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Membership income & budgeting

by | Mar 2024 | SDA blog

I recently had a chance to review the SDA’s expenses and budget. Here are my thoughts.

As a democratic, non-profit scholarly association, SDA stewards the costs of convening academics and practitioners through events such as the RSD symposia and pop-up RSDX sessions and provides a platform for sharing research and projects through proceedings and publications. Reducing barriers to inclusion across an international community is a priority, so while efforts are made to keep fees low, people’s economic situations differ from country to country and influence notions of affordability. Therefore, committed volunteers and sustaining partnerships are core.

You can’t quantify commitment and dedication; however, if I were asked to develop a project budget based on the outputs in 2022–2023, I’d calculate six full-time equivalents; that’s 10,960 volunteer hours. I’d book these roles at an average of €25 per hour, representing an in-kind contribution of €273,000. I’d add expenses for essential items, such as the DOI registry for Contexts, and subscriptions to increase productivity, such as top-notch website hosting and Eventbrite. There’s also a need for a small budget for paid work, such as copy editing for Contexts, which also helps reduce volunteer burnout. This amount does not include board member time and other resources primarily supported through partnerships with universities. These are critical on many levels, and the contributions of board members and RSD Chairs who champion systemic design in their institutions are invaluable.

The income derived from supporting members and other financial contributors is no less critical, as it determines the extent of available infrastructure each year. This year, you can depend on the €6,450 raised in 2022–2023 to sustain operations. The non-monetary contribution of time and skills this amount supports can be considered a capital-equity ratio—every €1 committed leverages approximately €50 in volunteer hours. In the SDA’s lean budget scenario, the number of volunteer hours leveraged is proportional to the amount of available resources—increased financial resources support a corresponding increase in leveraged volunteer hours by providing the extent of the infrastructure required to operate.

Experimenting with Eventbrite

This year, we are also experimenting with self-funding to host events such as Mapping Mondays. We asked five supporters to commit $5 to offset each studio’s ticketing cost. With the supporter contributions and donations, we have reached over 50% of the goal to support Eventbrite’s newly introduced subscription fee (yes, even for free tickets) for the entire year.

The benefit of this approach is that if you are keen to host an online session or even an entire series relevant to systemic design, I can add you to Eventbrite Hubs, which means no-cost ticketing and inclusion in SDA communications. Consider this to convene a research group, test drive a workshop, or introduce a framework, model or tool. Note that hosts currently cover the cost of video conferencing software.

Please reach out anytime.

Pay it forward membership income distribution as a pie-chart


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Lidar-derived image of the Danube River and floodplain near Tulln, Austria. Daniel Coe. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED