Like many professional scientific societies, the Society for Marine Mammalogy relies on a vibrant membership to thrive and accomplish our important work. You are all vital to the science and conservation mission that is core to our community. Similarly, the registration dues you pay are critical to maintaining the services provided by the SMM. Many years ago, the SMM provided three primary roles to our members: 1) form a network of marine mammal scientific practitioners; 2) produce a high-quality scientific journal; and 3) host a biennial meeting. Over the years, the Society has evolved, growing to meet the wants and needs of its diverse membership while maintaining our flagship products.
We continue to expand the support we provide to our global community of students and non-student members from low-income countries to attend and participate in our conferences. Our Small Grants in Aid of Research program provides funds to help support marine mammal research in countries where scientists have less access to research funds. 2021 saw the launch of our Conservation Fund to invest in research and conservation actions focused on some of the world’s most imperiled marine mammal populations. We offer webinars and podcasts to share your science with the broader marine mammal community and general public and to tackle important diversity and inclusion issues. SMM programs stretch beyond those listed here and we want to do more – like creating a fund that will help young researchers take advantage of internships that might be financially impossible for them to participate in and online training courses/webinars for members. All of these rely on a mix of membership dues, donations, and returns on our financial investments.
As a result of this expansion, our general operating costs have increased. Our Board of Governors and committee members are voluntary, but we do have some limited support staff that provide vital service to the SMM community. We have a website that must be maintained. Costs for everything, including the journal, continue to rise. We have rarely addressed these rising costs through changing our dues structure. As a global society, we are the collective voice for marine mammal conservation and science, and we use our voice in presidential letters, meetings and discussions with policy makers, and serve as a hub that keeps marine mammal wellbeing in the global spotlight. We want a long and increasingly impactful life of our Society, so we are now exploring a much needed update to our membership categories and dues
Easing the Cost Burden of Membership Dues for Members Early in Their Careers
We want to make sure that students and people early in their professional careers have access to our community. We will be doing this in multiple ways with the first being through restructuring membership dues (see below). With the new dues structure tied to income levels, researchers early in their careers beyond school will be paying reduced membership dues until they move into higher income categories. For students, we are proposing to extend the grace period for who is considered a student by one year (to a total of two years after graduation), understanding that finding employment after graduation can be a challenge. This second action requires modifying our governing documents via a vote by members.
Stabilizing Revenue Streams to Support SMM Grants, Awards, and Other Activities
Every two years the SMM has a surge in membership at registration time for the biennial followed by a precipitous drop in membership one year later. This “boom and bust” membership trend makes SMM financial planning difficult and limits our ability to consistently support the many services we want to provide our membership. We are currently proposing that the one year option for Full members from high income countries be removed. This would be accompanied with an increase in the rate for non-member (high income country) registration fees for conferences.
Changing Dues Structure for Membership
There are a couple of reasons for moving towards this new scheme for membership dues. The first, and most important, is to link membership dues to income and, therefore, distribute the financial burden more equitably across the membership. The second is to reduce the types of membership to simplify membership management. We propose to eliminate the Associate Membership category which will mean that all dues-paying members have equal rights within the Society to vote and provide input on SMM activities. It will also close a loophole that allows people to register at a lower “associate” membership rate and take advantage of the reduced conference cost, which was costing the Society thousands of dollars in lost membership fees.
Proposed 2022 Membership Categories and Fee Structure
Below are the proposed fee changes and simplified membership categories. Please note that for the regular member, the costs are for a 2-year membership. There will no longer be 1-year memberships in the current proposal. To aid in converting from USD to your currency you can use this site.
Regular Member (based on annual income in USD) – 2 years only
❑ $160 (< $40,000 gross annual income) – This would be a decrease of 20% of current membership cost. As a significant number of members could be in this category, the funding loss to the Society will be offset by an increase in dues to wealthier members.
❑ $200 ($40,001 – $60,000). 0%
❑ $240 ($60,001 – $100,000) – This would be an increase of 20%.
❑ $340 ($100,001 – $150,000) – Increase of 70%
❑ $440 (> $150,001) – Increase of 120%
❑ $500 Supporting Member (members who wish to support the Society’s work by paying a higher fee)
Regular Student Member
❑ $90 Student Member (2 years) / ❑ $55 Student Member (1 year)
Student membership extends 2 years after graduation.
There is no change here and the 1-year option remains.
❑ $50 Regular (2 years) ❑ $30 Regular (1 years)
❑ $30 Student (2 years) ❑ $20 Student (1 years)
Low income country members would get free online conference access in the future to maximize inclusion. The SMM would pursue additional funding support from sponsors to maintain this benefit.
❑ $2,400 Life Membership, one-time payment. This would be the equivalent of about ~20 yrs of Regular Membership in the $60-100k salary bracket.
So Let’s Have a Conversation
We know that these are pretty significant changes we are proposing and we would like to receive input from you before we provide the final proposed changes in early January before the membership vote in March. You can provide input in multiple ways. First, feel free to comment in the box below. These are public comments and it does provide an opportunity for other members to build on any points you might make. We will respond to clarifying questions as quickly as possible, but not comment directly on any suggestions made here. If you prefer email, you can send a message to our email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequently Asked Questions
We will post any regularly occurring questions we receive here to help you in your consideration of these proposed changes.
- How will you confirm an individual’s salary level at the time of their registration?
A. We won’t. This will be based on an honor system. We are all working towards the same goal of understanding and conserving marine mammals. In joining our community you are demonstrating your support for that goal and for the many great programs we offer. We are confident that everyone will register in good faith.
- In my country my salary is less but my expenses for medical, education, etc. are less meaning my useable income is more equivalent to a higher salary in USD. This means I could register at a lower rate but could afford more. Should I be registering in a different bracket?
A. This is a great question. It is hard to compare salaries and disposable income from one country to the next. We ask that you consider registering at a level that fits your income. If you can afford a higher registration rate, know that the funds are going to support students, scientists, and conservation programs around the world. Your registration dues make amazing things happen.
- It is nice to see lower rates for people working at a lower income, but some of the other dues seem like large increases. Will this result in a significant increase in funds for the Society?
A. We realize that these are some significant proposed changes to dues. As stated above, our first goal with these changes is try to make our dues structure more equitable by linking it to income. We don’t currently have income data for our membership so it is very difficult to estimate what this would mean in terms of increasing/decreasing revenue from membership. If we are able to maintain or expand our current number of members then we expect a relatively small increase in revenue from registrations. Once we have moved through a one or two membership cycles we will assess if any further changes to our dues are needed.
- Are there other ways to increase revenues other than changing membership dues?
A. Yes and will be exploring those as well. As stated above, these changes will not likely result in significant changes in revenue. Rather it will redistribute the burden more equitably and stabilize our income stream from dues. We will be exploring ways to increase donations, sponsorships, and advertising through our many electronic platforms. We are also going to explore ways to ensure that all conferences generate some minimal amount of revenue which would be more in line with our professional societies. When these other income streams are developed we will look at changing dues and shifting them downwards if appropriate.
- Even with the reduced rate for the lower income bracket may be too expensive for me. Is there any consideration for that?A. Yes. It is important to remind everyone that the SMM strives to be as inclusive a Society as possible, and it is our policy not to deny membership to the Society due to lack of funds. Should you wish to become or remain a member of SMM, but are currently faced with extreme financial hardship, or are unsure as to your status, please contact the Membership Chair.
More to come. Please comment below!