Last Friday, it was announced that effective immediately, membership dues in USPSA would be increasing between 50% and 120% depending on the type of membership. This has caused a lot of discussion within the membership. Below is my letter to the board, submitted today via email.
Members of the Board,
Like many members of USPSA, I was unpleasantly surprised last Friday to read the announcement in the board minutes that annual dues were increasing by more than half, effective immediately. Rumors have been swirling for months that an increase might be coming, but to have it become reality effective immediately was not a step I thought the board would take.
I was shocked for a few reasons.
First, there was no case made at all to persuade the membership why this increase was necessary. We still have yet to see any financial reports from 2022, either the IRS Form 990 or the reviewed/audited financials from the accounting firm. All we have are rumors and hearsay about the size of the annual shortfall last year and the current rate of spending above revenues this year. There is no question that the organization is losing money, and the perception is meaningful efforts to cut back spending have not been undertaken. The appearance is that rather than fixing the leaks in the metaphorical bucket, instead the board is demanding the individual members pour more money in.
The only semblance at justification was the announcement issued, after the vote was taken and it was too late to register disagreement. The statement said in part, “every dollar of your membership fee is used judiciously,” which we are supposed to take on faith, given the lack of transparency and accounting around the financials going back to the beginning of 2022. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and we have been provided with none at all.
Second, there was no warning given. No opportunity for existing members to lock in a renewal for a few years or upgrade to a life membership before the rates went up. The fact that this was done with no notice to the membership indicates that the board knew that the membership would not approve, and if warned of the impending changes, would likely have renewed early to avoid paying the increased prices.
Third, the amount of the increase was large. The justification was that it was due to inflation, but at the same time it was because rates haven’t been raised in 20 years. You can’t have it both ways. If it’s inflation, then a raise commensurate with inflation, say, 10% might be appropriate. If it’s catching up for 20 years of lack of increases, then why the need to raise rates suddenly? Could it not be phased in over a few years?
Piece together these latter two factors, and it appears that the board is desperate for revenue, as if the financial crisis is large and extremely urgent.
Levying such a large increase, with zero warning to loyal members, and without any persuasion, only coercion, creates the perception that the board views the membership as having no other options but to knuckle under and pay it. The membership was not treated as partners or stakeholders to be convinced, but as subordinates to be ordered around, or perhaps subjects to be taxed.
There have been a host of alarming actions of the board over the past 6 years, but notably the membership did not get to have any input into any of those votes. However, every member gets to vote on whether to renew, and I think many members will choose to vote no if we do not reverse course immediately.
I have heard that there is a supplemental board meeting happening tomorrow, Wednesday, August 2nd. At this meeting, immediate action must be taken to attempt to undo some of the damage and show that the board listens to the members.
Accordingly, I ask that you discuss the following actions:
First, immediately roll back the changes to the fee structure. Allow members to renew their membership at the long-standing rates, as a token of appreciation for their loyalty and participation over the years. Make it known to new members on the fence that if they join now, they will lock in the savings for whatever membership they purchase.
Second, release the 2022 financial statements as well as the IRS Form 990. Release the report from the Fee Structure Committee, including their recommendations. Give the membership the same information you had at hand when beginning this discussion.
Third, make the case to the membership, the people actually paying the bills in this sport, as to the current financial projections, and how raising the dues will improve them. Make the case of what financial changes are being made to cut costs, and how much they are projected to save. Convince us, as an employee might convince their boss, that USPSA deserves a 60% raise.
Finally, allow members to provide comments to their Area Director so their voice can be heard. Once a proposal that is generally acceptable is reached, vote on it effective some date in the future, to allow existing and potential members to choose whether to go ahead and join or renew at the existing rates or not, as stated above.
The constant refrain throughout the swirling drama of the last few years is that none of it impacts the average shooter just competing locally, which has been true to some degree. However, by suddenly and dramatically hitting every member in the wallet, this has changed. I know the board is probably somewhat desensitized to outrage at this point, but this is a fundamentally different problem that must be considered carefully. You as the board have a small window in which to address this problem before the ink dries. Please do so.