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Guest Editorial

Why Do Volunteers Have To Pay Dues?
by H. Paul Shuch
Executive Director Emeritus

From time to time, I receive requests from active members to waive their annual dues, in consideration of their in-kind donations to our scientific mission. Our SETI League was established nearly 3 decades ago under the US tax code as a membership-supported tax exempt nonprofit. At our peak, we had 1500 dues-paying members, with revenues sufficient to support two fulltime employees, providing limited benefits and travel expenses for personnel, and a printed and mailed newsletter. All of our active members, committee chairs, and researchers paid dues, as well as volunteering their efforts. (Even paid staff contributed membership dues.)

One by one, as membership dues dwindled, those niceties eroded, so now we have essentially no income other than dues contributions from about 100 remainimg active members. But fixed expenses still exist, so this is not a sustainable business model.

Last year, with the pandemic crashing the economy in most developed nations, the Board used funds from a few generous donors to declare a dues holiday. All members who were in good standing throughout 2021 were given free renewals for 2022. Thus, this year we anticipate no income, and are surviving off of what little we managed to save over the years. Your Board continues to volunteer our efforts, while endeavoring to contribute financial support.

By the end of 2022, I expect we will need to reinstitute dues, or go broke. We will also need volunteers to run our scientific mission, and further, if we do not receive minimal contributions from the general public, our tax-exempt status is in jeopardy.

Every one of the several nonprofits I belong to relies upon both contributed services, and dues income from its volunteers. Without both, their missions cannot be sustained. That said, we will continue to make an effort to find support for any current volunteer/member who encounters financial difficulty. We are, after all, a family, and are committed to helping each other out.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in editorials are those of the individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of The SETI League, Inc., its Trustees, officers, Advisory Board, members, donors, or commercial sponsors.

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