Putting Dues in Perspective

President's Column

After reviewing next year’s financial projections and expansion of AAPG services, the Executive Committee voted to set next year’s dues at $80 for Active and Associate and $40 for New Associate and Emeritus members.

To put next year’s top dues of $80 in perspective:

  • It is about the same as the top dues for SPE and SEG.
  • It is a 6.7 percent increase after six years of no change.
  • Based on AAPG’s annual salary survey, the average member will need to work less than two hours per year to pay for dues.
  • Dues will cost less than that of one cup of Starbuck’s coffee per week for a year.

As you can see from the above rationale, AAPG dues are relatively inexpensive for our “average” members. However, some current members and many prospective members currently earn considerably less than the average. AAPG dues, even the half rate for new Associates, are a deterrent for both retention and recruitment of some members.

In many parts of the world AAPG actually competes for members with SPE and SEG. Even though each organization offers different content to its members, prospective members are faced with a choice of joining only one organization.

Currently, both SPE and SEG offer graduated dues structures, and their dues are reduced from their top rate based on a member’s geographic location, years of experience or combinations thereof. Thus, some geologists are joining SPE or SEG but not AAPG simply based on the cost structure of dues.

AAPG does not have to imitate other organizations, just for the sake of following their lead. But SPE’s and SEG’s increasing memberships and AAPG’s flat to declining membership have certainly gotten the attention of your elected leadership for the past couple of years.

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After reviewing next year’s financial projections and expansion of AAPG services, the Executive Committee voted to set next year’s dues at $80 for Active and Associate and $40 for New Associate and Emeritus members.

To put next year’s top dues of $80 in perspective:

  • It is about the same as the top dues for SPE and SEG.
  • It is a 6.7 percent increase after six years of no change.
  • Based on AAPG’s annual salary survey, the average member will need to work less than two hours per year to pay for dues.
  • Dues will cost less than that of one cup of Starbuck’s coffee per week for a year.

As you can see from the above rationale, AAPG dues are relatively inexpensive for our “average” members. However, some current members and many prospective members currently earn considerably less than the average. AAPG dues, even the half rate for new Associates, are a deterrent for both retention and recruitment of some members.

In many parts of the world AAPG actually competes for members with SPE and SEG. Even though each organization offers different content to its members, prospective members are faced with a choice of joining only one organization.

Currently, both SPE and SEG offer graduated dues structures, and their dues are reduced from their top rate based on a member’s geographic location, years of experience or combinations thereof. Thus, some geologists are joining SPE or SEG but not AAPG simply based on the cost structure of dues.

AAPG does not have to imitate other organizations, just for the sake of following their lead. But SPE’s and SEG’s increasing memberships and AAPG’s flat to declining membership have certainly gotten the attention of your elected leadership for the past couple of years.

This situation reminds me of a quote from Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”


Should AAPG members be concerned?

If AAPG were like a commercial bank, we could envision members making “deposits” to AAPG in the form of new technical data and interpretations, attendance at conventions, purchasing books, etc. AAPG depends on its members to continually replenish and expand its technical database. Like commercial banks, AAPG must actively market itself to new account holders, even though most new members may only make small deposits at first. However, as new depositors mature and remain loyal, some will make major deposits or contributions.

If AAPG cannot attract these new members, we will suffer the consequences of a stagnating membership, much like a bank without new accounts.

AAPG clearly needs a graduated dues structure to be competitive on a global scale. Several committees and groups within AAPG, including the Executive Committee, Advisory Council, Ad Hoc Graduated Dues Committee and Membership Committee collaborated and conferred for the past year to recommend a graduated dues structure that would best fit our membership.

AAPG’s House of Delegates’ (HoD) leadership took the recommendation, modified it slightly and has now placed a Bylaw amendment on the agenda for the HoD meeting in Long Beach, CA on April 1.


The proposed amendment can be summarized as follows:

  • Member dues levels are created according to personal gross income in U.S. dollars. Level 1 – income greater than $50,000; Level 2 – $25,000-$50,000; and Level 3 – $25,000 or less. Each member is on their honor to correctly chose their dues class.
  • Level 1 pays full dues, which next year will be $80. Level 2 pays one-half of Level 1, or $40 next year. Level 3 pays one-fourth of Level 1, or $20 next year.
  • Dues based on any income level cannot be less than $20.

Ability-to-Pay Graduated Dues Structure

(proposed fee schedule)

Gross Personal Income(US$) Dues*(US$) Products*(US$) Options*(US$)
Level 1 >50k
$80
Explorer hardcopy/optional Bulletin  
Level 2 50-25k
$40
Explorer hardcopy/digital Bulletin $30 BULLETIN hardcopy fee
Level 3 <25k
$20
Digital only

$20 EXPLORER hardcopy fee and
$30 BULLETIN hardcopy fee

*Does not include postal surcharge for non-U.S. mailing.

At first glance, Level 1 appears to subsidize the lower levels. However, as shown on the accompanying table, Level 2 and Level 3 dues payers will receive fewer hardcopy products. These products and their delivery are a significant expense, so the reduction in dues revenue is at least partially offset by a reduction in expense.

Level 2 and 3 dues payers can still elect to receive hardcopy products by paying an extra fee. These additional fees may be adjusted in future years depending on costs.

The proposed graduated dues structure was termed “Ability to pay” model, but it could also be termed “You get what you pay for.”


Student membership dues will remain unchanged, and New Associates and Emeritus members can still pay one-half dues rate, according to their income level. But non-student dues cannot be less than $20.

The proposed dues structure has the following characteristics:

  • Minimal short-term financial impact on AAPG – Dues account for only about 13 percent of revenue and an estimated 90 percent of current members are in Level 1 category.  Also, Level 2 or 3 dues categories will have lower associated costs with digital EXPLORERs and/or BULLETINs.
  • Positive long-term financial impact on AAPG – Assuming some geologists have not joined AAPG because of the current dues structure, an increase in membership, even in Levels 2 and 3, will still boost AAPG net income in future years.
  • Independent of geography – Lower dues available to retired geologists, under-employed geologists, young academics in the United States, professionals in low-income international areas, etc.
  • It is optional – If gross personal income is within Level 2 or 3, member may choose reduced dues; default is Level 1.
  • Support from leadership – Both HoD leadership and Executive Committee endorse it, and it was recommended by Membership and Graduated Dues (ad hoc) committees.

Before the proposed graduated dues structure can take effect it must be approved by the HoD at its meeting in Long Beach on April 1. But I want all members to understand the proposal, so you can address your questions or comments to the delegates from your local society.

These proposed changes may sound complicated; but I recommend them, because I believe the proposed dues structure will help propel AAPG membership growth in the future. The tendency will be to focus on the details of the dues, but dues revenue is only about 13 percent of AAPG’s current budget. Much more important is the enrichment the organization will receive from new, contributing members that join because they can now afford the reduced dues.

I close with an American proverb, “You cannot leap a 20 foot wide chasm in two 10-foot jumps.” It is now time to take this important step for the future of AAPG.

‘Til next month

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