19 May 2009

Are genealogical society fees too high?

At their forthcoming Annual General Meeting members of the Ontario Genealogical Society will be considering a proposal from the Board of Directors for a $15 fee increase. Costs have escalated and fees have not kept up given creeping inflation. The Society finds itself in a deficit situation that is unsustainable.

OGS has no direct market competition. But individuals are making their own market decisions. I suspect many former and potential members are choosing to purchase a database subscription instead of a society membership. Ancestry claims 1,000,000 subscribers which must be substantially more than the membership in all genealogical societies combined. It's not just OGS, many genealogical organizations continue to experience membership decline.

One way to judge the relative value of Society membership is to benchmark fees against those of similar organizations. The list below shows a comparison of some Canadian and foreign FHSs. The annual fees, in Canadian dollars, are for a single membership with separate entries for OGS with the present, proposed, and proposed plus one branch membership fees. You can click on the links to the various society web sites and find out about the benefits members get for their annual subscription.

(US) NEHGS -- $87
OGS -- $75 (proposed, plus one branch membership)
(US) NGS -- $70
OGS -- $60 (proposed)
(Australia) SAG -- $58
QFHS -- $55
(UK) SOG -- $48 (overseas membership)
OGS -- $45 (present)
VGS -- $45
FHSNL -- $42
AGS -- $40
SGS -- $40
AFHS -- $35
BCGS -- $35
BIFHSGO -- $35
MGS -- $35
NBGS -- $35

There's quite a variation in benefits between these various organizations. Take care to balance benefits and cost. For example, the NEHGS provides online access to a wide variety of regional databases, and even some outside the region.

Several people I have been in contact with find the proposed OGS fees too high for the benefits presently offered and would prefer that the Society pare back expenses.

Share your views, anonymously if you prefer, by responding to this post. It just might help the OGS Board in preparing for their AGM.


Linda Reid said...

Thank you for this opportunity to give input on the proposed OGS fee increase. Unfortunately the decision will be made by the approximately 10% of the membership who attend the conference later this month. The rest will vote with their wallets at renewal time next November.
I am one of the people who don't feel that present benefits are worth the extra fees.
The only option the OGS management can see is a $15 fee increase or continuing with an unsustainable deficit (until bankruptcy?)
There should be another option of reducing services and holding (or even reducing) the present fees.
The OGS branches, on the other hand, give excellent value for a membership fee of $12 to $15.

M. Diane Rogers said...

The British Columbia Genealogical Society (BCGS) membership just went up to $45 for 2009. We don't have government funding and hadn't had an increase for some years. But I think one has to look at benefits - we have great group meetings and a great journal, of course :-) (I'm editor) but members also have access to our BCGS library free and receive discounts on many events. And, one thing I think we will see more of in the future, BCGS members get a reciprocal discount when joining OGS (or BCGS in the case of OGS members).

Anonymous said...

In a number of the initiatives OGS has undertaken over the last couple of years, I question whether the added staff hours (and costs) have been properly considered.
For example, do the benefits of a grant-funded project outweigh the costs involved in applying for and administering the grant, and supervising the project? What are the prospects for generating income from the results of the project?
Another example: Currently, OGS is promoting branch participation in the e-store. Branches may list their publications on the OGS site. and lodge a digital copy with OGS. When the order comes in, OGS staff will accept and verify the credit card payment, print a copy of the publication (undercutting commercial prices), pack and mail it to the customer, and produce a statement for the branch. The branch pays for the printing, credit card fees, and a ridiculously low handling fee of 1 percent.
Don't get me wrong, this is a great service--but one for which branches should be willing to pay market printing costs and a reasonable commission or transaction fee to at least cover staff costs, and thereby provide a modest income stream to the provincial office.

Anonymous said...

Donna Di Lello
While OGS is proposing to add many benifits in the future, anyone waffling on joining is not interested in the future, they want to know what they get NOW. And while $15 doesn't sound much in the grand scheme of things, it's more than a branch membership. I would suggest that if an increase is an absolute, increasing a bit this time, a bit more next time to ease the burden and not scare off potential new members.