Let’s cut to the chase: ACES raised its membership and conference rates.
It’s going to cost you an additional $20 a year to be a full member and an additional $25 to attend the conference. So, worst-case (or best) scenario, you have to shell out an extra 45 bucks.
I can’t imagine any of you greeted the news with a standing ovation at your desk. As Daniel Hunt mentioned on FB and Neil Holdway’s article covers, no one on the board was cheering the decision.
I cannot remember a year since I joined the board where the issue of raising both hasn’t come up. There have always been solid arguments on both sides.
The devil on one shoulder says: The amount of money ACES spends each year, per member, exceeds the price of membership. The amount of money ACES spends for each conference attendee exceeds the cost of what we charge for a conference.
The angel on the other says: Copy editors rarely get the company training bucks, and they so desperately want and need training that we owe it to them to provide low-cost, quality training.
And the pragmatist in the middle is screaming: This is a really dumb way to run a business.
The board knew that if we weren’t going to raise your rates, we were going to have to make some serious cuts. Among those considered:
Headline contests: Cut the number, cut the prizes, spike the plaques, raise entry fees. One of the greatest things we as an organization can do is draw attention to copy editing by celebrating the great stuff you do. If we don’t have prizes or reward you with some cash, we lose oomph out of that celebration.
Robinson Prize: Eliminate, charge more to enter, cut the amount of the prize. We actually voted to cut the prize amount, then, after much hand-wringing, voted it back in. Yes, headlines get the splash (and are really relevant to only some of our membership), but what we do day in and day out is critical — and should be celebrated. What we do inherently isn’t flashy, so we need to celebrate and promote it in the flashiest way possible: with cash and a sassy plaque. Also, some of us were troubled, and rightly so, that an award of this caliber would be “worth” less than the scholarships we were awarding if we cut the $3,000 prize.
Conference costs: Cut out the coffee, cut out the Thursday reception, eliminate the banquet, tell speakers they can’t use projectors, let room rates be higher, cut the conference to two days, ditch conference bags, cut the conference completely. We did cut the coffee, and we’ve cut back on merchandise and goodie bag stuff while the board has pinched every penny: Lisa McLendon and Deirdre Edgar have organized sessions so we’re using fewer projectors, and Daniel Hunt brought a printer so we wouldn’t have to pay copying fees, for example. The reality is, hotels make their money on the food and beverage section of the contract. If we don’t have a banquet, we can’t negotiate a decent room rate and/or we don’t get meeting space for free. And let’s face it: Most of you are now paying for the training out of your pocket and coming on your vacation time. History has shown you’re not so willing to do that for three days a a HoJos in the North Woods … and you shouldn’t. Having a conference with some amenities is a better alternative than a bare-bones one that few attend. (It should be noted that we don’t pay our speakers — we actually make them pay to attend the conference. The networking/social events is a key reason many are so willing to donate their time.)
Board costs: Yep — you pay for me to be your president. You don’t pay me a salary, but you do cover my travel cost to the conference and midterm meeting, as well as the cost of other board members whose companies don’t pick up the expenses. That cost is rising as many companies have cut back and most of us are experiencing pay cuts or freezes. We debated cutting the size of the board (and still may) and cutting reimbursements. We split that one by cutting out some expenses but not all (also worth noting that board members are required to pay full membership and conference registration fees). What’s great about your ACES board is that it’s made up of real people who edit or teach editing. They come from big companies and small. I fear if we didn’t cover expenses for board members, we’d end up with a bunch of fat-cat figureheads who are looking for a notch on their resume. In addition, people on the board work very, very hard and put in hours upon hours a month. I can’t look any of them in the eye and say, “Now, pay your own darn way to New Orleans on top of working for us for free.” We did cut out the $30 max reimbursement a day for meals, and some of us are doubling-up on hotel rooms (here’s hoping Lisa McLendon is not a blanket hog!).
Research: We just launched a big research initiative that we could eliminate. On the other hand, research is one key way we can help you fight for your jobs by giving tangible proof that what we do matters. Part of our core mission is to be advocates for copy editors. Research is valuable way to do that. Research also will help us get noticed as we seek new funding sources.
Cut internships: Well, crud. Part of our job is to help copy editors and train those of the future. Cutting out internships seems in conflict with that. And frankly, part of what we need to do as an organization is convert all those lovely college graduates who are grateful for the scholarship, internships and student rates into full-paying members who come to conferences after they graduate. It also gets our name out among academics, who drive membership and research benefits. The internship is a small price to pay for those benefits — plus, we get awesome labor out of it. We did work out a deal with the Education Fund to split the cost of interns.
Cut other per member costs: Don’t print a newsletter, raise rates for students, don’t send welcome packets to new members, don’t run a website, don’t explore any new initiatives like an ACES app, online training or a freelance budget. We went around in a circle so many times on not printing/mailing the newsletter or charging an additional fee to do so that Gerri Berendzen and I almost came to fisticuffs (just kidding, sort of).
Cut the Executive Director job: We do pay Rudy Bahr a salary, and he knows the absolute minimum expectation is that he has to save or earn us enough money to cover the cost of his pay. And we have big expectations on top of that. I can tell you that already Rudy has saved us a significant amount of money by negotiating hotel contracts (let’s face it, Lisa McLendon really needs to focus on other things). He’s helped us get our strategic plan in order — which we need to have on record when we apply for grants. He’s converted ACES proper into a 501(c)3 so we can seek/accept grants and donations. And he’s doing all the research and filling out all the grant applications (that paperwork really requires some special skills). The reality is, no one’s going to knock on our door and beg to give us money. We need to be aggressive in getting it. Cutting the ED position would be cutting off our nose to spite our face.
In the end … raising your membership rate $20 and conference fee $25 is where we ended up after all this exploration, research, discussion, hand-wringing and soul-searching. Instead of thinking that your $45 is going into some financial abyss, know that it’s funding the headline contest, the website, the Robinson Prize, a student’s internship or discounted membership, the newsletter and research. If you’ve managed to make it to this graph, I’m a little amazed. If you found it hard to read through all this, just imagine how hard it was to sit through hours of conference calls and meetings trying to reach the decision.
You may not agree that we made the right decisions on what to keep, what to cut and what to increase, but I wanted you to know that the decisions were not easy for the board members. And I’m proud of all of them for their ability to find a balance their passion with good business judgment.