BoD Looks at Changing NMS Language
During the SCA Board of Directors meeting on Saturday, October 27, the Society Treasurer asked for a policy interpretation on a loophole in the Non-Member Surcharge. Groups had contacted her regarding a practice of not charging site fees to non-members, so that they could benefit from the policy that those who are not charged a site fee do not have to pay the NMS. (Point 4 of the NMS language, see below for full text) These groups were, in effect, charging members to be at their event, but not charging non-members.
Mark Faulcon, BoD member and Ombudsman to the East, pointed out that this would be a self-correcting problem, that groups would run out of money if they continued to do this. Society President Tom Hughes cut in with, “Non-members create an increased liability for site use that the SCA has to pay for. It transfers the burden of risk to paid members. Non-members really have to pay the NMS.” He was adamant that the loophole be closed somehow.
It became immediately clear to us that the BoD was incredibly torn on how to approach the NMS in general. Some BoD members thought the issue at hand was in the language, and that point number four should just be altogether removed, charging every non-member at the event the $5 fee, whether or not they paid. When it was pointed out that this section was there to allow royalty who might not have their card, or staff at the event who might not be members or had forgotten their documentation, John Fulton stated that he was incredibly offended, and that royals should be treated no differently than anyone else who didn’t have their card. He pointed out that the NMS should not be charging people for not being members, but should be rewarding people for proving their membership. This idea of “Proof of Membership,” rather than “Non-Member surcharge” struck a chord in many members of the BoD and audience simultaneously.
After much discussion on how beneficial it would be to the society at large and recruiting for us to be in line with every other non-profit language-wise, the question was asked: Could we just change the NMS language to Proof of Membership Discount? The Society Treasurer was directed by the BoD to look into what it would entail to change the policy from a Non-Member Surcharge to a discount of some form. Mazelle Attiya, the Society Treasurer pointed out that it would not be as simple as a “Search and Replace,” that it would take quite a bit of work to change the policy. This was work that she was absolutely willing to do. Point number four and the loophole were not specifically discussed any further, but changes to the language creating the discount would undoubtedly create further changes.
Some local groups in the SCA are already using this language in their event announcements. For example, the upcoming Caliph’s Court event in Carolingia lists a site fee of $20.00 and a membership discount of $5. While this is allowed under the current rules, the general consensus is that changing the language as a whole would be more friendly to new people and less confusing.
Let us be clear, this would not change the existence or amount that those who are not members would have to pay to get into events. This would merely officially replace all instances of the word Non-Member Surcharge with Membership Discount or something similar. This change is only in the research stages. If you feel strongly about this wording change, whether it be for or against, you should contact the BoD at email@example.com. If you are interested in helping with the research, you should contact the Society Treasurer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How the NMS applies:
(1) The NMS will apply to events which meet the requirements defined in Corpora section II.C., “…Society events for which a full announcement including date, time, and place has been published in advance in the appropriate corporate publication;” and for which a fee or required donation to attend the event is charged.
(2) The NMS will not be collected if there is no fee or required donation to attend the event.
(3) The NMS will not be collected for minors for whom there is a discounted event fee.
(4) The NMS will not be collected for any adult for whom an entry fee or required donation is not collected, even if others are required to pay at the same event.
If you notice, when going to Pennsic, you get a member discount…. 🙂
Unfortunately, the SCA remains mired in a funding model that is mired in huge amounts of overhead, and is not sustainable. The overhead of the corporate office could be vastly reduced, and the amount of paperwork demanded of volunteers be gigantically reduced, if the SCA would move away from membership.
Yes: there is a tremendous emotional attachment to membership, in some quarters, and there would need to be a lot of technical changes made to various rules (modern) and laws (games). This could not be an overnight change.
But the fiscal benefits are ENORMOUS.
As for the instant case: is Mr Hughes just as adamant about minors who get in free via family caps or reduced rates for children? Is he just as adamant if a person who volunteers for the event gets a waived fee?
The details of SCA insurance would blind the eyes of most readers of the EK Gazette. But this form of cost accounting seems to be more emotional than factual.
I don’t doubt that the Board tried to be careful while coloring within the lines, but in the greater business perspective they are all wrong in worrying at this level. The SCA has been failing when it attempts to co-opt people via NMS and membership.
These policies make NO fiscal sense. Rather than adjusting a policy which is costing the SCA a huge percentage of each dollar it receives, it should be abandoning the entire enterprise.
I would be interested in seeing the numbers
Cost of insurance
Number of PAID members
amount of EVERY membership appiled to insurance
TOTAL number of adults attending events
TOTAL number of non members at these events
In my barony for just 2012 we held 6 events (1 was Coronation, 1 was completely by donation) for these events we had 794 adults, of which 75 were non-members. This works out to less than 10% of the people comming to the events were non-members.
OMG, the answer is long and some numbers are uncertain…. I could just give you numbers, but I’d rather be accurate about their limitations.
Membership numbers are easy – you can find a series of links on the SCA Treasurer web pages. Numbers are trending gently downward, but are circa 30,000 or so. It’s not easy to reverse that to exact revenue numbers, because of family caps and things. But, rough count, it’s good.
Costs of insurance can also be found on the same web pages under Corporate Budgets. For 2012, all the various forms of insurance were budgeted at $175,869.04. I cannot find a further breakdown. Some of those were insurances that participants tend to think of (CGL) and some are not (Workman’s compensation for the employees).
It’s kind of a magical thinking to just divide one into the other, frankly. The figure would be: $175,869.04/28,700 = $6.13 cents. But: should all members pay for the International insurance? Do all members actually pay for the equestrian insurance? How does the cost of insurance certificates play into those numbers? That’s a complicated question, and the answers are based upon opinion and personal values as much as facts.
Of your last two questions (total adults and total non-members), one is easier and the other is harder to answer. And we can’t really answer “adults” versus “adults and children”, as far as I know.
We can answer “how many times did someone pay the non-member surcharge – it comes out to about 30,000 times a year. Now, was that 10,000 people 3 times, or 30,000 people one time? No one seems to know.
Members: we don’t track how many times members come to events. We just don’t. There are some estimates from various corners, which vary from 4 to about 6.7 events per year on average for members. At 30,000 or so members, that’s anywhere from 120,000 “visits” to 201,000 visits. Those numbers are rough, as they don’t really account for family caps and such at events. But they’ll do.
So, anywhere from 1 out of 5 to 1 out of 7.7 people who paid to enter an event are non-members. To put it in percentages (so they match your numbers better), the range is 12.9% to 20%
Many people try to ask for these numbers to argue what a non-member “should have paid”. Be careful… it is not as easy to calculate that as it seems.
Let me give you a strong reason why. If you take the amount of money a member pays to Corporate for a membership, for each dollar they give: what percentage is eaten up by the cost of processing memberships and having staff to do it?
No one has exact figures, but there seem to be good reasons to believe that a very substantial chunk of each dollar in membership money, is spent on getting that dollar in membership money. It could be anywhere from 20-50 percent, maybe more, almost certainly not less.
A non-member gives the SCA 100% of every dollar that they pay, for its own use.
These are complicated things to analyze.
I think the change would be dishonest. The implication would be that the hosting group is charging $20 and offering a $5 discount when that’s not the case. The current language reflects the reality- that the group is charging $15 and the BOD is charging certain attendees another $5.
I dislike the idea of trying to make it more palatable. Either this is acceptable and honorable and we should be willing to stand up and say so or it’s something that needs spin control and maybe it isn’t a good idea after all.
Actually, many organizations charge a set fee and then offer certain discounts such as student discounts, so a member discount is no different and would be much easier for me when a non-member friend wants to come to an event for the day and sounds much better than saying oh yeah by the way, you aren’t a member therefore we are penalizing you by charging you a $5 non-member fee. I always tell them the entire fee with the non member fee included as their price. If they ask, I tell them yes, since I paid for my annual membership I get a $5 discount for every event so in the course of a year the annual membership does pay for itself.
One option would be to completely eliminate paragraph 4. Therefore you now have no loophole. Non-member surcharge has a negative connotation and people do feel they are being penalized and changing it to a “Member discount” sounds more positive and is more likely to encourage people we are trying to recruit to purchase their membership rather than drive them away because they are being penalized for being new to the group. The goal should be to increase membership and retention. Currently the wording Non-Member Surcharge operates against those goals and I think the society in general would benefit in a change of the wording to Member Discount.
I do think there should be some wording that would allow local groups the flexibility to reward newly recruited members or like in the case of one of our events, one of our paid members is a teacher and she offered her class a free meal and extra credit to come and serve at one of our events, so that if the extra $5 would be a burden, it could be waived on a case by case basis for those who volunteer to come serve, do set up and or clean up. This way we encourage them to participate in events as quickly as possible, where they can get better acquainted and then remind them that a paid membership has the added benefit of providing a $5 member discount to each event they attend in the future.
Another thing would be to possibly have more guest cards like the society had previously that allowed them to attend at the member rate for a limited number of events before having to purchase their annual membership.
In our current economy and with so much competition for people’s hard earned dollars we have to be competitive and market paid membership as a positive benefit to new members and hopefully increase our numbers at the same time or convert the non-members who have been repeatedly bypassing the fees to attend all together into full paid members.
This should also help our retention rates. I know in our marketing class they taught us that gaining a new customer (in our case a new member) costs 5 times as much in money, advertising and resources as retaining or bringing back 1 existing or previous member.
In service to the dream,
Lady Viktoria Berenike Paulini Rothenelke, deputy seneschal and wife of the Demo Coordinator for the Barony of Lonely Tower, Kingdom of Calontir.
You wrote: Actually, many organizations charge a set fee and then offer certain discounts such as student discounts
But those are generally organizations whose costs and pricing structure is monolithic.
In the case of the SCA, the local group funds, manages and prices an event. Generally, they plan their budgets so that events make a small profit or break even. The profit accrues to them.
A discount from that actual price, would put them in the red.
Any price that is charged on behalf of the SCA, and collected and sent away from the group, is absolutely a surcharge. What was once a private transaction between two parties, is not a transaction between three.
So, it IS absolutely a surcharge.
In marketing terms, of course, one does not have to call a surcharge a surcharge, and one can set a price which is higher in order to reduce that price for the overwhelming majority of attendees. (See figures I quoted above for the percentage of member/non-member attendance.)
But: as you also said: “In our current economy and with so much competition for people’s hard earned dollars we have to be competitive […]” Marking a price up, so you can mark it down for the majority of people, may not be the marketing message that one wants to send.
The numbers, through the years, seem to indicate that people are making their decisions for membership on a value basis, not on a marketing basis. Meanwhile, because the organization is terribly inefficient, it bleeds money it does not have to.
It’s my strongly held (and strongly informed) opinion that the SCA needs to stop focusing on rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic (in terms of naming the NMS), and switch to a lower-cost and more efficient funding model.
Darn that typo. “Is NOW a transaction between three”.