Saturday, July 26, 2008

The life and times of a dues decrease

Something unique happened this week - my association's budget committee voted to recommend decreasing dues significantly. With rising costs and decreasing membership (which rise and fall with economic conditions) what they really wanted to do, before even looking at individual line items, is cut dues.

Years ago a minister made a comment in a sermon that stuck with me, "there's no such thing as a church with too much money, only too little vision." It applies to associations too, as there's an enormous number of things that can be accomplished with more money. But sometimes it's not about more.

These are the discussion points against a dues increase:

1. A dues decrease is a bad precedent as may be expected future years too;
2. The year after a dues decrease is painful as it may mean a dues increase;
3. A dues decrease could send a backfire message that you overcharged them;
4. A dues decrease could give money from prior years to those in future years (that argument can be made with any reserve spending);
5. A dues decrease removes the ability to take available funds and do something "great" with them;

OR ... as happened this week ... the discussion that appealed to the committee (starting the first few minutes of the meeting): If in a bad economy, and everyone is suffering, and everyone has large costs ahead ... the thought was to have focus on cutting member costs and not trying to figure out how to do more with their money at the current level. (Note: depending on organizational cash reserves this is less difficult for some organizations than others.)

They started by reducing dues, and then looked at the line items and other ways that could make it happen.

Should organizations do what they can to reflect the conditions being experienced by their membership? Does that mean doing less with less?

[Note: the recommendation has not yet been considered by the Board of Directors, so only a recommendation at this point]


Tony Rossell said...

Cindy -- What an interesting situation. I think that your comment related to vision is really the central issue. During the "hard times" is when your association should take the opportuntiy to shine and really make a difference in your members lives and business. Instead, it sounds like you have some board members who are giving up the ship and settling for a hand out to members instead of giving them solutions. Tony

Ben Martin, CAE said...

If your assn's dues structure is anything like ours, you're probably looking at a very small amount of money per member. Lower the dues and lower the expectations about what the association will accomplish in that year.