A nonprofit known for its annual “Horizon Reports” on the future of technology at K-12 schools, universities, and museums abruptly shut down this month after officials discovered the organization was out of money.
“The New Media Consortium (NMC) regrets to announce that because of apparent errors and omissions by its former Controller and Chief Financial Officer, the organization finds itself insolvent,” the group said in an email message sent to its members on Monday afternoon. “Consequently, NMC must cease operations immediately.”
The group, based in Austin and started in 1994, has hundreds of college and university members. It organized conferences and events, and published reports in its goal of encouraging “exploration and use of new media and technologies for learning and creative expression.” It is best known for its series of Horizon Reports, based on a research project it has been running since 2002, which had lately been done in partnership with other nonprofit groups—EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative for higher ed, and with CoSN for K-12.
The future of all of those activities is now uncertain, since the organization is filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy to dissolve. Last week staff was notified that officials could no longer make payroll and that NMC was forced to disband.
“This came to light very recently and was shocking for all of us,” said Gardner Campbell, who chairs the board of trustees for the organization. “We’re all devastated by this turn of events and wish it could be otherwise.”
Campbell said that when the “errors and omissions” in the group’s accounting came to light, “the chief financial officer was terminated.” It will be up to a trustee who has been appointed to liquidate the group’s assets to try to get to the bottom of those errors and omissions, he added.
“Please understand that NMC’s assets may be sold as part of the bankruptcy process and another entity, potentially a nonprofit, may yet go forward with our summer conference,” said the email statement by the group this week.
“A lot of good people have lost their jobs just ahead of the holidays. The cost in human terms is the saddest part about this,” said Larry Johnson, the past CEO of NMC who said he has been in touch with the current staff. Johnson left the group last year after disagreements with the board over the direction of the organization.
Johnson said he has worked with nonprofits extensively, and that the end of the New Media Consortium has come with unusual swiftness. “It’s very, very rare for a not-for-profit organization to cease operations so suddenly—it’s catastrophic,” said Johnson, who is now CEO of EdFutures, another nonprofit supporting education. “It speaks to, ‘How could that happen? Who’s minding the store?’”
NMC’s website was offline briefly on Monday but appears to be back up.
Reactions on twitter reflected the surprise and sadness among those who had worked with the group over the years.