Thursday, 16 April 2009

Dealing with Genealogy Society deficits

A notice has been distributed informing Ontario Genealogical Society members that a motion will be introduced at the next AGM proposing that fees be increased from $45 to $60 beginning with the 2010 membership year. The notice points out that "due to inflation during the past eleven years, our fee should be $57.00 just to match the $45.00 of 1998."

In the UK the Society of Genealogists is also dealing with a deficit situation, largely the result of the general economic situation. Instead of raising fees they are reducing service -- closing the library on Fridays, in addition to the regular Monday closure. There has a been a spirited discussion on this, and other thoughts on the Society finances, including the idea of distributing the Society magazine electronically in pdf, on the SOG mailing list.

As the OGS notice points out, economically this is not the best time to increase fees. Even at the current level of fees I understand the Society is experiencing a decline in membership, something that is sure to accelerate if fees are increased.

What options for cost reduction, including service reductions, did OGS consider? Would OGS be prepared to offer a discount for members who opted to receive Families and all issues of Newsleaf electronically?

1 comment:

Mike More said...

If you look a the Newsleaf from last May, the OGS financials are included on pages 23-27. The Society is operating at a deficit of about $60, 000.

The fee increase will undoubtedly cause a drop in membership. Some estimates put it as high as 15%. The OGS 2008 budget for membership was $181,000; divide that by $45 and you get 4022 members. If you reduce that by 15% and calculate the fees at $60, you still get $236,220 or an increase of $55,220, which almost covers the projected deficit.

This increase means an additional $1.25 per month for each member. A choice between food on the table and membership in OGS is an easy one. On the other hand, if people cannot afford another $1.25 a month, perhaps they shouldn't be a member anyways.

Would it be more palatable to spread the increase over more years i.e.. a $5.00 increase in 2010, 2011 and 2012? You end up in the same place but with less income for the Society and the deficit simply growing bigger. I am not sure that would be responsible leadership from the Board. Should the increases have started sooner? Probably but it's too late for that now.

We can continue to draw down the Endowment Fund but only for so long. At the current rate, it will last perhaps another 20 years.

The loss of charitable status may have cost some members but it added nothing to the Society's income. It was done to allow the Society to offer member benefits, as many other groups do. We continue to see more tangible membership benefits from this decision. Anyone attending Conference 2009 has already recovered their money from the registration fee.