Mark J. Duffy 2015-07-29 11:06:32
In November, SAA members will be asked to vote in an online referendum to approve or deny a Council proposed increase in member dues, effective July 2016. SAA Treasurer Mark Duffy discusses why he thinks this proposal should be approved. I have had the benefit of monitoring some very good years for SAA from a financial perspective. As I noted in my report to the 2014 Annual Membership Meeting,1 SAA’s finances are strong. For the past decade the organization has weathered both economic downturns and business model adjustments with steady growth in numbers, expanded services, and increasing capacity to affect the wider archives and information profession. So why does the SAA Council see the need for a dues increase? The simple answer is that it is so much more productive to work from a place of confidence rather than fear when planning for the profession’s future. Being free from threat of constant budget tightening has allowed the Council and other SAA leaders to imagine what it would take to make the profession’s presence felt in the larger conversation that society is having about retention, care, and reuse of the historical record. We’ve laid out a very ambitious five-year strategic plan for SAA that, if implemented, will have a dramatic and positive impact on archivists nationwide. To sustain our overall growth, we must have a certain baseline measure of predictable income (i.e., dues) so that we’re not overly reliant on the increasing success of such products and services as publications, workshops, and annual meetings. To dig a bit deeper: • Although SAA’s membership remains healthy at 6,200+, growth has leveled off. The FY16 budget projects no growth in member dues income. • Part of the resources derived from the 2011–2014 dues increase has allowed SAA to position itself to begin developing first-class information technology, e-publishing, and professional education programs for our members. Technology is expensive, but we must maintain a steady (predictable) investment in it or risk spending money on temporary, patchwork responses to members’ interests. To sustain itself and continually enhance our programs long term, SAA must have a predictable revenue stream for infrastructure and technology, including the membership database, efforts to make our website more accessible and content rich, and expansion of our excellent professional development curricula. • Nothing has given the Council more joy in the past few years than the advances we’ve made to create a solid public advocacy agenda. To remain the preeminent professional organization representing the interests of archives and archivists, SAA must ensure the sustainability of its investments in advocacy and public awareness efforts through outreach and coalition building. With modest funding our early efforts have been strong—if modest in view of our ambitious goals. Bolder initiatives and the possibilities that come from experimental risk will require more robust and continuous funding. • Members are turning to SAA for continuing education in record numbers as career opportunities widen. We must continue to enhance and upgrade our education offerings and methods of delivery. Capacity is stretched thin currently; the human talent is in place and infrastructure solutions to expand capacity are within our grasp. We cannot drop the ball now because of budget limitations. • Based on member feedback, we are experimenting with new locations and models for the Annual Meeting. Although we all agree this is a good move, the Annual Meeting is a critical source of non dues revenue, and it’s highly unlikely that our experiments will yield the generous income margins that we’ve experienced in recent years. Regardless of those factors, we know that costs for travel, room rental, AV, and food and beverage will continue to increase. We must plan now to fill the gap that we anticipate in our future Annual Meeting revenues. • The early 2000s marked years of progressive growth in publication revenue that came to a halt with the 2008 recession. Since then, publication sales have declined steadily despite our move to electronic publications. This is our “loss leader” category that awaits a successful e-publishing business model. In the meantime, healthy revenues from membership dues will allow us to maintain high-quality professional publications and implement new platforms that are the foundation of this new business model. The table lays out the proposed increases, which would be implemented over a three-year period. Each year anticipates an increase of approximately 3 percent. We believe that the proposal reflects a fair distribution of the dues burden among the various categories of membership. Implementation of a modest dues increase in July 2016 is critical to SAA’s ongoing financial stability. It captures cost-of-business increases since the last dues change ending in FY14 and accommodates forecasted changes in non-dues revenue streams (including publications, workshops, and annual meetings). Staggering that increase over time enables members and SAA to budget accordingly and allows SAA to develop programs and balance operational costs with anticipated income. A planned increase also minimizes the risk of financial crisis and reactionary budgeting. This proposal not only provides support for the Society’s routine operations, but will generate a modest yearly contribution to reserves (in the range of 3 percent to 6 percent) to support advances in technology and communication and future member services. I urge you to vote “yes” to this proposal in November. If you have questions (none too small!) Or would like to discuss the proposal, contact me at email@example.com or incoming Treasurer Cheryl Stadel-Bevans at firstname.lastname@example.org. Notes 1 http://www2.archivists.org/history/leaders/mark-j -duffy/2014-treasurers-report
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