Dear Fellow OLLI Members:
Sometime back, OLLI E-News received a flurry of letters on the broad topic of dues. It's a timely topic for discussion: the 2007 budget-planning period is looming, and from a personal standpoint, I am sensitive to the issue because my dues are up for renewal now.
OLLI's budget, which upon completion will be posted temporarily in the social room at Tallwood, is financed primarily by dues, plus a certain amount of interest income. Other sources, such as the Friends of OLLI fund and the Osher money, have to date been used for costs outside of our operating budget. Some parts of those funds have enabled us to defer dues money from specific costs associated with running the institute, and we thank Osher, and we thank our members, their families, and our friends who have contributed to Friends of OLLI. We must also consider when setting up the budget that our future costs as they relate to our homesite must be considered.
Other opportunities to enlarge our income base are currently being explored and grants as a possible source are being considered. However, grants take time to cultivate and each has its own criteria for awards.
When calculating the budget, the finance committee and then the Board will look at each line item to see if it squares with expectations for our 2007 needs. Divide the total by 710, our current membership total, and we have a figure that we know will be needed from each of us to run our OLLI. This is a very efficient way to structure and administer our dues.
Options that have been proposed include half-year rates, discounts for couples, short rates for those who travel or spend some terms out of town, and per-class rates. These options present the budget-makers with major problems: how to project how many people will drop out for a term; how many single memberships will merge into a double; how many will pay for half a year and then wait another half year to join up again. The number of unanswered questions would throw the budget into a tailspin. Not to mention the costs associated with administering any of these dues options.
Your Board's bottom line is to ensure the financial health of the institute.
Looking at it from the members' side, we see things differently: for some, the figure doesn't materially affect their pocketbooks; for others, and I speak as a single woman on a simple fixed income, that yearly check I write almost always comes at an inopportune time. Nonetheless, since I sign up for many courses each term and because my lifestyle focuses around OLLI, for me it really is a bargain. Other retirees might choose to spend their money on golf-club memberships or trips to interesting places. I figure five classes each term, or 20 over the year, comes to $14.00 per class, not a bad deal.
For couples the price doubles, a huge outlay, again probably at inopportune times. But let's remember that each member of the couple is getting the full benefit of membership and each person occupies a chair in a classroom, the good news being their one car saves us on parking slots.
A typical rate structure for some LLIs includes an annual fee, say $55.00, with per-class costs of $45.00 each. For $280, I could take only five classes a year. With our fabulous catalog of choices to choose from, I would find it very hard to pick just one or two per term. An LLI in a Midwest city charges $500 for the year, limiting classes to three per their three semesters, plus a parking fee.
We don't want to lose even one member because he or she cannot afford our rates. We have a scholarship fund for those on short finances. Simply contact the Tallwood site administrator and she will handle the situation with discretion.
We've come a long way: In 1991, LRI dues were $200. Members could take two courses during each of the two eight-week semesters from a list of 30 classes. Fifteen years later, we currently offer over 200 classes for $280, no limit on the number we may take. And many of these classes are dynamite!
Will our dues rise in 2007? We can't promise you they won't, but we can promise that each of our future catalogs will convince us that we are getting our money's worth.
All the best to each of you,
President, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at George Mason University