By Leonete D’Angely

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 comments@sca.org. If you are interested in helping with the research, you should contact the Society Treasurer at treasurer@sca.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.