Author Topic: Membership - should we talk about this?  (Read 2910 times)

Offline jared

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Membership - should we talk about this?
« on: December 12, 2015, 10:55:46 AM »
I wasn't at the AGM, so apologies if there was lots of discussion around this (and if there was, I'd love to know what was said), but I was a little shocked to read this in the November email bulletin:

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We have 214 active members. This is a reduction of about 60 from last year. One of the main reasons for the difference in this could be the difference in renewal dates with the conferences about a month different (September last year, end of October this year). Thatís still a relatively sizeable drop. We dropped by 11 in 2014, but 80 the year before that.

In three successive years, we've dropped 80, 11 and 60 member. Which means we've lost roughly 40% of our membership in a three year period.

Shouldn't we be... panicking?

Offline Peter Coleborn

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Re: Membership - should we talk about this?
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2015, 12:33:26 PM »
I'm not convinced that the timing of FantasyCon is the issue, assuming members pay their subs on the anniversary of their initial joining (with lots of reminders). I think the main issue is value for money (or perceived value for money). I know that Phil desperately wants to increase membership levels and this will only happen when BFS publications are once again  regular (yes, I know, it's getting there), when its online activity increases, and perhaps investing in promotion/advertising/a presence at other events (eg Edge Lit, Eastercon). And of course ensuring that FantasyCon continually improves.


Offline Jen

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Re: Membership - should we talk about this?
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2015, 04:26:05 PM »
Thing is, though, what can paying for membership of the BFS get members that they can't already get for free elsewhere?  You don't need to be a BFS member to go to Fcon and the con member discount isn't reason enough to stump up for a BFS membership on top.  And what is in the publications that can't be found online quicker and for free these days? You can connect with authors and artists and the like, and keep up with your genre mates easily enough across social media and live events, so where's the BFS' unique selling point?  Do you want to stay a mix of fans and professionals, or do you want to target aspiring professionals and be the British SFWA, or two-tier the membership so you have a fan level and a professional level with bonus related services?  Do you want to expand your international membership base? How are you going to make it easy and affordable for international members to benefit from their membership?  Will there ever be a fixed rate digital only membership?  ;) 

Possibly the BFS needs to start thinking how it's going to evolve as an organisation as it's really not changed much in twenty years or so, and the rest of the world has.




Offline Peter Coleborn

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Re: Membership - should we talk about this?
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2015, 06:20:46 PM »
If one has time, sure, one can visit a myriad of websites and forums to keep in touch. The BFS website could and should be a nexus for its members (and others?) to access the WWW. I think.

Offline joshua rainbird

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Re: Membership - should we talk about this?
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2015, 01:57:18 AM »
Jen has hit the nail on the head

When I think of the BFS, rightly or wrongly, I think of it as a weird literature group that expresses some interest in other genres.

I'd like to see more recognition of art, both digital and paint/sculpture (there were no illustrations inside the recent Horizons.)

Personally, I would like to see a mentoring service really lifting off - particularly with practical advice for budding writers/artists on the tricky stuff like navigating markets, professional boundaries and common pitfalls regarding tax returns, etc. I'm not suggesting nappy changing but somewhere on the site that directs people to good sources of information for neophytes would be handy (Peter's nexus idea, perhaps.) The BFS has prided itself on its goodwill and networking and I feel that this is its unique selling point at the mo' but there does not need to be only one selling point.

And how about an annual open art competition run on similar lines to the short story comp?
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Offline jared

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Re: Membership - should we talk about this?
« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2015, 03:11:30 PM »
I agree with a lot of everyone's comments. The value for money point that Peter raises and the... uh... more existential (seriously, who are we for?) questions raised by Jen both make a lot of sense to me.

I mean, for casual chat about fantasy and/or fantasy news, it is hard to compete with all free stuff available on the internet. The two selling points we've got when it comes to readers are 'limited edition' publications and the opportunity to vote in the awards. There are also more outlets to get published than ever before (including self-, small- and digital-), many of which pay more and have wider readership (as well as the regularity issue that Peter mentioned).

It does seem that the professional aspects of the BFS are the hardest to find elsewhere - a Society of Authors membership, for example, is a lot pricier. But right now, those professional aspects consist of informal networking events and the occasional advice-oriented panel at FantasyCon.

This all sounds negative, and I don't mean it to be. The committee and the Fantasycon teams are hard-working and enthusiastic. But we're clearly on a (negative) membership trend and there do seem to be the recurring 'who are we for?' and 'what do we offer?' questions.

Offline Phil Lunt

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Re: Membership - should we talk about this?
« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2015, 03:21:19 PM »
Quick response here but I'm not panicking at all, really. Publications are taking shape and moving forward, with content exclusive to BFS, as always. This has been a big issue, of late, and certainly one reason that members haven't been renewing but we're hoping to turn that around soon.

Andy is now on the case as Membership Secretary with new processes to hand with regards to keeping on top of lapsed memberships (which has been a problem recently).

There have been a few hiccups with regards to online content, and, yes, partly my fault, but issues are being resolved and the site will be built on going into the new year.

As for value for money and more member exclusive issues: we've taken on Allen Ashley as "Special Projects Officer" to specifically oversee this factor. I'm sure he'll be along soon to discuss some of the ideas that we're playing about with.

Obviously, I don't think we will ever be able to keep everyone happy all the time... time and resources being an issue, for one. 'Who are we for?' and 'what do we offer?' seem to be recurring mantras since before even I joined, though, but it's certainly something we're working on.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2015, 03:23:43 PM by Phil Lunt »

Offline littlepurplegoth

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Re: Membership - should we talk about this?
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2015, 04:59:17 PM »
I think that its worth remembering that email bulletins can be formed of opinions as well as facts.

A chunk of the prior drop was down to cleaning the membership lists of people who had expired and had not been renewed, across a period of time that was, um, hard to determine from looking at the available data.

there are thoughts underway wrt fantasycon & memberships. prices were set for 2016 before those commenced (so that is a 'watch this space' answer as much as anything).

a lot of the rest of this is... being worked on and worked on *hard*. it not being visible means that it is painstakingly careful to have to do... but we've had that conversation Jared :-)

publications are in a state of growth and flux, but again getting delivery and variety sorted will take time and are involving behind the scene negotiations that are complex and careful (we're working on a get it right first time, especially as some of it involves international tax laws so we really *can't* get that wrong).

Offline jared

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Re: Membership - should we talk about this?
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2015, 09:00:44 AM »
I have complete faith in the committee and the extended team!

I was just a little surprised at the three year trend, and that there didn't seem to be any chat about it.

This is a tangent, but whatever happened to the survey results from last year? Did I miss them?

Offline Rolnikov

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Re: Membership - should we talk about this?
« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2015, 10:24:30 AM »
Membership is back up to 276 now, which is still not great, but not as desperate as it was. I think there were some outstanding memberships to process at the time of the AGM, and I'm not sure joint members were included in that count, plus we've had a big friendly boost from FantasyCon.

Since then we've set up a Stats page on the membership spreadsheet so that the secretary and chair can see at a glance how many members we have right now, adding joint members, subtracting copyright libraries, etc. Should make it easier to keep an eye on trends, good and bad, and standardise the membership counts announced at each AGM. It also tells us how many copies we need to order of new publications.

People whose memberships expire stop being counted as members, so I don't think any of the drops can be put down to the membership list being cleaned. I think instead that first big drop in 2013 might be down to people who joined to show support in 2011/2012 wandering away again.

Jared, an article about the survey results appeared in BFS Journal #13. If you don't have that one in print, there's a download link in the last monthly bulletin. I think there's a link in the article to a spreadsheet of the raw data, too, if you want to have a root around in it!

Offline jared

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Re: Membership - should we talk about this?
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2015, 06:08:33 PM »
Oh, excellent! Thanks Stephen!

Also, I think this is probably right:

Quote
I think instead that first big drop in 2013 might be down to people who joined to show support in 2011/2012 wandering away again.

This is anecdotal evidence, but that category definitely includes a few people I know. I'm a realist, and know that some folks were never going to stick around, but, on the other hand, once someone is a member, it is a little sad that they're not finding enough (of something) to keep them sticking around. It is hard to recruit if you can't retain, and other pithy adages.

Offline jared

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Re: Membership - should we talk about this?
« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2015, 06:11:04 PM »
Also - doc found and excel downloaded as well. Thank you - have to say, that's wonderfully transparent. Love it.

Offline Rolnikov

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Re: Membership - should we talk about this?
« Reply #12 on: December 15, 2015, 07:57:56 PM »
Yes, from what I can tell we've been attracting plenty of new members over the last few years, but not hanging on to them. I think that in each of 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 we went five or six months without sending out any mailings - when you get to that point you're asking people to renew who haven't had anything from us for half their membership.

Offline Jen

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Re: Membership - should we talk about this?
« Reply #13 on: May 04, 2016, 06:47:18 AM »
Can I just say how very pleased I was to see the digital only membership sub option in the latest BFS email. Resubbed so fast I almost got whiplash!  Thanks peeps! ;D

Offline Rolnikov

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Re: Membership - should we talk about this?
« Reply #14 on: May 04, 2016, 09:29:15 AM »
Thanks, Jen! It's a soft launch for it at first, but it seems to be going well so far.