April 2011 Issue • Volume 39 • Issue 4

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Why Do We Need the Dues Change?
Impact of the Proposed Dues Structure
on Association Revenues

Catherine White Berheide, ASA Secretary

In the March issue of Footnotes, we spelled out one of the two main rationales for Council unanimously proposing a new dues structure, specifically the need to restore the progressivity that the dues structure has lost over the last decade.  www.asanet.org/footnotes/mar11/dues_0311.html

In this Footnotes issue, we provide information on the second rationale—ASA’s need at this time for some additional revenue.

The cost of membership (member dues, required journal, and section memberships) together comprises about 38 percent of ASA annual revenues. Previous Councils held off introducing a change in the dues structure to restore progressivity that matches the membership’s current income distribution until there was also a need for additional revenue. That time came in 2008 when ASA’s revenue from many sources began to decline. Since then, the EOB, Council, two Secretaries, and the Presidents have worked to develop what we believe is the best dues structure for the foreseeable future. Depending upon the membership distribution across the new income categories, Council hopes the current proposal will increase revenues by 1.7 percent to 2.4 percent ($100,000 to $200,000) of total ASA revenues (based on 2009, our last audited year) .

There is a need for the dues increase at this time over and above the issue of returning the progressivity the dues structure lost over the last decade. Rising costs for specific expense categories have been handled by cost of living adjustments to the dues; in constant dollars, however, the cost of ASA memberships has remained the same since 1997. In 2008, however, almost all sources of ASA revenue started to decline as the economy tanked. Colleges and universities, especially the public ones, have been under financial stress and that hits every one of ASA’s income sources (e.g., journal subscription job listings). We do not expect a recovery soon that will return the income lost to the Association.

How did the ASA respond to the declines in revenue so that we currently (2010) have a balanced budget? We tightened our belt…significantly, but in ways that least affected member services.

Cutting Expenses.  At Council’s request, ASA significantly cut nearly every expense category (starting in 2009 by over half a million dollars), including freezing staff salaries, to cover these income losses. These are some of the major cuts featured in Table 1.

Table 1: Expense Cuts in 2009

Expense Area Approx. Cut (2009) Types of Cuts
Salaries & Benefits $110,000 ASA salary freeze, delayed staff replacement, reduced staff technical training and professional development.
General & Administrative 49,000 Reduced as many mailings as possible to 3rd class postage; increased emailing/scanning in lieu of mail; moving work by outside contractors to ASA staff.
Facilities 25,000 Off-site storage costs cut by ASA staff selecting & packing materials for transport to the archive at Penn State at a faster pace; reduced timeframe for  ASA destruction of selected stored materials.
Governance 74,000 Cut ASA costs for all Association Committee meetings including Council, EOB, Publications, and all committees meeting at the Annual Meeting; reduction or elimination of ASA coverage of some ASA-related expenses of the Presidents and Secretary; suspended most official representation by ASA members representing ASA at associations in which we are an organizational member.
Sections ------
Membership 10,000 Eliminated all direct mail promotions to recruit potential members to whom we cannot send emails because of spam laws; reduced postage of selected member mailings to 3rd class & transferred mailing to ASA staff from contract mailing services.
Journal Expenses 44,000 Eliminated annual Journal Managing Editors meeting; negotiated a move of ASA self-published journal printing & mailing activities to Sage contractors prior to moving our journals to Sage to take advantage of Sage's volume discounts.
Editorial offices 85,000 Eliminated raises for paid ASA editorial office staff.
Other publications 9,000 Eliminated one issue of printed Footnotes. [In 2010 moved to “opt into” print cutting printing and mailing expenses by ~$60,000].
Annual Meeting 80,000 Moved Annual Meeting Final Program printing to larger DC-based printer; negotiated a new contract for internet access; reduced equipment & rented furniture contracts; reduced food at DAN; reduced support for exhibitors; eliminated overhead projectors at sessions & renegotiated audio visual contract; cut staff travel costs to San Francisco. Because of significant declines in department contributions, ASA increased its support for honorary receptions by $12,000.
Programs: Acad & Prof Affairs, Research, Public Information, Pub. Affairs, Minority Affairs & Student Programs 32,000 Reductions included: delaying one research survey, moving another survey to ASA staff from contractor; eliminating one media distribution (wire) service; reducing travel for ASA members to participate in ASA public information and public affairs activities by using only Metro DC-based ASA membeFrs.
2009 TOTAL CUTS ~518,000

Further Cuts? Council has also reviewed all current Association activities to assess whether further cuts could be taken without significant negative impacts on ASA programs. Because Council believes ASA’s investments in these activities benefit members and the discipline, it decided not to cut or further retrench ASA activities at this time. Many of the cuts already taken have increased the workload of staff.

Apart from the ASA Journals and the Annual Meeting, most ASA activities, programs and services are not income producing. Indeed grants to sociologists under FAD (Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline) are matched by the ASA and the grant program is administered by the ASA. This is the same with the Congressional Fellowships, MFP Fellowships, Howery Teaching Enhancement Fund Grants and the Community Action Research Initiative Grants.

Much of what ASA produces is available free to all sociologists, including all ASA’s research data on the profession, departments, and discipline (i.e., Department Survey and job market analyses). The Student Forum travel grants to the Annual Meeting, the Honors Program grants to the Annual Meeting, and administration of the Department Resources Group are direct costs outside the Annual Meeting budget and are programs Council is not eager to eliminate. The Publications Committee and editors, as well as Council, are eager to have ASA continue (and expand) its services to develop press networks and distribute press releases about ASA journal content (and facilitate interviews with their authors) in addition to vigorous efforts to provide the media with sociological experts on topics of public interest. These are only a few of the services ASA as the national sociological association provides that do not generate income but serve our members and the broader discipline. The newest example is ASA’s investment in the development of TRAILS (income-producing, but not self-sustaining), which brings a huge benefit to those teaching sociology throughout higher education.

Staffing Levels. The programmatic, governance and administrative activities of the Association have required between 27 and 30 full-time employees for at least the last two decades www.asanet.org/about/staff_directory.cfm. We are currently at the top of that range because several ASA staff are paid by external funding from research grants through which ASA is conducting studies relevant to sociology departments and professional training (e.g., longitudinal studies of undergraduate majors and masters graduates, a comparative study of the success of minority PhD recipients over time. We added a Media Relations expert to the staff a few years ago at Council’s request and this work has had a major impact on the visibility of sociological scholarship and ASA members in the national media.

Restoring Some Cuts. Some of the Association’s cuts may have to be restored to maintain the integrity of the service. For example, there is mounting evidence that ASA may have to return to a printed and mailed Footnotes. This would necessitate restoring the $50,000-60,000 per year cut made in the 2010 budget and continued in 2011. The “opt-into” print strategy, and otherwise relying on an e-Footnotes, as a means of improving contact with members as well as reducing costs does not appear to connect well with members. The Editorial Offices are also eager to restore the Managing Editors annual meeting for the benefit of the journals. A salary freeze cannot be sustained over the long run given the increasing demands on the staff. 

New Expenses.  Finally, major new expenses face the organization in the next two years. ASA must replace our Association Management System (AMS), which is the core technology that maintains all ASA member and participation data (including up-to-date member contact and employment data, section memberships, record of service and current Association activities). It manages all e-commerce (including membership renewal, section memberships, annual meeting registration, and member purchases) and provides linkages to ASA’s electronic business and accounting systems. ASA must also replace our electronic document storage and retrieval systems, office software, as well as our servers and other hardware. Much of this support technology, including the AMS, is 10 to 15 years old, outdated, and increasingly not inter-operable; replacement parts and technical support are no longer available.

The new expenses enumerated above are critical and are greater than $100,000 and there is an additional list of technology upgrades that EOB has approved that will continue into future years. We need to restore some cuts, especially the Managing Editors meeting as soon as possible. Members desire for greater transparency of ASA activities and finances are clearly critically important and it is likely to require, among other things, the return to a printed Footnotes, which is at least $50,000 per year.

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In addition to increasing the revenue through the new dues structure by $100,000 to 200,000 (i.e., between one fifth and two fifths of the cuts already taken), ASA will have to continue maintaining tight fiscal controls under EOB and Council oversight and seek new sources of non-member income to maintain current levels of service. (For more information about the state of the ASA’s finances, see the Ask the Secretary column in the March Footnotes and the information on the ASA website, including the 2009 audit.

Where will we be?:
Impact of the Proposed Dues Structure on the Costs of Membership

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"Regular members" are those who select a dues category by their gross annual income and are 54.7 percent of the ASA total membership of 14,699 in 2009. (See Chart 4). ASA currently has 19 percent of these regular members who select a dues category based on income less than $30,000 per year. To the extent these members are unemployed, their membership costs will decrease $21 under the proposed dues structure. Any currently unemployed sociologist who has not felt she/he could join the ASA or who found the current low-income category too expensive should be able to do so now at cost of $50 that includes a journal, free access to the Job Bank, subsidized Annual Meeting rates, and all other ASA services. (Furthermore, we propose instituting this category in 2012, a year ahead of the other changes.)

Another 29 percent of our regular members currently select a dues category based on income between $30,000 and $54,999 per year; their membership cost will rise either by $10 or by $13 in two years (2013) under the new structure. For the 16 percent of regular members who select the $55,000-$69,999 income category, membership costs will increase $16 per year.

The current top dues category ($70,000 and above) is selected by 37 percent of our regular members. As shown in Table 2, the highest dues category is broken into five new income categories (about which we have no estimates from membership data). For the first two ($70,000-84,999 and $85,000-99,999) membership costs increase $26 and $46 per year, respectively. The other three higher income categories were created to provide future expansion as members’ incomes rise in coming years. While some of our members may make incomes over $100,000 by 2013, the vast majority will not as our own membership data show. The 2010 National Faculty Salary Survey data show the median sociology faculty salary to be $69,398. (This is a 13.3% increase since 2005 but only a 1.4% increase in constant 2010 dollars.)

Table 2: Proposed Dues Structure

Income Brackets: BOLD = NEW Current 2011 membership costs= dues + one $45 journal of choice Proposed 2013 membership costs including one journal of choice Difference
Unemployed $ 70* 50 ($ 20)
Less than $20,000   $ 9
$20,000-29,999 $ 71  
Less than $30,000 $ 71 80
$30,000-39,999 $ 115 125 $ 10
$40,000-54,999 $167 180 $13
$55,000-69,999 $214 230 $16
$70,000 & above   $ 234    
$70,000-84,999 260 $ 26
$85,000-99,999 280 $46
$100,000-124,999 300 $66
$125,999-150,000 325 $ 91
$150,000 & above 350 $ 116

Additional membership categories:

  Current 2011 Proposed 2013 Difference
Associate $90 $100 $10
Student $50 $50
Retired $45 $50 $5

For student members (who are 33 percent of the ASA total membership), membership costs remain the same at $50. Many more retired sociologists (currently 5 percent of total membership) will be eligible for the reduced former “emeritus” membership category and will receive electronic access to all ASA journals. Associate non-voting members (8 percent) will pay $10 more per year ($100) including a journal of choice, usually the American Sociological Review.

Before proposing this new dues structure, EOB and Council did a comparison of dues with our sister social science organizations annually. For the most recent comparison, see the article in this issue of Footnotes).

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