on a three-month employment subsidy program as part of our ongoing commitment to training and job skills for NCF volunteers who want it.
And we continue to offer monthly Lunch and Learn sessions for all staff and volunteers to ensure our skills are state-of-the-art.
As noted in last year's ED report, increasing bandwidth usage and the associated costs pose one of NCF's most significant challenges.
This year we regularly increased our bandwidth capacity to stay ahead of a steady rise in member usage. We consider this investment a core part of our mandate — we want members to have a connection they can trust.
And so starting in June we have been working to provide even more bandwidth capacity in the future, while negotiating for rates to help keep it affordable for NCF and ultimately, our members.
Thanks to Carleton for hosting our equipment in their Data Centre at an affordable rate, continuing the relationship we built when NCF was founded in 1992.
Starting in July, we also undertook an examination of historical and current patterns of usage, our wholesale costs, and other data to examine the sustainability of our DSL service. Eventually, after much work by staff and consultation with the Board, we landed on the pricing adjustment that takes effect May 1st, 2016.
This past November we partnered with the Ottawa PC Users' Group to offer a month of workshops that deal directly with questions many members have about how to feel more comfortable using the internet, and to feel safe online.
With more than 40 members spilling out of the first workshop, it was an unqualified success. We plan to continue and expand this work in 2016.
Increased DSL Membership
Residential internet is a very competitive business, with many companies offering short-term offers that are very attractive until the real monthly rates kick in, or bundled packages with three-year contracts.
So I'm pleased to say we ended the year with positive membership growth. It is our hope that by continuing to offer an affordable high-quality alternative to commercial internet services, as well as by increasing our services and promotions, we can recruit that many more members in 2016.
To help raise our profile, we re-engaged with social media this year, through both Twitter and Facebook, and launched the Member-get-a-Member referral program. Both had solid starts, but need more work in 2016 to really bear fruit.
We also took a bit of a risk this year by running three months of OCTranspo bus ads to help raise NCF's public profile and bring in new members. We certainly got some new members who specifically mentioned the ads (and thanks to existing members who took pictures of the ads they spotted!) But we will need more data before we can definitively say if it is worth doing again.
2015 was a year in transition for NCF: new staff, new hours, some new services, and changing market conditions. Some experiments worked, others are still being tweaked.
NCF turned 23 in 2015, and I believe we have taken important steps to ensure that NCF is around for at least another 23 years — wherever the technology and the market take us, continuing to work so that everyone in the National Capital Region can access a high-quality, affordable internet connection, understand how to use it, and feel safe online.
As always, please contact me if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions about NCF and our work by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for your continuing support,