A Message From Your President
Should SIOP move faster on our strategic priorities? I’m devoting my last president’s column to an examination of this question, and an upcoming vote of our membership will ask each of us to answer it for ourselves. The balloted proposal concerns a dues increase, and the voting membership must approve the proposal if it is to move forward. I see this vote as a critical step in the growth of SIOP; let me explain why I see it this way.
As a professional association, SIOP currently provides many services that help to maintain and enrich our membership at all levels. Vehicles such as our annual conference, the IOP journal, the website, and this publication serve to educate us and enhance the ties that bind us together as a profession. These are just a few of the most prominent examples. Membership survey data show these services to be perceived very positively by a large majority of us. These services are supported by a small and extremely effective administrative office. We are fortunate to have them. Our current revenue structure, consisting of a mix of conference fees and membership dues, pays for the staff and these services. We keep a balanced budget and often have a little bit left over to support a couple of small strategic projects or additional services each year. SIOP is conservatively managed and financially healthy.
There are just two issues with our finances. First, they don’t provide much flexibility to support the many special requests that come to the Executive Board (EB) each year. Second, our revenue structure is unbalanced, with too small a percentage contributed by member dues; I will return to this second point later. The first issue is paramount in my view because it’s the new projects that are designed to advance our strategic objectives. (See siop.org/reportsandminutes/strategicplan.aspx for a list of these goals.)
Project funding requests come from many directions, and the majority of them are good ideas that our member–volunteers see as vital for the advancement of some aspect of the field. Proposals that come to the EB are carefully constructed and promoted by SIOP members who have deep passion for the issues they seek to address. It’s not uncommon for the member or committee chair who put the energy into the proposal to come to the Board meeting in person to present the idea. Often the energy is contagious, as the Board sees the value behind the idea.
And then a cold reality sets in…if the request requires funding, there is usually very little room to support it under our current revenue structure. The chill leads to suggestions that perhaps the idea could be accomplished in smaller phases, over a longer period of time, or with volunteers instead of professionals, and so on, to reduce the cost. Unless expectations have been clearly set ahead of time, the members who have the most passion for the original ideas often feel let down. A past president once described this recurring pattern as similar to a balloon being inflated as interesting proposals gain energy, and then they are squeezed down by the EB, slowly being deflated until they are a weaker version of their former glory.
The real issue here is not just that we are disappointing members who have good ideas for new projects. Rather, the fact is that these newly proposed projects are most often focused on the things we need to do to advance SIOP’s strategic goals. The recent membership survey showed that many members feel that SIOP should be doing more to advance these goals. Some of the lowest rated items on the survey involved satisfaction with our advancement in the areas of visibility to business (46% satisfied), visibility to others areas of psychology (51% satisfied), and advocacy of our science (52% satisfied). Compared to satisfaction levels with our traditional membership services such as TIP (89% satisfied) and the website (80% satisfied), satisfaction with progress on our strategies rates quite low.
This is a problem we can fix. Over the course of the past year, our newly empaneled Strategic Planning and Policy Ad Hoc Committee, building on the work of our past financial officer Mort McPhail, took a close look at the structure of our revenue sources and recommended adjustments. A subcommittee of the EB (Tammy Allen, Kathleen Lundquist, and Eric Heggested) developed several models for how we might adjust the dues structure, and after input from the full Board, a proposal was developed for member consideration.
The SIOP Bylaws allow the Board to enact small increases in member dues as needed without a member vote; larger increases require approval of the membership. Some options the subcommittee put forward would have required multiple small increases across several years. Another option addressed the issue more quickly and required a vote of the membership. There was agreement among the Board that we should recommend the larger increase and bring the issue to the membership at large for their input. In January, the Board approved a proposal recommending that member dues be set at $100 and retiree/student dues at $50. This represents a $31 dollar increase for members and $15.50 for others. A comment period began when the proposal was announced in late January, and the vote will likely be held during the month of April.
As of this writing, some 1,495 people have viewed the article describing the change, and 33 comments have been submitted. Some commenters wondered about exactly how the funds would be used if the dues restructuring proposal is passed, a good question that I answered online and one I will address here also.
The funding will be used to support future projects of strategic importance to the Society. If funding is approved this year, the projects we have in motion now will be first in line. Examples of these efforts include:
- Research and development to support a rebranding effort for SIOP. This project is focused on improving the manner by which SIOP represents itself and the field to external audiences such as the press, business, government agencies, and university administrators. I wrote about this project in my January 2013 column.
- Advocacy support. We have an effort underway to add both internal and external support to promote I-O science and practice in the federal sector. Examples of this work will be to place more I-O psychologists in federal advisory committees and as witnesses in congressional hearings on workplace issues. The effort will advocate for more grant funds for our science and monitor legislation that affects our practice. This project has been evolving slowly for years and can’t move to the next phase under the current revenue model.
- Relationships with partner organizations. In recent years we have established ongoing connections with organizations such as the United Nations, the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB), and the Federation of Applied Brain and Behavioral Sciences (FABBS). Each of these has new costs associated with sending our liaisons to meetings related to the licensure of psychologists while ensuring the unique needs of I-Os are recognized (ASPPB), with joining other associations in science advocacy (FABBS), and with promoting I-O internationally (UN).
- Job analysis of I-O work. This is another project that has been proposed over the course of several years, and we have finally embarked on the initial phase of work. The results will inform education and training standards and help to differentiate us from other areas of psychology, when positioning ourselves in discussions about licensure and certification, for example.
In addition, later pages in this issue describe an emerging project to establish a dialogue with the EEOC regarding contemporary selection practice. This is another example of an opportunity that will likely need funding to support meetings on the endeavor.
These projects will help to extend our influence as a profession; they need to be supported if we are serious about our strategic objectives of being a visible and strong advocate for the field. If the proposal passes, by the time additional funding is available, new projects will surface to add to this list. The issue is not the support of one project or another; it’s about providing SIOP with the budget flexibility to execute projects that allow us to advance our strategy.
If the proposal is not supported, there may still be a need to raise dues. As mentioned above, under our current revenue structure, dues make up only about 20% of our total revenue, and this is less than what is needed to sustain our operations. Other sources of revenue, such as conferences, workshops, publications, and other fees provide the balance of what is needed, but these sources are more variable from year to year and are thus difficult to use when planning for long-term projects. In addition, operating costs continue to rise and the demand for increased services continues. Twice in the past few years the Board has asked our standing committees to cut their budgets in order to balance the budget. The Board will likely need to enact smaller dues increases over a longer period of time if the larger increase is not supported. Although many thoughts and ideas are being discussed to increase SIOP’s revenue, a more appropriate dues structure is a key part of the overall strategy.
The Board does not approach the issue of dues increases lightly. Analysis and debate on the issue has been ongoing since last spring. After careful consideration we decided the best thing to do was to recommend an approach that would ask the membership to voice their support. Should SIOP accelerate progress on our strategic goals? If so, we need to approve the funding to help move us forward. I will be voting “yes.”