[Talk] AUUG'S Declining Membership

Greg 'groggy' Lehey Greg.Lehey at auug.org.au
Fri Jul 26 16:31:27 EST 2002

On Wednesday, 24 July 2002 at 14:39:42 +0930, david.newall at auug.org.au wrote:
> The recent discussion on AUUG and LUGs prompted me to write this:
> How do we reverse declining membership?
> ...
> It's worth noting that each conference returns a surplus, which pays
> a large chunk of our business manager's salary;


> which is a fancy schmancy title for secretary.

Do secretaries go out and look for sponsors?  Do they do all the
background organization of the conferences?  Do they chase up reticent
board members when they forget to do what they promised?  That's what
Liz does, and as an ex-board member you should know that.  She doesn't
do much typing.  It's possible that some other title than "business
manager" would be more appropriate, but I can't see that this work
fits in a normal definition of "secretary".  I also don't see what
relevance this statement has here.

> (Sorry, Liz, don't mean to offend, just to speak plainly.)

There's nothing wrong with speaking plainly, but it pays to take
people's feelings into consideration.  They way you put it here,
without any particular relevance to the matter under discussion, I
wouldn't be surprised if people thought it offensive.

> ...
> Better yet, put AUUGN on the web (make it be our web)

Well, no, we have plenty of other things to put on the web, as you as
webmaster must know.

> and we underscore the benefit of AUUG membership.  Non-members who
> read AUUGN on the web, and through it see what we do, might just
> join.  The down side?  It would cost nothing so there is no down
> side.
> In fact the CDs distributed with AUUGN are a great member benefit, and
> you wouldn't get them on the web (without paing ruinous download costs.)
> Probably most of us would elect to receive printed copy (just for the
> CDs), while the non-members could only read about it (thus giving them
> incentive to join.)

These two paragraphs tend to contradict each other.  In any case, I
agree with the majority of the respondents that the printed form is
more useful.  If you mean "put AUUGN up on the web in addition to the
printed form", we're doing that already.

> Does the executive need to meet in person?  They meet four times a year,
> at an annual cost of around $15,000.

When reviewing this message, I told you (from the minutes of the
Novmber 2001 board meeting) that each meeting costs between $3,000 and
$3,500, which is rather less than you made of it.  In fact, I have now
checked: last year we budgeted $13,960 for board meetings, of which we
actually spent $10,642.14.  Yes, they're more expensive than we would
like, but there's no point in exaggerating.

> Presumably most of this is travel expenses.

All of it.  Board members end up out of pocket on each occasion.
Again, you should know this.

> Can we not, in this, the age of the Information Superhighway, have
> an exec that meets electronically?

You'll recall from the minutes of the November 2001 meeting that I
raised this point:

> 11.  Next meeting.
>      GL moves to have next meeting in May.
>      MP uncomfortable without other officers, should be 4 meetings a year.
>      PG wants to have a long meeting, 6 hours not enough.
>      Action Item for GL, due by 1 December 2001
>      Discuss alternatives.
>      Meetings cost $3000 to $3500.

We didn't come up with any good alternatives.  One thing we find is
that at the meetings people do a lot of things and then go home, laden
with action items which they promptly forget.  I'm coming round to
accept that we really do need physical presence to get anything done.

> Okay, I know this is going to ruffle some feathers, but the question
> must be asked: Can we afford a full-time business manager?  Please,
> please, don't anybody misunderstand my intent in asking the
> question.  This is not an attack on Liz, our business manager.  It's
> a very sensitive issue, particularly as it's Liz's livelihood that
> we must talk about, but it is of great importance and needs
> discussing.
> We have about 350 members.  Somebody employed as a business manager in
> Sydney would cost between $50K and $100K; apparently between $150 and
> $275 per member.  (Just as well that the conference surplus subsidises
> the business manager!)  What would happen if our business manager only
> worked part time?  Would the conference still be held?  Would the random
> other events continue?  On the numbers, this appears to be an area that
> needs careful consideration.

Yes, of course this is an issue.  We have talked about it several
times during the board meetings.  I've mentioned my views above: I
don't think that we could survive without a business manager.  The
only thing that we could discuss would be how to make her less
expensive.  If you have some workable suggestions about that, I'd like
to hear about them in private.

Note that this issue is not really relevant to declining membership.
It's more relevant to our finances, which currently, despite declining
membership, are still quite healthy.  You may not know it, but after
processing membership renewals every half year, Liz goes out and calls
those who haven't renewed and asks why not.  The success rate isn't
fantastic, but it's better than zero.  Curtail her working hours and
that'll be one of the first things she won't be able to do.

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