Shortly after the 2013 General Meeting in Victoria, the Executive began a discussion on the decline in annual memberships. It appears that memberships are very closely attached to participation in our annual conferences held at Congress, when people participate, they pay their membership fee, when they do not, they often allow it to laps for the year. In the past, when the Journal was printed and mailed to members as part of their membership fee, there was a compelling case to insist that people catch up on past dues; however, with the open-access, on-line journal, this demand has turned into a request.
We also discussed the purpose of membership, and what we want the membership fees to pay for. With the cost savings in producing an on-line journal, the membership fees have been largely used to subsidies the cost of participating in Congress. The executive would like to see our membership base go beyond the largely academic crowd that attends Congress, and reach out to both undergraduate students, and activists beyond the halls of academia. Social media gives us one important platform to extend our outreach beyond its current base of faculty, graduate students, and researchers. Our improved webpage, and new online membership registration offers us another. We felt that a new fee structure, with a much lower initial fee, would remove a potential barrier to our goal of broadening the membership base.
Accompanying this new fee structure will be a new Congress fee that will cover the cost of the conference on its own. Basically, membership fees will cover the day-to-day costs of running the organization and producing the journal, and the Congress fee will cover Congress expenses. Over-all, the cost of attending Congress (membership + conference fees) should not change, at least for those who are low-income. I am in the process of analyzing our Congress costs over the past few years and assessing what these new fees will need to be in order to break even each year.
Our new fee structure allows low-income folks to join for $10, and those who are employed to join for $20. Again, the rational for these low options is to build up the membership. We are also going to strongly encourage those who can – ahem, tenured faculty and union staff – to take out a “supporter” membership at $60, or a “sustainer” membership at $100. It is these two categories that are going to allow us to sustain the Ryerson Fund, and we will be far more aggressive at pushing this than in the past, as we no longer have external funding for travel grants.
So, I expect to see those of you who are currently full members (paying $60 per year) to be signing up as “supporters” and “sustainers!” Our new membership page also has a donation button, allowing members and non-members to make tax-deductible donations of any amount. So, visit our new page, renew your membership and, if you can, please make a donation. The Ryerson fund is dependent upon your generosity.