Task Force on Dues and Member Benefits


The SAA Task Force on Dues and Member Benefits was appointed in August, 1997, and charged with reviewing the Society's dues structure and the entire range of benefits offered its members. The Task Force met at the 1997 SAA Annual Meeting in Chicago, for two days in March, 1998 in Chicago, and at a day long session at the 1998 SAA Annual Meeting in Orlando. Members of the Task Force also participated in the Member's Forum at the Orlando meeting. At that Forum the Task Force chair reported on work to date; described survey results, and answered questions from the floor. Between meetings Task Force members communicated regularly by e-mail, fax, and telephone.

The scope of the Task Force charge made it necessary to assemble a wide range of statistics detailing dues and other income, costs, benefits, membership, and related items. The statistics made it possible for Task Force members to review SAA operations quite carefully, and to understand trends in membership, income, costs, and benefits by category over a period of five years. The Task Force selected the most recent five year period for review.

Two clear trends emerged from this review:

  • SAA membership declined slowly during the period, with most of the decline coming in the two lowest dues levels of regular membership

  • The costs of providing membership services steadily increased, largely offsetting the modest increase in dues revenue.

Statistics, however, while useful in outlining trends, do not delineate causes. Provided with extensive documentation of trends, Task Force members readily perceived that they lacked information on causes - especially the causes of declining membership. In addition, while reviewing the package of benefits offered to SAA members, it became quite clear that there were no data that would distinguish which benefits were most valued by members, and indeed whether additional SAA services beyond those listed in the official membership packet were in fact considered benefits by members.

Lack of this important information posed a considerable problem for the Task Force, since workable recommendations on changes (or even maintenance of the status quo) must be predicated on reliable data on member views of SAA and its costs and services. During discussion at the March 1998 meeting in Chicago, the Task Force recommended that SAA commission a membership survey to provide needed information for its report. A survey would also provide the membership with a direct means to participate in the work of the Task Force. The survey was approved by SAA leadership, and bids were solicited from several survey firms. The Gary Siegel Organization (GSO) was selected, and its staff worked with Task Force members to construct a member survey.

The survey was distributed to all current SAA members by mail, and the response rate was 33 percent, a gratifying rate, especially in light of the average 28 percent of the membership voting in recent SAA elections. In addition, GSO conducted a telephone survey of a random sample of former members to determine the reasons why they had not renewed their SAA memberships. This sample was drawn from a group of 1,250 whose memberships had lapsed between 1993 and 1998. Of those contacted, 100 people agreed to be interviewed for the survey.


The Task Force received two reports from GSO - the first a statistical summary of member responses, and the second an extensive analysis of the responses to the surveys of both current and former members. In reviewing the survey data, and discussing SAA operations, services, and costs, the Task Force employed three assumptions first articulated at its Spring meeting.

  • SAA must maintain at least its current level of dues income to support the service level members clearly expect.

  • SAA's income level must increase to support any increase in services, and to keep pace with inflation in the major costs it incurs in providing its services.

  • While recognizing that it is the largest professional archival organization in North America, and that it is expected to provide a high level of continuing advanced education for its members, SAA should continue to seek to attract and retain members at all levels of professional development.


Based upon review of both GSO reports and on the assumptions outlined above, the Task Force makes the following recommendations:

1. Flat Dues: In order to maintain the current level of SAA dues income, a flat dues structure (that is, the same dues rate for all members) would involve raising the rates for the lowest dues level by 92 percent, while decreasing dues for the highest dues level by 27 percent. This result was viewed as untenable by the Task Force, which does not recommend institution of a flat dues structure.

2. Cafeteria style dues: Given membership evaluation of SAA benefits, the Task Force found it would be difficult and unhelpful to try to assign specific costs to basic SAA benefits such as the journal, the newsletter, advocacy, and other information and services provided. Major cost centers such as those just listed are judged important benefits by a clear majority of members, and incremental reduction in support for them would compromise their quality while providing little in the way of cost reduction. Cafeteria style payment was judged possible only in the area of sections and round tables, and is addressed below.

3. Student Dues: Extend to three (3) years the term of eligibility for student dues. Do not increase student dues at this time.

4. Bridge Rate: Institute a "bridge rate" identical to the student dues rate. The bridge rate would be available upon request to current SAA members who are seeking employment as archivists. This rate is intended to allow SAA members who are between jobs or who are seeking their first full time employment as archivists (such as students following graduation) to maintain their membership at a time when the benefits of networking, employment bulletins, and related information is especially important. The bridge rate would be available as a one time benefit requested by a member from the SAA Office at the time of membership renewal.

5. Dues Increase: Given the persistent rise in the costs of providing SAA services, and the static revenue generated by dues income (dues will have remained unchanged for five years by the fall of 1999), and data generated by the membership survey, the Task Force recommends that dues be raised for each category of membership (except students) by 7 percent following the 1999 annual meeting, with subsequent yearly adjustments at a level equal to the increase in the CPI (Consumer Price Index) for the previous year. This will ensure that small, annual increases will be spread over time, obviating the need for larger increases every few years. The recommended 7 percent increase will not, for instance, address the increase in the CPI during the period following the previous dues increase.

The Task Force recognizes that the dues increase will not provide significant new resources for SAA, but, combined with future annual CPI-based adjustments, will allow the organization to maintain its services and to make modest changes and expansion in some of those services where the survey indicates that is needed. The Task Force also recognizes that members do not (and never have) advocated higher dues, but that increases in the basic costs of providing SAA's basic products and services makes periodic increases necessary. The increase recommended is the smallest that can reasonably provide stable resources.

6. Establish a membership category for major archival employers that would allow payment of a single lump sum membership each year on behalf of the employer and its employees. The actual rate will be negotiated by the Executive Director on an institution-by-institution basis.

7. Review of SAA Office Service and Functions: Any review of the SAA budget produces the clear message that the majority of dues and other income is spent maintaining member services. This is to be expected for a national professional organization, and the Office clearly is the critical link in providing services, products, information, and representation for the membership. A membership organization exists to serve its members, and provided with the excellent data provided by the member survey, a thorough assessment of SAA Office functions should be conducted to ensure that resources are indeed used primarily to provide critical, rather than merely useful, services. The review should be commissioned by SAA Council working with the Executive Director, using the services of a small group of people with the ability to competently evaluate professional organization services and management. The review team should include no more than two SAA members. The review should be completed prior to the 1999 SAA Annual Meeting.

8. Sections and Round Tables: Merge sections and round tables into a single category of units (the Task Force declines to name the new category, given the checkered history of such attempts). The survey indicates that members belong to twice as many sections as round tables, and that the distinction between them is both blurred and frequently viewed as inequitable. Under the new plan, all units would receive support from the SAA office in printing and mailing newsletters, and would be allocated meeting space at the annual meeting.

The Task Force further recommends that each SAA membership carry membership in two units of the member's choice at no charge, with membership in additional units available at a cost of $10.00 per unit. Each unit would be required to maintain a membership of at least 50 SAA members. Units with fewer than 50 members would cease to be official SAA entities. All current SAA sections and round tables would be offered for selection by members, with determination of a final roster of units made after a full year of membership renewals. Additional units could be authorized by Council after receipt of a petition of fifty or more members. Members could elect to join additional new or old units by making additional payments or by resigning from the unit(s) they previously chose. Council, the Executive Office, and the Treasurer should conduct an analysis of the finances of this arrangement after one year to determine what amount of the revenue from units can be allocated back to the units for their budgeted expenditures.

It should be noted that each SAA annual meeting provides many opportunities for members to meet and discuss issues of common interest without creation of an official unit. That opportunity will remain.

Additional Recommendations

In addition to these recommendations, the Task Force makes the following suggestions in response to issues raised by members that pertain to its charge:

1. The Executive Office and Treasurer should investigate costs and administration of allowing members to pay dues on a monthly apportionment through automatic credit card deductions. It is assumed that the administration of an installment payment system might entail minor additional credit card charges to the SAA which could be charged back to members electing this option. This investigation shall be completed no later than summer 1999 with the Executive Director and Treasurer submitting a report on the matter to the Pittsburgh Council meeting.

2. Make no changes in the current rights and privileges of associate members. Based on 1997 revisions of the Constitution and Bylaws that emerged from the Task Force on Organizational Effectiveness' final report, associate members may serve on committees formed by SAA units, but may not serve on committees and task forces created by Council or vote on SAA business. Task Force members agree that the inclusion of associate members is important, but note that the election of the lower associate dues rate, as opposed to full membership is an individual decision by which members indicate the importance of the organization within their professional lives.

3. Consider the designation of an emeritus membership category.

Fund Raising for SAA

Beyond those recommendations and suggestions outlined above, the Task Force strongly supports the following recommendation to Council:

Appoint a Task Force to investigate fund raising opportunities for SAA, and to recommend specific actions to create endowment, designated fund, and planned giving functions within the Society. These opportunities should be directed primarily to the SAA membership.

In support of this recommendation, the Task Force members note that SAA must look for additional ways in which to add to its funding sources beyond dues increases and increasing the prices for its services. Given SAA's loyal membership and the opportunities that offers, it is imperative that this avenue for revenue generation be investigated as soon as possible. While possibilities for raising funds outside the Society's membership have been reviewed in the past, the Task Force noted that such fundraising is seldom successful for organizations like SAA until they have demonstrated the ability to raise funds from their own members.

The Task Force should consider the feasibility of gift-giving and fund-raising campaigns as well as to establish mechanisms for creation of endowments and designated funds based on the spontaneous generosity of SAA members. Further, in establishing this Task Force, Council will need to consider whether the group should also be charged with investigating the feasibility of establishing a grants/development officer as an SAA staff position whose responsibility it would be to conduct fund-raising from non-member sources.

Submitted by -

SAA Task Force on Dues and Member Benefits
James E. Fogerty, Chair
Dennis Harrison
Kathryn M. Neal
Robert E. Sink
Lee J. Stout
Ann Westerlin
Susan E. Fox, ex officio