Discussion Paper – ATHRA’s Membership Fee Structure

Discussion Paper – ATHRA’s Membership Fee Structure

This Discussion Paper is an invitation to members to contribute to a dialogue on the topic of ATHRA’s membership fee structure and whether there should be a change to something more equitable.  The prompt for the ATHRA Board to initiate this discussion was its consideration of financial relief for the smaller member groups in the face of the current COVID-19 restrictions. 

It was clear to the Board that in the current circumstances our existing fee structure of $200 for Full members and $100 for Associate members is not equitable when considered in terms of the range of incomes earned across the spectrum of members.  While this is not an overly significant issue at our current level of fees, the question of equity will become more important as the scope of services offered by ATHRA develops and the annual operating costs increase correspondingly. 

Current Position of ATHRA Board:

Apart from a view that the current flat fee structure is not equitable, the Board has not formed any views on a suitable fee structure for the future.  Instead, it has determined that the best path forward would be to first open a dialogue with the membership to gain their views on the topic.  To help focus the conversation, several discussion points are set out below.  Members are invited to consider those points and express their views.  Equally, they are invited to express opinions on any other topic they consider relevant. 

The Board has an objective of implementing any changes for the 2021-22 membership year.  The practicality of this objective will be guided by the response of members to this discussion paper.  In order to keep this discussion on track, members are asked to make their contribution by e-mail to treasurer@athra.asn.au no later than 1st November 2020.  This will allow the Board to present a proposed fee structure to members in mid-February 2021. 

In the interest of promoting an open dialogue on this topic it is intended that a summary of submissions will be circulated to ATHRA members in December. 

Discussion Points:

  • Is any change necessary?  Although the Board is of the view that change is necessary, a critical opening point is whether members agree.  Your position on this basic question is vital.
  • What sort of structure should we have?  It is common for industry representative organisations to have a sliding scale of fees based on some measure of the size of each member.  In some cases these structures are simple with only 2 or 3 levels while others have many more.  For example, the ARA has 10 levels of membership.  While a greater number of levels offers greater equity, it can result in a greater workload for our volunteer officers. 
  • How would we measure the “size” of an organisation?  Implied in a scale of membership fees is a requirement to measure the “size” of each member.  Seemingly, the most straight forward would be the Gross Annual Income as published in each organisations Annual report.  Is there a consensus that such a measure would be the easiest and most equitable to apply?  Are other measures such as Annual Passenger Kilometres considered a more equitable measure? 
  • What fee range would be appropriate?  In some organisations, the top level fee would be about 5 times that of the base level fee.  In others like the ARA, range is more like 80 to 1.  Within our sector, the income range between the largest and smallest operations is approaching 100 to 1.  Against that background, what sort of fee range do members think would be fair?
  • Should some services be provided on an “opt-in” basis?  It is feasible that in the future some services offered by ATHRA will not be of benefit to all members.  By way of example, the Board is currently investigating the benefits of membership of an “in-bound” tourism body.  It is possible that our smaller members would gain minimal benefit from such a relationship and so this leads to the idea that such a service should be offered on an “opt-in” basis with costs shared between those who directly benefit.  Do members consider there is merit in such an approach and, if so, how far should it extend through the services provided by ATHRA?
  • Should there be a linkage between the amount of fees paid and the number of member votes?  A potentially contentious question but one that cannot be ignored.  Should our current practice of “one vote per Full member” continue or should there be some alignment between the fees paid and the number of votes a member holds?  Should organisations that are Associate members be given some level of voting?  Of particular interest are the views of members at the upper and lower end of the income range.  Would the members likely to be paying higher membership fees question the benefits of participating in ATHRA if they do not have an influence commensurate to the fees they are paying?  Conversely, would members that would be paying minimal fees question the benefits of participating in ATHRA if their ability to have any influence is reduced due to larger organisations having a great voting power? 

The Board hopes that all members will take the opportunity to contribute to this discussion.  Contributions are to be sent to treasurer@athra.asn.au by 1st November 2020.