Proposed ASSE Dues Increase – Frequently Asked Questions

Apr 17, 2017

ASSE is proposing a dues increase that will be voted on at the House of Delegates meeting on June 19th.  Please review the below information and let your delegates know your thoughts/comments/concerns.  Your delegates are your current chapter president and current chapter president-elect (emails can be found on the Officer page).

Why is an increase necessary now? The Finance Committee regularly reviews ASSE’s financial situation.  Based on this review, the Committee judged that an increase is needed.  The Finance Committee and the Board of Directors are both very sensitive to membership’s need to keep dues as low as possible.  As a result, they look to grow non-dues revenue and control expenses before asking membership for a dues increase.

Who will be impacted by the dues increase?  The increase will apply to associate members, members, and professional members in the United States.  If approved, the increase would begin to be implemented in November 2017.

What about global members? At this time, global members are not impacted by this increase.   The Finance Committee will review the ASSE global dues structure in the near-term and recommend appropriate revisions.   Currently, members outside of the United States are divided into “Tiers” – 1, 2, and 3 – based on their country’s GDP.   Tier 1 countries include the U.K. and Canada.  Just last year, their dues were increased to $150.   Members in Tier 2 and Tier 3 countries pay a reduced amount.   Given the global economy and a strengthening dollar, it was felt that a separate review of global dues was necessary.

How does this increase impact students? Students will not be impacted by this increase.

I’ve heard that our dues revenue is “out-of-balance” – what does that mean? Based on association industry data, the Finance Committee set a guideline that ASSE revenue should be 1/3 dues and 2/3 nondues revenue.  This is based on benchmark data for associations of similar size and scope.  The intent is to diversify the ASSE revenue stream to avoid becoming overly dependent on a single event, product or service.  This ratio has declined from about 30% in FY2012 to just under 27% in FY2016.   Some of this decline reflects the fact that our “non-dues” revenue – PDC and Seminarfest has grown.  But reliance on events increases our financial risk.   Dues serve to moderate that risk by providing a steady revenue stream.

If you need more revenue why not increase prices at the PDC or Seminarfest? The PDC and Seminarfest have become significant events for ASSE and pricing is an important consideration in developing an outstanding event.  However, we need to be careful to avoid becoming overly dependent upon a single event.   From a financial point of view, this would be risky.

Why did you wait so long to seek a dues increase? The Finance Committee reviews dues annually and has a guideline to seek an increase when inflation is 10% or more or whenever it believes an increase is needed for the financial well-being of the Society.   At the same time, the Committee and the Board seek to keep dues as low as possible for our members.  So they refrain from seeking an increase until it is clearly needed.

Why not simply implement an “automatic” annual increase of some kind? Implementing an automatic increase is a consideration that has been discussed and is used by similar organizations.  In order for something like this to work, the automatic dues increase does need to be tied to a specific benchmark.  There is more work to be done if this is something the House of Delegates decides to implement in the future.  Any such proposal would be subject to the evaluation and approval of House of Delegates.  To reach ASSE’s financial goals we are asking the House of Delegates to consider the proposal at hand, an increase of $30, implemented over the next three years.

ASSE’s cost structure, why do salary and benefits account for 45% of the total? ASSE’s cost structure is not unusual for a service organization and is typical for an association.  According to the latest association industry benchmark data, salary expense remains the largest single cost for associations of all sizes and scopes.  For ASSE, staff partners with volunteer leadership to serve members and advance the profession.  We can only achieve our goals if we have both staff and volunteer leadership, working together.  Recognizing the importance of these costs, the Board regularly reviews them as part of the budgeting process and has engaged an outside consultant to assess total salary and benefit costs as well.  The intent of the Board’s regular review and consultant study is to ensure that ASSE staff salary and benefits are competitive in the local labor market.  Additionally, the Board has recently made significant organizational decisions – including, freezing the staff pension plan – which will help control benefit costs into the future.

Where can I find more information on ASSE’s financial results?  We are audited on a consolidated basis with the Foundation but we are separate legal entities.  So you should focus your attention on the “ASSE” column.  The audited statements are published annually in Professional Safety Journal, typically in the October issue.  Internally, actual financial results are reviewed, compared to budget and the prior year, on a monthly basis.  As with any business, this review helps us to identify and understand areas that are performing well and opportunities for improvement.

Where did the $30 proposal come from? The Finance Committee looked at a range of alternatives.  Based on the expected increase in revenue, the goals to minimize any dues increase and to minimize any membership attrition, this proposal was recommended.  It also happens to be the same as the last increase in 2009 which the House of Delegates approved.

Member attrition was a consideration in developing the proposal.  What happened when we implemented the last dues increase? When the last increase was fully implemented in FY2013, we found that membership had actually increased.    The same may or may not happen this time but association industry data suggests that increases of 20% or more will result in attrition.   The current proposal reflects an increase of 20% in total after 3 years, so the hope is that we will see little or no attrition.

Is an increase needed to pay for the new building? No.  The funds to buy the new building came out of ASSE’s investments in stocks and bonds, and the building is fully paid for.

Is the “old” building driving the need for an increase? No.  While the old building has proven to be harder to sell than was anticipated, we have greatly minimized the costs of carrying the building.  We continue to work with real estate professionals to sell the building.

Is an increase needed to pay for the “branding initiative?” No.  The rebranding initiative will generate some additional costs, estimated at $75k – $150k.  But these are one-time charges, not recurring expenses.  ASSE could fund these expenditures without a dues increase.  More importantly the decision to undertake the rebranding initiative was based on long-term considerations – the need to evolve our brand and image and to position ASSE for the future.

My chapter just raised its dues and now the Society is proposing a dues increase.  How can this be? The Society does not control the level of dues charged by chapters as these are separate legal entities, and chapter dues are set by chapter leaders and their members.  That said, the Finance Committee considered the total cost (Society dues, chapter dues, practice specialty fees) to a member.  The desire to minimize the total cost was an important driver in the proposal.

What will members gain from a dues increase? The increase will help the Board implement its 4 strategic initiatives for ASSE:  the Value of the Profession, Professional Development, Standards Development and Communities.    The increase will allow the Society to continuously improve the outstanding portfolio of member services and programs, including Professional Safety Journal, access to the PDC, Seminarfest and a wide array of outstanding professional development opportunities.  In addition, the Society continues to look for ways enhance the profession and to support our members.  Included here are investments in developing new, leading edge educational opportunities, standards development, networking through chapters, practice specialties, common interest groups and communities, and the IT infrastructure to support and enhance the member experience.

What is being done to control expenses to minimize the need for a dues increase? The Board of Directors, Finance Committee, and staff all recognize the importance of working to control costs and to eliminate products and services that do not add value.  After careful analysis and discussion, the Board voted to freeze the staff pension plan.  This significant action will over the longer term improve ASSE’s profitability and balance sheet. In addition, ASSE staff regularly reviews operating expenses; some of these efforts are shown below:  o Board restructured staff organization reducing salary expense. o Board implemented a hard freeze of staff pension plan.  o The salary budget is regularly reviewed as part of the operating budget process and ASSE expense is consistently below budget.  o Health insurance plans are reviewed annually.   o The use of technology has allowed ASSE to reduce the need for face-to-face meetings and related travel expenses. Costs to produce PSJ are regularly reviewed and analyzed.  o Outside specialists are engaged to help reduce our property taxes, utility bills, and credit card processing expenses.  o Decisions regarding expenditures consider the cost/benefit impact with the aim of reducing expenses.

What do members get for their dues? We believe that members get considerable value for their dues dollar, additionally so do our members.  ASSE consistently maintains a high retention rate and over 75% of members rate their member benefits valuable or highly valuable, when asked to consider the amount of dues paid.     ASSE Membership is a practical resource for improving your safety performance. Across all job levels, industries, and the globe ASSE Membership can connect you with the best solution and practices for your needs. o Unmatched networking opportunities with a community of 37,000 OSH Professionals.  o Monthly subscription to Professional Safety Journal – delivered to your doorstep, desktop, mobile device  o Access content, technical articles, and training materials on the Body of Knowledge  o Significant Member-only discounts on professional development, seminars, standards, and technical publications  o ASSE Member Only Webinars –  o Chapter Communities: Accessible, face-to-face networking and education in local OSH Communities o Practice Specialty & Common Interest Group Communities:  Access to subject matter experts, targeted virtual programming, and virtual networking relevant to your industry or who you are/who you work with.  o Opportunities to earn CEU’s/recertification points  o Leadership development opportunities  o Professional recognition & career development  o Government regulations news & information  o Support and advancement of the OSH Profession o Building consensus standards, which greatly influence & impact the practice of Safety  o Building awareness that safety is good business and a positive contributor to the bottom line of any organization.

How do I learn more?   Thanks for asking!  We want you and your constituents to have the information you need to make an informed decision.   • A microsite will be provided to you by the end of March proving details regarding this proposal.  • Leaders will have the ability to learn more and share their thoughts on the proposed dues increase recommendations through a webinar series which will be held throughout March & April.