Habitués of Twitter who follow the tweet streams of @DerangeDescribe (SNAP Roundtable Chair Rebecca Goldman) and @archivesnext (Kate Theimer, who is a member of the SAA Council) may have seen the energetic exchange that went on a couple days ago among the three of us about allowing SAA members to pay their dues on the installment plan.
Rebecca asked whether this would be feasible. I said it would be expensive. Rebecca asked why. I demurred, since a 140-character answer couldn’t possibly do the issue justice. Kate then jumped in to say that “difficult/expensive doesn’t always mean a thing shouldn’t get done,” with which I heartily agree. She and I know that all too well since, as current members of SAA’s Council, we debate and agonize over such issues all the time.
When a question like this arises in a public sphere, it makes me feel that this blog might serve a useful purpose. So, here’s all the info that’s currently fit to print: a scintillating insider’s view of the mysterious workings of the SAA Council.
Kate, as the Council liaison to SNAP, put a discussion item on our August 6 meeting agenda titled “Possible Changes in Policies for Dues and Registration Fees to Benefit Students and New Archives Professionals,” which you can read here. She highlighted five possible policy changes suggested by SNAP:
- Allow students to maintain a student membership for as long as they meet the requirements for student membership.
- Allow members to renew their memberships at the bridge rate whenever they are unemployed.
- Allow members to spread out their dues payments over the course of a year.
- Allow members to renew their membership less than annually, i.e., for periods of less than one full year.
- Institute tiered pricing for conferences and workshops.
The first item is already policy; a student need only offer evidence of current registration.
The Council passed a motion calling for a study and recommendations (motion 9, pages 9-10). The Finance Committee, which is responsible for issues related to dues and budget, is in the lead on this task. They are analyzing the feasibility of the proposed changes, including the impact that each would have on the Society’s budget and staff time—both of which are, to our eternal frustration, finite commodities. We know and honor that the Council exists to do the best job we can for members. For better or worse, this includes keeping the Society solvent! Our budget always cuts close to the wire, and we constantly look at all programmatic areas (publications, education, annual meeting, etc.) to identify possibilities for change. (For example, take a look at the charge of our brand-new Communications Task Force.)
So the good news: we were already working on it and will review the Committee’s report at our January 2013 meeting–which means it’s too soon to report outcomes. The Council’s initial discussion revealed several implications, however, such as these: multiple invoicing cycles per year would add significantly to staff workloads; partial-year membership would affect benefits such as American Archivist subscriptions–a detail that members may not welcome; and the need to follow up on an inevitably larger numbers of inadvertently lapsed memberships would require more work on the part of the Membership Committee and staff.
A possible moral of this story? Things that seem simple sometimes aren’t. The devil is in the details. We’re ferreting them out and will make decisions based on the facts and in the broad context of what seems fair and reasonable for the membership overall.
Do you know of other dues models that are out there in the professional association landscape? Give us some solid ideas and help us think creatively about it.