Participation Membership Proposal

LOTS MORE Q and A -- 12 November, 2002 (minor modifications, 2 December, 2002)
(Additional Q and A, 6 December, 2002.)

Questions and Answers (Frequently asked questions, including a few which were only asked once, but were really good questions.)

Q: Do you have petitions for signature, either electronic or physical? I wanna sign!

A: No, I do not have petitions. I want people to write the Board individual letters, even if the letter only says. "I like Flieg's PMP." I am also idealistic enough to think that everyone who writes will have his or her own reasons for supporting this, more than could possibly be put on any petition.

(6 December, 2002)
 I did some calculations and it seems to me that my wife and I are going to end up paying more under your system than we do now. It seems like average SCA person is going to end up paying more!

A: There are actually two statements here. The first might be true -- it will depend on how many events you go to and what their site fees are. I'll get back to that one.

The second statement can't be true if my figures are even close to accurate. The reduced income budget (see Discussion) raises less than 50% of the current budget from a far larger group of people. The current income comes from about 25,000 paid "members." The estimate of non-member attendees at events runs from 30% (official Board estimate) to 50% or higher. If we use the official Board estimate, this means that there are almost 36,000 participants in the SCA. If we assume the 50% figure (equal numbers of "members" and "non-members" attending events) then there are 50,000 attendees at events overall. The average part of the revenue (new system) per person is ~$10 in the first case and ~$7.50 in the second case. This being an average, some people will pay more and some will pay less, proportional to their activity. Relatively few people are going to pay a lot more than the average.

The first statement might be true, provided certain assumptions are made. The first assumption is that every event will immediately increase the site fee by $1 to finance the Franchise Fee. As can be seen in the calculations of event costs, this is  NOT a foregone conclusion.  For instance, if the site fee is calculated to be $10 for the normal event, there is going to be a strong reluctance to raise it by a mere $1 with all the change-making hassles which that will entail. (This is related to the fact that very few events will have a $9 site fee -- it's just easier to deal with a $10 site fee.)

That being said, the money eventually has to come from somewhere and that somewhere, either in the current system or in the PMP system, is the people in the SCA. That is the way it is, until we convince some Foundation or other to donate lots of money to the SCA, Inc. on a continuing basis. So, IF the average price of an event goes up $1 under the PMP, active people will eventually find that under this system they are paying more than they do now. The "break-even" point for an Associate Member is $20 (It is hard to calculate what the break-even cost is for a Subscribing Member, since the budget does not clearly indicate what costs actually go to a newsletter, but the subscription liability calculation seems to allow about $10/subscriber.) This amounts to ten regular events plus Pennsic, or 20 "normal" events. Twenty events per year puts someone in what I would call the "very active" category.

For someone like myself who is what I would call "hyper-active", the cost will almost certainly be more. I attend more than 45 events per year, including Estrella War and Pennsic. Given that the last two will almost certainly raise prices to match the Franchise fee, I will end up paying more than I am now even if only half of the local events increase their site fee. I'm willing to pay this because of the other benefits of the PMP -- the simplicity, the increase in local control, the welcoming attitude and the removal of the artificial member/non-member dichotomy. I am also willing to pay it because it is proportional to my activity and levied a little bit at a time. There is no "big hit" for anyone, even those who are active. (I would note that the proposed Franchise Fee amounts to less than 10% of the site fees for the big events and and average of 10% of local event site fees. That's not a lot, given that we don't pay sales tax on the fees.)

Now, for those with family memberships, the "break-even" point is going to be lower than that for the single person with
the Associate Membership. The reason for this, however, lies in the current system, not in my system. Family memberships are currently a loss-leader for the SCA, Inc. The $10 fee does not cover the current costs (out of control in my opinion) of the Corporate Office to process them. Family members are being subsidized by other members of the SCA -- my proposal removes that subsidy, unfortunately to the financial disadvantage of those people.

IF someone can come up with a way to put a "cap" on the PMP Franchise Fee impact on active and hyper-active members which does not involve significant extra complexity, I would be glad to hear of it. I have not been able to come up with something which I think would work easily without breaking the rest of the plan.

(6 December, 2002)
My Kingdom's Coronation is a big, long event held on Memorial Day weekend. Isn't it going to have to pay the $5 Franchise Fee?  That will make it too expensive for me.

A: No. My list of "big/long Wars" is meant to be exclusive, not examples. These are large inter-Kingdom events with more than their fair share of problems which happen at them which can affect the SCA, Inc. What most people think of as large events (1500 people and a three-day weekend) are just not in the same order of magnitude as Estrella or Gulf Wars, or even Lillies or Great Western War.

(2 December, 2002)
>What about free events? We have at least 2 of those a year in
>Carolingia. Would they be hit with the franchise fee?

A(1): Yes. They aren't free to Carolingia (I presume -- most events cost *something* to run). They aren't free to the corporation (they use the insurance and have the possibility of other Corporate intervention being necessary.)

Q(2): >No, they *ARE* free to Carolingia. We have two events a year
>which are hosted by local college campuses for which the facilities
>are free, for which we don't need Corp. insurance (last I checked),
>for which all food is potluck, for which there is no "budget". And
>they *are* SCA events -- they are listed in the kingdom newsletter,
>and our Baron gives awards at them (which, at least in this kingdom,
>are not considered valid unless given at An Official SCA Event.)
>Hence my concern. This turns what are 100-150 person free events into
>events which cost ~$100-150.

A(2): Wow! Cool! In that case you really are not pulling on the corporate structure, and I think they could be free of the franchise. I will stand by my original answer for events which are just "free" because the group is covering costs in another way. (Note to all: in terms of my estimates of income, the free Carolingia events weren't counted anyway, so the estimates are unaffected.)

A(3): (6 December 2002) See the current version of the proposal for the status of free events. Basically, if there is no site fee and no significant group expense, there is no PMP Franchise Fee.  

Q: >Your Grace, I do like your proposal, I believe it would simplify
>things a great deal. However, if you would pardon my asking for I am
>relatively new, why does the populous detest the non-member
>surcharge? Under our current system, should non-members not pay more
>at the gate? Would that not encourage membership? This seems to be
>an age-old debate. My household and I are simply curious.

A: And the question that I would ask is "Why should non-members pay more at the gate?"

A: There are levels of answer here. First is that we have a long tradition of "you don't have to be a member to play," which comes from our roots as a counter-culture phenomenon. This is quite possibly the most important. To me, that openness welcomes in people, rather than excluding them, we are "different", but "friendly". (And you have to admit we most certainly are "different.")

A: The second level is that throughout most of the history of the SCA, Inc., increasing *requirements* for membership have been *forced* on the people in the SCA, without any reason except that the Corporate Level felt that it was running out of money, and there was no other source of income. There is no "membership" in the SCA, Inc. in a legal sense. "Membership" carries no personal benefit which has not been artificially tied to it by the Corporation in the first place (i.e. newsletters -- there is no reason that newsletter subscriptions should be restricted to "members", except that the Corporation needs the money.)

A: The third level is that the SCA, Inc. does not give any money to any local or Kingdom event. Why should it matter whether the person attending is a "member"?

The Liability insurance which the SCA, Inc. has purchased does benefit every event, but it costs (net) $60,000. There are 25,000 members on the lists. There are supposedly another 15,000 non-members. The cost of insurance is $1.50 per person per *YEAR* -- not worth worrying about on a per-event basis. Finally, with "membership" in the SCA being a *coerced* commodity with almost no benefits which are not totally artificial -- why is more membership in the SCA a Good Idea? (Especially when any reasonable budgetary analysis shows that much of the SCA income is frittered away.)

A: So, from the ideal to the practical. There's your answer.

Q: Several viewers have asked, Why is Pennsic being charged so much more than other events? Isn't this unfair?

A: This was a matter of much discussion in the Grand Council during the initial stages of forming the proposal. Several people in the Council felt that any SCA, Inc. revenue from events should be strictly proportional to the length of the event. Almost all did note that longer events seemed to have more impact on the Corporation in terms of intervention and oversight.

          My take on it was that the strict proportionality would lead to people trying to figure out ways to make their events shorter and that this was undesirable. I also needed a good solid base amount to convince the Board that this financing scheme would work.

          In fact, while Pennsic would have to send $10/person to the Corporation, it could save money on not having to worry about "member/non-member" pricing, etc. It is likely, knowning the history of the Coopers that the price would go up $10, but if this is looked at in terms of cost per amount of participation, Pennsic would be cheaper than any one-day event. ($1 for 1 day, $5 for 7 days, $10 for 16 days. I will be thinking about the possibilities of cutting it to $5 for War Week only attendees, though that makes the accounting more difficult and cuts into the revenue stream. (Hmmm... 5,000 at x10 plus 6,000 at x5 = 80,000 or 30,000 less than before, but we can afford it... Check back next week. -- F.)

Q: >Quick clarification please. What effect, if any, does this proposal have on
>titles, awards, devices, names and recognition of same between Kingdoms and
>other groups in the SCA?

A:None whatsoever, since they are not, even now, connected to membership. Any part of Corpora which does not relate to membership would remain unchanged.

Q:>I would like to hear a bit more specific discussion regarding requests for
>insurance riders for event sites by non-members. Currently, an autocrat
>operates as an agent of the corporation, yes? From a legal standpoint, how
>does a non-member do so?

A: I am not quite sure what your point is, but I suspect that it flows from a misunderstanding of the legal status of SCA "members." The SCA, Inc. has no members in a legal sense.

Currently an autocrat is required to be a "member" because SCA regulations say so. The autocrat acts as an agent of the corporation in signing contracts and such because he/she has been designated as the autocrat for the event. In a similar way, she or the Seneschal can contact the Corporate Office and ask for the rider on the Insurance (because the local venue wants it) and pay the $40 because they are officers of their group. (Note that local SCA folk are not supposed to contact the insurer directly -- it goes through the Office. Also note that the rider adds no coverage -- it's really cosmetic.)

Their membership status is only relevant due to internal SCA rules -- the 21st C. cares nothing. Therefore, under my proposal, the autocrat will continue to deal as before as will the Seneschal and the Herald and the Exchequer, under the rules of their offices and of the local group. The autocrat will continue to call the Corporate Office to ask for the insurance rider, etc. No problem.

At the local level (Kingdom and below) the changeover to my proposal will really change very little except remove non-member surcharges and increase the pool of potential officers.

Q:>My question stems from my understanding of publication/subscriptions
>in the U.S. If there is a subscription charge for a newsletter (for those
>without internet access), then that same information may be not made
>available at no charge to others (those with internet access) - it's some
>sort of violation of fair practice and discrimination, I think. I don't
>really know the legalese, just that if our local branch had a newsletter,
>that it could not be presented in it's entirely on the web for free. I
>think a work-around may be having a subscription-based web-page, accessible
>via passwords. As presented, your proposal does not discuss this issue.

A: That's because it is a policy of the SCA Chronicler and has no legal reality at all. I'm going to have to deal with it in a Q&A post. It is strictly there so that the SCA, Inc. can pretend that the newsletter is a membership "benefit" instead of a simple subscription. There is no legal reason why the information couldn't be all over the web. Like most of the "membership" restrictions it is an artificial and strictly internal rule.

>Overall, I really like the idea since Milpitas has a truly lousy system of
>renewal notification (less than 1 week to submit a check and we've gotten 2
>of our 4 a month late). It would really be of benefit to small groups (like
>mine) where people are active but don't bother to submit membership thus
>making finding officers a real problem.

Q: >I have a question about the location of the main office. You propose
>reducing the size of the office in order to reduce costs. What of the
>possibility of moving the office out of the California area? This may sound
>biased as I am in Calontir, but I think it makes sense. There may be other
>areas where this is also applicable, such as Oklahoma City, Dallas, or

A: Actually, the cost is not *that* much different. Someone on the West List found a 1200sqft office for $900/mo, DSL ready to go, and someone else said that Class-A office space in Palo-Alto (downtown Silicon Gulch) is currently $0.85/sqft. Our problem is not so much that we are paying too much per sq, but that we have way too many sq.

That being said, there is no reason the Office couldn't move, but I set a limit on what I was going to go for. Since we can reduce the rental cost to less than 10% of the reduced budget, I'm happy enough. Going from $12,000 per year to $6,000/year isn't nearly as important as going from $56,000/yr to $12,000/yr. (Note that the Budget in the Discussion section says $20,000. That would include things like a cleaning company and other maintenance.

Q: >Take Kansas City, Kansas/Missouri: There is a MAJOR airport. If some of the
>meetings were held here, chances are it would be cheaper for Board members
>to fly halfway across country, than half of them to fly ALL the way across
>country. I understand that the location of Board meetings do move around,
>so this may be a moot point. However, I would wonder what the operating
>expense of a 1500 sqare foot office in Kansas City would be vs. the cost in
>Milpitas/Bay area/anywhere else in California? What about the cost of a
>storage facility in the Midwest vs. the West coast?

A: No idea -- can you find out? I've got the figures for the BArea. If you can give them to me for KC -- I'll be glad to use them. (No reply was received.)

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