Participation Membership Proposal

(Major change, 12 Nov. -- new default polling procedure.)
(Additional changes, 2 December 2002 -- budgets and re-writes.)

Discussion and attempts at persuasion:

Go to Item:
1. All participants are members
2. Newsletter Unbundling   
3. Reduced Corporate Budget   
4. Franchise fee Income estimates.

1. All participants are members.

All members = no non-members. No more marginalization. No more divisiveness.

All members = perfect equity. Everybody pays, everybody plays, everyone contributes. In essence this returns everyone to the status of the old "Class H" membership, attendees at events, except that under this proposal all attendees would be contributing to the upkeep of the Corporation as well. This might be regarded as Pay to Play, but we've always had Pay to Play; everyone paid the site fee. This proposal just adds a minimal cost to the site fee for maintenance of the Corporation.

All members = *greatly* reduced costs for the Corporate office see under 3., below for my calculated costs/savings.

All members = no last-minute frantic calls to Milpitas about memberships status. Reduces the demand on staff time for essentially trivial matters.

All members = no limitations on who can hold office except those imposed by the requirements of the office itself. A requirement for access to the information available in the newsletter could be imposed by individual Kingdoms if they so desired. Far better, in my opinion, would be a requirement that Kingdom Officers communicate regularly with their deputies at all levels.

All members = no problems. -- No, that's probably not right; fools are so very inventive.

It has been noted that this proposal might require new measurements to determine branch status. It has been suggested that operational criteria (size and/or frequency of events) be substituted for the current arbitrary standard of number of "members". That's one possibility. I'm not sure that it is a good idea, but it's possible.

Another possibility would be maintenance of a list of those who regard themselves as members of the local group. Such a list could be compared to those who are members based on the criteria set forth here, (via a copy of a receipt) for the purposes of polling. It has been suggested that only those who have been on the list for a certain length of time (2-4 months) be allowed to vote. All of this is details which can be settled by the local groups or by Kingdoms according to their own customs. Once a method is put in place, it would be checked over by the Society Seneschal. As an interim measure, current branch status would be maintained until operational criteria could be formulated.

Default Proposal for membership in a group: My original paragraph on polling (above) was left open to allow for people to think about how they might want to do it in their local area. This was seen by many as a hole which needed to be fixed. I therefore have constructed a default standard method of maintaining a list of pollable members. It can be accessed here. (PMPgrouproster.html)

Waivers are an unfortunate necessity of the current litigious nature of U.S. society. Signing of waivers at the door of each event currently should satisfy legal requirements as it does now for "non-members". Waivers would be stored at the Kingdom level, labeled as to event and type as is currently mandated by the Society Seneschal's policy. The roster-style waiver would also act as the record of the number (and identity) of attendees at the event. A dated receipt from a regular event would act as proof of "a waiver on file" for such activities as fighter practices. That such waivers are good for up to two years is supported by current practice.

As an alternate method, local groups or Kingdoms could institute a waiver-storage card, issued free or for a nominal printing fee (50 cents?) to certify that a person had a waiver on file. I don't see the point myself, but several members of the Grand Council thought this was a really good idea. Implementation of this alternate would be left up to the Kingdoms.

Go to top, 3., 4.

2. Newsletter Unbundling

Implementation of this Proposal would necessitate setting up a subscription secretary for each Kingdom newsletter, or the use of the SCA Corporate Office as a subscription fulfillment service. Software for handling subscriptions is easily available commercially, at relatively low cost (less than $100) or could be developed by enterprising volunteers on an individual Kingdom basis. The subscription liability of current "subscribing members" would be transferred to the Kingdoms on an interim basis by taking the current database and splitting it up. Money calculated on the basis of that liability would be transferred to the accounts of the Kingdom newsletters. This money is currently in the Corporate accounts as the subscription liability money.

The advantages of this in the long run are that each Kingdom could decide how much of a newsletter they were willing to pay for, and could charge an appropriate amount per year, based on local costs, not a global estimate. In the short run, the money available would be no different than it is now; Kingdoms which are subsidizing their newsletters would have to continue to do so for a year or so. Kingdoms could implement or not, as they wished, electronic publication (in whole or in part) in addition to hard-copy. A Corporate requirement for availability of a hard-copy newsletter would be imposed to make sure that electronic publication enthusiasts did not disenfranchise those who are unable or unwilling to access such media. Principality and local newsletters already run in this manner; there is nothing new here. Maintenance of subscription liability and financial accountability for Kingdom newsletters would run under this proposal just as it does for Principality and local newsletters. Just as at present, Kingdom newsletters would still be required to publish official communications from the Board of Directors, but since they wouldn't need to publish the membership form, extra pages should be available for this purpose.

Subscriptions to T.I. and the Complete Anachronist series would be handled on a similar basis to the Kingdom Newsletters. The SCA Corporate Office would act as the subscription office for T.I. and CA, but those clerks would be paid out of subscription funds, not out of the general fund. (In fact, the new (2003) pricing of T.I. ($15/year) appears to be based  on this model.) The Administrative VP would handle subscriptions to the Board Minutes if it is decided to keep those as a published hard-copy option rather than relying solely on web publication of same (my preferred alternative). Advertisements for T.I. and CA could be published in the Kingdom Newsletters on a regular basis.

Go to top, 2., 4.

3. Reduce the size of the Corporate Office.

Most of the size of the current Corporate Office is necessitated by the processing of "memberships" and the maintenance of the Stock Clerk. Moving the files to a storage facility and the Office to a much smaller venue would save the SCA, Inc. a lot of money. A one-time write-off to break the current lease would be necessary, but would be handled by using the reserve funds which the SCA, Inc. currently has. (The current price of the Office is $1.30/sq.ft./month, and the current area of the office (calculated from the Budget) is about 3600 sq. ft.  Current costs for office space in the Bay Area are on the order of $0.85/sq.ft., according to local reports, and we don't need 3600 sq.ft. if we are not storing the waivers in the Corporate Office, which we aren't.)

My estimates of the new Corporate Budget, based on information available from the published Budget plus a few assumptions on the unpublished salaries of the current paid officers is as follows:

Board Meetings:  This value is taken from the current published Budget. $42,000
Salaries and Stipends  This assumes that the stipends for the three paid Officers of the Corporation, the Soc. Sen., Exec Asst, and Treasurer are $15K each ($45K total) and that the Admin. VP will receive $35K total salary. The Board of Directors will have to validate the total based on actual values. $80,000
Benefits (20%) This includes un-employment insurance and retirement, but not medical benefits, The percentage is taken from the current Budget. $16,000
Insurance  (This year's cost was $72K, according to the Budget.) $75,000
Rent & Utilities (This assumes that we can rent a small office for under $1200/mo, a not-unreasonable figure, even in the S.F. Bay Area.) Note that this office would only be small compared to the current office -- it would have more than enough room for two clerks in addition to the Admin. VP. $20,000
Accountant/Bookkeeper (Probably generous, given the reduced number of transactions.) The amount was calculated by taking 2/3 of the current Budget. $10,000
Legal, supplies, etc. Mostly Legal, as supplies should be a minimal expense for the reduced office. $10,000
Telephone  (Over-generous in my opinion, due to the reduced need to contact the Corporate Office about membership.) $ 5,000
Director/Officer Expense  (Being generous - most SCA Officers donate their costs. The amount was taken from the current Budget.) $10,000
Insurance Certificates  (This is income from ordering Insurance Certificates, the cost is already in the line item for Insurance.) The amount was taken from the cuurent Budget. ($15,000)
Total Corporate Expense Budget:  $253,000

I feel that the accuracy of the final result is +/- 10%. The true result is, of course subject to verification of certain Budget items (notably salaries) by the Board of Directors.

Go to top, 2., 3.

4. Event franchise fees.

I based the proposed franchise fees on ease of calculation and upon my calculation of estimated income from the same, given below. The ease of calculation is obvious - count the number of attendees, based on the signed list of waivers and count of minor waivers, and write a check to the SCA, Inc. for that amount in dollars (x$5 for long wars and x$10 for Pennsic). Children 12 or under or any minor let in free to the event  would not count towards the total (note that adults let in free, such as Royalty, would count towards attendance). Events with a "family cap" on the price would involve a little extra expense for the event but not an onerous one. A group's right to hold subsequent events would be contingent upon paying the fee for the previous event. (It would be easily filed with the event report and the submission of the waivers to the Kingdom.) Group business meetings, fighter practices, guild meetings, demos and the like would NOT be charged the franchise fee. (See worked examples for details.)

Note that the exception for free events, ones which charge no site fee and spend little or no group funds, is designed to allow such events to continue to happen as free events. If a "free event" is actually being used to reduce group bank balances, the Franchise Fee will simply accelerate that process. The idea of an SCA event held by gathering in a local park to do our business is archetypal for the SCA -- it deserves to be encouraged, in my opinion. Further note that allowing free events to remain free in this fashion does not affect the overall income estimate due to the fact that they produce no "program related income" so they weren't in the calculation in the first place.

Note: The franchise fee is not based on the idea of  "fee for service", but on the idea of raising a sufficient amount of money to finance the Corporation in the least intrusive and most equitable (in the sense that every active member of the SCA helps) manner. The increased fees for "large/long wars" and Pennsic is based on the feeling of the Grand Council that to a certain extent the cost to the Corporation is proportional to the length of the event.

Income estimate. (Two columns are given., one (1) based on a single fee for Pennsic and one (2) based on a differential fee for Pennsic. The differential fee for Pennsic is based on $10 for the whole War and $5 for War Week only, split 50:50 on total attendance based on my observation that about half of the attendees show up in the first week and the remainder in the second week.) :

Income (1)
Income (2)
Pennsic War ( 10,800 (2002) to 12,500 (2001) attendees)  $108,000 to $125,000
$81,000 to $91,500
"Large/long wars" Currently I would include Estrella (est. 5,000 attendees), Lilies (est. 2,000), Gulf Wars (est. 3,000) and Great Western War (est. 2,000). Total 12,000 attendees. (Improved estimates of the number of attendees at these wars would be appreciated. Autocrats mail me here) (So far, no autocrats have contacted me.) $60,000
Other regular events. Total "program related income" reported on the IRS form 990 for 2000 (the most recent one available) is $2.6M. I am assuming that about $600,000 is from the large events (Pennsic total income is not part of our reported income; only the net to the Kingdoms). Assuming that the average site fee is $10/event this means that we have 200,000 person-events throughout the SCA in the United States (non-U.S. events are not included in the IRS statements). This will generate $200,000 at $1 per person per event. (This number is strongly dependent on the assumption of average cost per event. Various people have come up with the $10 average figure from their own areas, so I don't think it is too far off. Note that if the average cost is $8, then the number will go up to $250,000. If the average cost is $12, it will go down to $166,667. In either case the total will be more than is needed.) $200,000
Total Franchise Fee Income to SCA, Inc.
$368,000 to $385,000
$341,000 to $351,500

The total is $368,000 to $385,000 ($341,000 to $351,500), a number sufficiently larger than the expected expenses to give me confidence that this plan is financially feasible despite the assumptions made. Any franchise fees from non-U.S. events or corporations (such as SCAA) would be "extra benefit" to the balance. If my estimates (both cost and income) are realistic, and I believe they are, then after the costs of transition, the operating reserve fund should build in two to three years to a one-year level (i.e. reserve funds would be equal to one year's operating expenses, a prudent level of reserve). At that point the franchise fees should be cut to 75% of my proposed initial levels. An alternate reduction would be to reduce the long event charges to $3 and $7 for long wars and Pennsic respectively.

Other Related Matters:
I based the 50% amount for non-U.S. events on the fact that most foreign currencies are substantially weaker than the U.S. dollar and the fact that currency conversion costs a substantial amount. Non-U.S. groups would be allowed to keep their franchise fees in house, to allow the SCA, Inc. to use them to offset costs for non-U.S. Board members, etc. Alternatively, the Board would negotiate with non-U.S.-based Kingdoms for some other form of franchise fee (based on the SCA Australia model).

The Board would publish and publicize, on a regular basis, balance sheets showing income and expenses, a task which will be far easier under this plan than it is currently.

Those people who are currently members will receive all benefits for which they have paid, to wit: their newsletter, CA, and T.I. subscriptions. Any money beyond that was a donation to the SCA, Inc., and should be regarded as such. Thank you very much and all U.S. citizens get a potential tax write-off.

(Continue on to Discussion of Implementation)

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