Straight Talk About STC Membership Dues

by Linda King, STC Houston President

It’s time to launch the annual STC membership drive. The Society staff is busy finalizing forms and materials for use in the campaign, and your chapter membership committee is kicking off new incentives for competitive member recruiting. Unfortunately, many of us are no longer receiving hefty (or even paltry) annual raises, cost of living increases, or company-sponsored memberships in professional organizations. For my family and for yours, money gets tighter all the time. With so many things competing for our limited dollars, joining STC or renewing a membership may not seem like the “no brainer” it once was—especially when membership dues are increasing somewhat for 2008. I’m writing this month to explain why 2008 dues must increase and why membership in STC is so important to all of us, especially in hard economic times.

STC Funding Task Force

As mentioned in previous articles, I represented STC Houston and other chapters with 300 to 600 members on the STC Funding Task Force. The task force was formed to candidly discuss STC operating costs, plans for improving services and controlling costs, required STC income levels, and a proposed new dues structure. These discussions were eye-openers for all participants as we learned about the many and varied challenges in operating a large professional society today and operating individual chapters of so many different sizes in so many different worldwide locations. The discussions culminated in recommendations about required STC membership dues, how dues funds are processed, and what part of collected dues the individual chapters need for their operations and to serve their members.

Cindy Currie, second vice president of STC and chair of the Community Advocacy Committees for 2007—08, formally presented the task force recommendations at the August STC board meeting, and they were well received. Subsequently, the STC board of directors approved a new dues structure and a simple “pass-through” model for funding STC chapters.

2008 Dues Structure

The dues for a classic STC membership in 2008 will be $175, of which, $25 goes to chapter dues. Regardless of their size or location, all chapters will receive $25 per member in 2008. Student chapters will receive $11 per student member. SIGs will continue to be funded on the basis of zero-based budgets provided by SIG managers.

How did the STC Board arrive at the new dues amount? The Society spends about $300 per member to operate the organization and provide the available services to chapters and members. If STC were 100 percent dues dependent, each member would need to pay $300 in dues to keep the Society operational at its current level. However, STC has other sources of revenues: conference registration, exhibits, sponsorship, advertising, royalties, and interest from investments. These other sources contribute approximately $150 per member to the operating budget; therefore, STC needs an additional $150 per member to cover the rest of the costs.

How does STC spend the money it collects? Both dues and other revenue go to support STC programs and member services, such as publications (Intercom, Technical Communication, News & Notes), competitions, live Web seminars, and the day-to-day expenses associated with running an office.

According to STC Director Susan Burton, STC expenses are in line with those of other associations. The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) publishes operating ratio reports (ORRs) for associations. These benchmarks help STC compare itself to other associations of like size and type. Based on those reports, STC dues are in the middle range, and STC’s expenses are in range compared to other associations. STC’s salary-line item is lower than that of the average association with a similar budget because STC has fewer staff members than a typical association of similar size.

Improved Funding Model

Under the previous funding model, chapters received $24 per member for the first 100 members, then $16 per member for 101 to 200 members, and finally $8 per member for 201 or more members (as of June 30, 2007). Each chapter received membership dues rebates from the Society twice annually, in January and in October.

The pass-through funding model is being implemented for new memberships and renewals during calendar year 2008 and will use STC’s new AMS system. The STC office will process all the membership payments, update its membership database, and then pass the $25 chapter dues back to the chapter designated by each member. Chapters will be free of the administrative burden of membership processing. With the implementation of the new AMS system with its data bases, the Society and chapters will have ready access to more and better data than ever before for operating efficiently.

STC Membership: A Career-Building Investment

As I shared with you last month, STC membership has been an integral part of my own career and enjoyment of my professional life. Its members represent the entire spectrum of business and technical communicators. I have found that other communication organizations, which I have joined or considered joining, to be far more specialized or limited in their scope and therefore not as generally valuable for me. STC membership has brought me job opportunities, a network of career-long friends and colleagues, inspirational mentors, expert resources, up-to-date information on industry trends and tools, opportunities for learning and for continually developing and practicing new skills . . . and the list goes on and on.

Whether you are a student, a newcomer to the work force, or a seasoned veteran of the technical communication profession, STC offers you tremendous value for your membership dollars. The value that you gain is limited only by how engaged you choose to become in the organization and how much you take advantage of all the resources STC makes available to you.

The Society is evolving with the changes in technology and the industries we support. The STC board and our professional STC staff are supporting numerous initiatives to understand the changing professional environment, to identify the changing needs of our members and chapters, and to increase the value that the Society offers all members.

For technical communicators, membership in STC is a career investment that you can’t afford NOT to make.

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