One of the items of business for the Consortium board at our recent January meeting was to propose the dues level for 2012. As you may know, membership dues were introduced as an element of Consortium sustainability in 2010. Dues levels were set a level we hoped would not discourage new or existing members from participating in OCW Consortium activities, and were designed to take into account the differing economic circumstances of member organizations around the world. The current dues structure ranges from US $500 to US $50.
In addition to the regular dues, we have also encouraged organizations so positioned to become sustaining members, committing US $5,000 per year over five years, for a total of $25,000 in support. Fourteen organizations initially pledged support at the sustaining level, and we’ve been pleased to welcome two additional sustaining members in the past year.
I speak for the board and the staff when I say we have been very pleased with the response to the dues program, both from members paying the regular dues rate and from sustaining members. At present, the dues from these sources offsets about 10% of the annual US $700,000 cost of operating the Consortium. The Consortium is currently in the second year of a three year, $1.5 million grant from the Hewlett Foundation, which provides the bulk of the organizations operating funds.
Our financial projections indicate that ultimately within the next five years, dues will have to offset around half of the Consortium’s annual operating expenses, based on assumptions regarding other sources of revenue such as sponsorships and earned income. Our hope is that this increase in dues support will be accomplished largely through increases in membership, coupled with small reductions in overall budget and modest increases in dues rates.
Accordingly, the Consortium board is recommending a 5% increase in dues levels for 2012, as well as a reduction in Consortium operating expenses for 2012 of between US $50,000 and $100,000. Much of the ongoing cost of operating the Consortium is the staff salaries, so reductions beyond this level would likely result in staff reductions and reductions in services, which the board hopes to avoid. These measures, along with our best projections of other income sources, would keep the Consortium fully funded through the end of FY 2013 (June 2013).
The board will take a final vote on 2012 dues levels at the April 2011 meeting. Prior to that meeting, we welcome community input on the recommendation for a 5% dues increase. Comments may be send directly to me at scarson at ocwconsortium dot org. In addition, I’ll share that our budget projections assume four new sustaining members per year, and so I’d once again encourage institutions and organizations with the means to make this commitment, helping to ensure the Consortium’s ongoing sustainability.
President | OpenCourseWare Consortium