For eight years, five months and counting, USPA members have enjoyed the longest run ever without a dues increase. That streak will end on January 1, when USPA dues and rating and license fees go up an average of 20 percent. No one on the staff or the board takes such action lightly, and both should be commended for making the 2009 dues change last as long as possible.
In 1963, our association’s member renewal fee was $10. Since then, member dues have increased nine times, with dues going up on average every 5.1 years by an average of 22.1 percent. That includes the 20-year period through 1983, a time of high inflation, when dues increased four times by an average of 33.7 percent.
Some ask, “But we have record membership, why are we losing financial ground?” This is an obvious and fair question, since USPA membership at the end of 2008 was 31,534 and the total is now 39,524 (and likely soon to top 40,000).
In the eight years since 2009, USPA’s annual expenses have risen by $621,668 or 22 percent. On a per-year basis, expenses have increased by an annual average of 2.9 percent (an average of $88,825 per year). In the same period, our annual operational revenue has increased by $615,922. Expenses have simply outpaced revenues.
To be sure, USPA has cut expenses wherever it could, beginning with staff consolidation. There were 35 full-time equivalent staff members in 1995, 19 in 2009 and only 16.5 now. We’ve also refinanced the loan on the USPA headquarters building, down from a rate of 6.1 percent to 3.08 percent. (The building will be paid off in 2021.) In 2007, the premium for your third-party insurance was $355,000. Today that annual premium is just $219,000. And dozens of other line items have been reduced, which is what an association should always strive to do.
Despite all efforts to contain costs, three facts stare us down. Overhead expenses have continued to increase over the past eight years. Pay scales for a few staff positions have not remained competitive with the job market. And growing demand for services by a growing membership requires the creation of up to three new positions.
Increases of less than 20 percent would have been the board’s easy choice, but it wouldn’t have been the responsible choice since it likely would have meant being forced to consider another increase in just two or three years. As we did with the 2009 increase, we commit to carrying the new revenues just as far into the future as possible.
With the new dues increase comes some important changes for foreign members. First-time dues and renewal dues will be the same for everyone, regardless of country of residence; foreign dues will no longer be an average of 15 percent higher than domestic dues. However, the print Parachutist magazine will no longer be an automatic benefit of foreign membership. Surface-mailed magazines have been problematic for years, with many foreign members experiencing very sporadic delivery and sometimes no delivery at all. Foreign members who want Parachutist can add the price of airmail delivery (currently $36 and much more reliable) on top of their dues. Foreign members can take some consolation: By the end of the year, all members will have access to a revived, active and engaging Parachutist Online, which will not only provide magazine content sooner but will also feature up-to-the-minute skydiving news and other content.
Look for a full financial report in the October issue of Parachutist.