Sustaining SAA: New Dues Proposed

AIMEE M. FELKER, CRM, CA, SAA Treasurer (2009-2012)

At its February meeting, the SAA Council charged the Finance Committee to conduct the 2010 review of dues revenue and structure. The Finance Committee—SAA Treasurer Aimee M. Felker, James Byers, Becky Haglund Tousey, Dennis Meissner, Executive Director Nancy Beaumont, and Finance Director Tom Jurczak—presented the results of the review and recommendations to the Council at its May meeting. After careful consideration and review of SAA's finances, the committee concluded that a dues increase is critical to sustain the ongoing financial stability of the Society. The Council voted to propose a dues increase effective July 1, 2011. This issue will be presented for members' discussion and vote at the Annual Business Meeting in Washington, D.C., August 14.

How Will a Dues Increase Benefit SAA Members?

The professional landscape for archivists is changing. This brings both opportunities and challenges. In our own repositories, we understand the need to persuade resource allocators about the critical value of archives, adapt to new technologies, and develop innovative solutions that will diversify our collections and our constituencies alike. More than ever, a vibrant, energized, and financially stable SAA is needed—one that will continue to advocate our issues, advance our agendas, and provide the products and services that we need to do our jobs better. Members need SAA to:

  • Ensure the quality and affordability of SAA workshops, publications, and Annual Meetings.
  • Research, develop, and disseminate new publications, workshops, and webinars on emerging issues at the forefront of archives theory and practice.
  • Continue to enhance the editorial content and accessibility of the American Archivist and Archival Outlook.
  • Provide a more interactive, easy-to-use, and information-rich website that includes enhanced support for Section and Roundtable content.
  • Supply meeting space and audio-visual support for Section and Roundtable programming at the Annual Meeting.
  • Support travel expenses for face-to-face meetings of appointed groups, such as the Publications Board and the Diversity, Standards, and Education Committees, to effectively facilitate their work on behalf of the Society.
  • Maintain its ongoing commitment to provide services to all members, including subsidizing membership costs for student, retired, and bridge-rate members.
  • Implement meaningful diversity initiatives, such as creating a more comprehensive Mosaic Scholarship Program, in order to increase the diversity of SAA and the archives profession.
  • Advocate for increased funding for archives and archivists (including NHPRC funding) and for other initiatives that will make a real difference in our professional lives.
  • Coordinate nationwide efforts to increase recognition of archives and archivists through such activities as American Archives Month, Congressional testimony, and op-ed pieces that are likely to influence key resource allocators.

What Impact Will a Dues Increase Have on You?

The total proposed dues increase over a three-year period is:

Retirees, Students, Bridge, and ID 1-4 = $5-$12
ID 5 and Associate Domestic = $23-$24
ID 6-7 and Associate International = $27-$37

Regular and Sustaining institutional membership dues would increase $53 and $66 over three years, respectively.  These amounts, spread over the number of staff who benefit from their institutions' membership in SAA, are comparable to the individual membership increases. The financial imapct of the proposal on each membership category is shown in the table.

Proposed Phased-In Dues by Category, FY 2012 - FY 2014























ID 1 (salary < $20,000/yr)





ID 2 (salary of $20,000 - $29,999/yr)





ID 3 (salary of $30,000 - $39,999/yr)





ID 4 (salary of $40,000 - $49,999/yr)





ID 5 (salary of $50,000 - $59,999/yr)





ID 6 (salary of $60,000 - $74,999/yr)





ID 7 (salary > $75,000/yr)















Associate Domestic





Associate International






The Finance Committee understands that members are being forced to do more with less. The committee was particularly sensitive to the financial hardships that members have encountered professionally and personally. Therefore, a three-year gradual approach to increasing dues revenue is being recommended. This will minimize the financial impact on members and ensure that any increase is sensitive to the needs of students, retirees, and those with lower salaries. This strategy will enable all members to anticipate the modest dues increases while also allowing SAA to budget effectively.

The proposed dues increase will not be fully implemented until July 2013, five and one-half years after SAA implemented its last increase in January 2008. Nevertheless, this increase will enable SAA to attain an appropriate ratio of dues to non-dues revenue and ensure its financial stability.

Why Doesn't SAA Just Simply Cut Its Costs?

The short answer is "We have!" During the current fiscal year and throughout the budget process, the SAA staff has cut expenses whenever and wherever possible, including cutting a staff position during the year. SAA's member-to-staff  ratio is 506:1 (up from 347:1 in 1999 and 417:1 in 2006). Additional staff cuts would require cutting services. Face-to-face meetings of various committees and boards were eliminated in favor of virtual meetings. And all operating expenses were closely monitored to ensure coming in under budget. Further reductions in expenses would have an adverse effect on all services to members.

Membership dues are the financial backbone of any association. Regardless of the organization's size, association management best practices recommend that dues comprise 35% of total revenues. In SAA's newly approved fiscal 2011 budget, it is anticipate that dues revenues will reach 29% of total revenues. Therefore, additional dues revenues are necessary to ensure that SAA is not overly reliant on non-dues revenue for its long-term financial health.

In order to pass a balanced budget for FY 11 (July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011), the Council and staff cut the proposed budget another $16,000. Some face-to-face meetings were postponed and the mid-winter Council meeting was relocated from Washington, D.C., to SAA's home city of Chicago. Although these decisions will save SAA money in FY 11, they also compromise the Council's ability to advocate to the NHPRC, IMLS, and NEH for increased funding for archives and archivists or to strategize with NARA, CoSA, and NAGARA regarding other initiatives that may make significant differences in our professional lives. 1

Ultimately, the Finance Committee and the Council sought the most effective way to position SAA and to ensure that the organization and our profession remain vibrant. A dues increase is necessary and so is continued prudence. The SAA staff, Council, Finance Committee, and all other groups should continue to proactively monitor and manage resources, seek alternative funding to supposrt activities, and doggedly promote services and products in order to maintain healthy income streams. These structures, along with the modest and phased-in dues increase that is proposed, will benefit our profession collectively and each of us individually. 

On a personal note, I joined SAA in 1989. My professional responsibilities have evolved from traditional archival work to records management. Although my daily work now focuses on active and beginning-of-lifecycle issues and records destruction rather than preservation, my professional identity and heart are firmly committed to SAA and the many professional colleagues whom I call friends. I hope you will join me in supporting the proposed dues increase and will continue to support SAA through your membership and continued active participation in roundtables, sections, committee and task force work, publishing, mentoring and membership activities, and meeting and workshop attendance. Without you, there is no Society of American Archivists.

Your opinions matter. We want to hear from you. Please comment on SAA's website or contact us if you have any questions or concerns about the proposed dues increase or SAA's finances:

Treasurer Aimee Felker:
Finance Committee:
SAA Council:
Executive Director Nancy Beaumont:


1 National Historical Publications and Records Commission, Institute for Museum and Library Services, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Archives and Records Administration, Council of State Archivists, and National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators.


2 Comment(s) to the "Sustaining SAA: New Dues Proposed"
allen784 says:
SAA Membership/Dues Increase

How many members does SAA have?  Is membership increasing or decreasing?  By what percentage?  Trends? Is SAA losing members due to financial considerations?  Is a smaller number of members picking up the budget slack for those we have lost, and is that the real reason for the dues increase? Inquiring minds want to know :)

amfelker says:
SAA Membership/Dues Increase Response


Thanks for the questions.  Please let me know if you have any others or need clarification on the following answers.

How many members does SAA have?  As of May 31, 2010, SAA membership totaled 5657.  This is a new high for our professional association.

Is membership increasing or decreasing?   From May 2009 through October 2009 membership declined.  From November 2009 through May 2010, membership has increased.

By what percentage? Membership is up 1.3% from the May 2009 totals.

Trends? One trend to note is a 6 month membership decline followed by a 7 month membership increase.  There have been increases in the following individual membership categories:  Student, Bridge, Retiree, ID 1 (salary < $20,000), ID 2 (salary $20,000-$29,999), ID 5 (salary $50,000-$59,999) and ID 7 (>$75,000).  While membership category ID 4 (salary $40,000-$49,999) is down 9% from May 2009, membership category ID 5  is up 9% for the same period. Similarly, membership category ID 6 ($60,000-$74,999) is down 22% while membership category ID 7 is up 69%.

Is SAA losing members due to financial considerations? This is difficult to answer with concrete rather than anecdotal data.  Since last fall membership has been rising; the prior 6 months showed a decline in membership.  Feedback from members who did not renew memberships indicated a variety reasons, including no longer employed as an archivist (left the profession or retired).

Is a smaller number of members picking up the budget slack for those we have lost, and is that the real reason for the dues increase? No, membership is up.  A dues increase is necessary for many reasons.  SAA needs a stable financial base if it is to continue to provide high quality and affordable educational programs and publications or to continue pursuing SAA's diversity, technology and advocacy strategic initiatives.  Association best practices recommend  that dues comprise 35% of total revenues so that the organization can function most effectively for its members and to have an assured source of stable income to meet operating needs during turbulent times such as we are experiencing.  The fiscal 2011 budget anticipates that dues revenues will reach 29% of total revenues. Therefore, additional dues revenues are necessary  to ensure that SAA is not overly reliant  on non-dues revenue for its long-term financial health.

Aimee Felker, SAA Treasurer