Dear RSA Members,
I am writing to bring you up to date on some important challenges RSA has been wrestling with and how the Board of Directors and Officers have decided to deal with them: by changing our membership fee structure.
What follows is a long explanation, structured in a way that I hope will allow you, if you wish, to find and read only the bare essentials.
Simply put, the pressing problem that RSA faces is this: we lack a financial and administrative infrastructure that can accommodate our size and complexity.
Here is fairly detailed description of the problem:
Although many experience RSA in the form of RSQ and the biennial conferences and institutes, the work of the Society reaches well beyond these. Since 2000, RSA has grown in size and complexity. Our membership has increased, from around 500 to highs that are more than three times in size and our conference attendance has increased from 300 in 2000 to 1600 at Atlanta in 2016. We did not have a summer institute in 2000 and now our biennial institutes regularly attract more than 500 participants. In 2019 we are initiating a second event, the RSA Summer Project, to provide another opportunity for our members to engage in focused interaction with colleagues who share their research interests. In 2000 we did not have student chapters, now we have more than 25 active chapters, each of which is eligible for RSA matching grants to support their activities, as well as competitive Special Events grants. In 2000 we did not have a book series and now we do through Penn State University Press, and we are pursuing other publication opportunities. The recent membership survey showed that the growth of RSA and its expanded services are important to members and may account for why nearly 50 percent of those responding to our recent member survey indicated they regard RSA as their primary organization.
In the years since 2000, RSA has had to contract with a software firm to manage our records and provide our website and an administrator of member services to keep our records and manage our books. In addition to a Membership Officer we have had to add an Electronic Communications Officer to upgrade our web presence, a Public Relations Officer to improve our internal and external communications, and a Public Humanities Officer to lead our public-facing initiatives -- all coming from the ranks of our membership. For these volunteers to do work that improves RSA’s capacity to address its members’ needs, we have had to provide them with modest budgets to secure needed assistance. We have also found the time required to administer RSA’s affairs exceeds the time commitment reasonable to ask of an academic volunteer and have had to hire an Executive Director.
The good news is that RSA has become a thriving scholarly society. Its conferences and institutes are showcases of exciting ideas and intellectual community that contribute a great deal to the interdiscipline of rhetoric and the professional lives of RSA’s members.
Simply stated, in order to establish a financial and administrative infrastructure that will initiate, sustain, and advance RSA’s good work we must change the structure of our membership fees and put in place a modest increase.
Here are the details:
To stabilize an unwieldy budget cycle the RSA Board of Directors is establishing a new dues structure in order to (1) ensure the stability of the Society and (2) accommodate the varied economic abilities of its members.
First, because RSA’s affairs run on a two-year cycle, we have redefined regular membership as for two years (while retaining the option for members to renew for one year only if they choose). This idea of defining regular membership on a two-year term was supported by over 80% of those who responded to our recent member survey. In moving to a two-year regular membership we have avoided imposing a stiff price increase, establishing it at a rate only slightly more than twice the current cost of a one-year membership. For student members, the new two-year rate has simply doubled the former one-year rate.
Second, the Board has approved a new dues structure with categories of membership more attuned to income, allowing people to join RSA at a level in line with their ability to pay regardless of whether they have a continuing faculty appointment or whether they are from the US or abroad. We have retained our student category and added a category for our retired faculty members. You can see the new dues information HERE.
There is one other change. Currently, your membership comes due on the anniversary of when you joined or last renewed. In the future, membership renewal will be due on January 1. The conversion to that January 1 renewal will begin immediately. Here’s how it will work:
Please know that as RSA leaders we work constantly to extend the reach of the dollars that you provide in membership fees as far as possible. We are satisfied that these changes will take us a long way toward putting in place a renewed financial and structural foundation for RSA that will render our work sustainable and enable the progress of that work in the short term and long term.
I, along with the Officers and Board of Directors, am grateful for your support of and participation in the good work of the Rhetoric Society of America.