Editor’s Note: The following communication from PRSA Chair and CEO Rosanna M. Fiske, APR, was sent Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011, to PRSA’s Leadership Team, which includes Chapter presidents; Section and District leaders; Board of Directors Members; and other PRSA leaders.
Dear PRSA Leader,
As we continue to engage PRSA members regarding the proposed 2012 dues increase, a question we’re often asked is, “What new benefits will we receive in exchange for paying higher dues?”
Over the past 10 years, PRSA has steadily increased member value by adding new products, services and other member benefits — all without increasing the cost of PRSA membership. While we’ll continue to look for ways to enhance member value and hold costs steady in 2012, several new-member benefits may be possible with the incremental revenue the proposed dues increase will provide; most prominent among them are:
Webinars included free with PRSA membership. PRSA is making plans to offer its entire catalogue of professional development webinars to its members — for free — starting in 2012. This represents nearly $2,000 in annual savings for members who participate in one PRSA webinar per month. It’s also consistent with the findings of PRSA’s 2011 Membership Value Perception and Satisfaction Survey, which confirm the high value our members place on free webinars.
To aid our local Chapters, PRSA will develop webinars exclusively for Chapter use in creating local professional development programs. This new benefit also will aid our Chapters’ local recruiting efforts. By making the total cost of PRSA membership competitive with the non-member cost to view a single PRSA webinar, the small price difference will encourage non-members to become PRSA members.
Loyalty programs to reward PRSA’s most-involved members. PRSA is planning to devise and implement loyalty marketing programs based on member involvement. These cross-channel programs will facilitate the engagement, retention and growth of PRSA’s member base and, by improving the value proposition of PRSA membership even further, also will aid in Chapter and Section recruiting efforts.
These are just some of the potential new member benefits we’re planning, in the event the proposed dues increase passes. Please also keep in mind that a portion of the dues increase revenue is necessary just to offset the financial shortfall that is currently projected for 2012.
If you have any questions or concerns about these programs specifically, or about the dues increase generally, I invite you to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rosanna M. Fiske, APR
PRSA Chair and CEO
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Free webinars would be an awesome benefit! Thanks for considering this.
If this doesn’t pass, what are the cuts that will happen to balance the budget? You shouldn’t expect to increase dues every time there is a budget shortfall projected. You should be looking at how to make the organization leaner, more productive, and more efficient.
Joe – Thanks for your feedback. It is impossible, at this point, to provide specifics on what exactly would be cut. As you can appreciate, we’re nearly a $12-million operation, and to say we could cut something across the board without proper vetting and consideration of how it would affect all members and our operations would be irresponsible.
We have been proactive in eliminating $1.5 million in operating expenses in recent years. This has included cost and operational efficiencies, elimination of underperforming products and services, staff reductions, a pay freeze, reducing Board travel and cutting sales and marketing expenditures.
As we do every year, we have begun our budget and operational planning process for the following year, and we’re looking at two scenarios — one including the dues increase and one without. Once we’re at a good draft point with both scenarios, they will be presented to the Board of Directors or the Board’s Finance Committee. The Board is the final approving body for the Society’s budget. Typically, no budget is finalized until the late fall in preparation for the new year. While we’re avidly working through the process, we will not be making any decisions on final plans or budgets until we have the assembly’s decision. Then we will look at the different scenarios and apply more specifics at that time.
If your chapter would like for one of our national board members or myself to participate in one of your board meetings to help explain the proposal and answer any questions, just let us know. We’d be happy to participate.
PRSA Chair and CEO
On the surface, this proposal seems like a great idea. We’re asking our members to pay more and offering them additional value that far exceeds the dues increase.
However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t raise a concern about how this proposal would affect our chapters (especially smaller chapters in remote areas), who often rely on these teleseminars and webinars for chapter-based programming and, in turn, chapter revenues. While networking remains a primary driver for participation in chapter events, these teleseminars can a provide a substantial amount of content to drive participation.
In addition, I worry that making these events free actually undermines their value. If we dropped the price to $25 for members, we’d be giving folks a tremendous deal, while keeping them invested in the value of our branded programming.
Furthermore, now that this benefit is on the table, how do we take it back (and start charging again) when PRSA’s resources run low again?
It’s hard to take a stand against anything that’s free, especially in this tough market. I just worry about what we’re getting ourselves into 5-10 years down the road.
Your points regarding the impact of free webinars on Chapters and the long-term impact of free webinars for members are well taken, Nancy. Both were considered and weighed as we have carefully studied and evaluated offering this valuable member benefit.
Let me affirm what I said on the post: We know the importance of Chapters and how critical it is to support them. Chapters are the lifeblood of PRSA. They are the No. 1 way that our members connect with each other, and stay connected to PRSA, both locally and nationally. We wouldn’t be as successful and prominent in advancing the profession if not for the tremendous value our Chapters offer their members.
And that’s why we’re going to continue to support Chapter PD offerings with webinars exclusively developed for Chapter use. This will help Chapters in creating local professional-development programs.
It’s also important to keep in mind that free PD is a fantastic recruiting tool for your Chapter. This members-only benefit will be a huge value-added to an already robust membership offering, and it’s one we believe will enhance Chapter recruitment efforts.
PRSA Chair and CEO
The real value in PRSA for me is in the local chapter. I do not think that a national dues increase should pass because I do not get the majority of the value of my membership from nationals. Therefore, I think that nationals should cut services, not raise dues, in order to achieve their financial balance.
In fact, I think that nationals is overpriced already. What I’d really like to see is a freeze of dues going forward. As inflation rises, the relative cost of nationals to members will be reduced. It also will force nationals to continue cutting services to balance their finances – based on what is nice to have vs. what is must have.
I reviewed a PRSA presentation that discussed the Value of Nationals, but remain unconvinced.
Thanks for your additional input, Chuck. Many of the local Chapter benefits you cite would not be possible without support from National. They simply would not exist if PRSA National did not exist. Therefore, it’s imperative that we pass a dues increase in order to continue to provide support for every Chapter, so that the benefits you enjoy, along with the other 32,000+ professional and student PRSA members, can also continue to enjoy. Additionally, a modest dues increase will help us introduce new benefits and new support options for Chapters and Sections, which will provide even greater value to all members.
Anyone seeking more information on the value of National and the support it provides all PRSA Chapters, I urge you to view this presentation: http://www.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/Leadership/LeadershipRally/ReportfromHeadquarters2011
PRSA Chair and CEO
Rosanna, thanks for the reply.
However, I don’t think we are talking about a binary issue. No one is saying that PRSA National should not exist, and therefore whether the local services would exist in that case is moot. I think, to the degree that the local chapters depend on National to offer its services, then National is important. However, I also think that there is a lot that National does that is not necessary, and that should be cut rather than increasing dues.
Second, I am not fond of the argument that local chapter benefits would not be possible without support from National and wouldn’t exist if National didn’t exist. “Therefore, it’s imperative that we pass a dues increase in order to continue to provide support for every Chapter… “That feels very Armageddonish – “if we don’t pass this, then the world as we know it ends.” It’s becoming a popular tactic these days among leaders but I don’t think it’s accurate or advisable.
Third, you say that “Additionally, a modest dues increase will help us introduce new benefits and new support options for Chapters and Sections, which will provide even greater value to all members.”
Value – additional or existing – is only “valuable” if the service being provided equals or exceeds the cost being paid. I don’t believe the additional services nor many of the current services are worth the cost we are paying, so I don’t believe they have incremental value.
I totally agree with Chuck’s comments. My feeling is the local chapter is where the action is, and the national organization adds very little to the experience. I’m not really interested in what they’ve “added,” since in my view they could eliminate a lot of what they are doing now.I also feel, as I’ve seen others express here and elsewhere, that being able to join the chapter only should be an option. I would choose that option. In their efforts to offer more marketing, advocacy, and lobbying at the national level, I’m afraid the national organization is likely hurting the chapters, and in so doing could eliminate what most of us experience and appreciate about PRSA. I hope that doesn’t happen, but I know I cannot justify this increase in fees, given I really feel I get nothing of use from the national body and get everything I need or want from the local chapter.
It sounds like the powers that be have made their decision, and they are going to move forward with this increase regardless of what the 20,000 members out there feel – some of whom I’m sure will agree with their move, and most (I’m thinking pretty sure) won’t.
We shall see if the membership numbers slip as a result, and whether that in and of itself brings the organization to just where we are now without an increase.
One of the disturbing things I also see with PRSA’s effort on their blog posts regarding this, is a push from the organization to “sell” this to our members. We are in effect being “PR’d,” trying to persuade us into thinking this is a good idea. If some / many don’t feel the National organization is adding the value those who work there feel it is adding, what then? Can you persuade me that you’re adding more things of value, and that makes the new dues rates better? I don’t think so, mainly again because I think the National organization is doing too much already, and not adding things of value.
I should note that I would consider supporting the local chapters and sections as a thing of value from the national organization. I’m not sure we need the HUGE infrastructure, or the New York City address to do that.
This is at least the third time I’ve considered dropping PRSA, and every time it’s been because of the national focus, and nothing to do with the local chapter. In the end, I chose to stay for the sake of the local chapter. I may go back to being one of the “a la carte” participants locally going forward.
I almost dropped my PRSA membership this year due to cost versus benefit analysis. I have not been able to participate in chapter meetings lately due to increased work load and timing conflicts, and I really questioned if it was worth paying the dues. In the end, I did keep up my membership and now I am glad I did, if only for the possible added benefits next year. I would gladly pay the higher cost next year if PRSA opens up its webinars for free. That would make it worthwhile to continue my membership. (By the way, I just spottted two free webinars I might be interested in signing up for as I was reading this topic).
I have recently registered for a free webinar and, while I appreciate and look forward to it, I note that it is free not only to members, but to nonmembers as well. Is this a mistake? Otherwise, where is the added benefit for membership?
I joined in 2010 as a student member while in grad school, but found that I was rarely able to participate in training events due to cost. My membership has lapsed, but I will rejoin knowing that the webinars will be free and that I can thus justify the cost of membership to my employer. This is a good change – thank you!