At the recent League of Women Voters national convention, in Denver, Colorado, one of the orders of business for delegates was to vote on by-law changes for the organization. One of those by-law changes, which was adopted by a two-thirds vote, will be something you will notice in the future, once implemented, as you renew your annual membership.
As many longer-term members may know, in the past each local League across the country has set their own annual dues, and from that dues amount, since sometime in the 1970s, the local League pays a set amount, per member, to LWVUS, as well as to the state League, and then the local League keeps anything leftover after those payments for use in its own local budget. This system has been known for years as the “per member payment” or PMP, and is the mechanism by which when you join your local League you’re also joining LWVIN and LWVUS, all at the same time, and paying a portion of dues to each part of the League’s federated structure.
This by-law change eliminates the PMP payment, and instead creates a unified membership system in its place. Once this change is implemented,there will be one recommended annual dues amount across the country to join a local League, with the ability for a pay what you can for membership dues. This allows each person who joins or renews their membership in the organization to choose for themselves the amount they wish to pay for membership, either higher or lower, with the guideline of the recommended amount of annual dues in mind. Leagues that have, as pilot testing, implemented this “sliding scale” pricing structure have shown both an increase in total membership, and also have not lost revenue because of those who choose to pay more for their dues compensating for those who pay less. To accommodate this ability to pay on a sliding scale, the by-law changes have switched from requiring local Leagues to pay a set PMP amount to a percentage sharing structure for membership dues, between local, state and national, with LWVUS in the by-laws stating it will not take more than one-third of those dues collected.
These changes in membership structure, and the elimination of PMP are not taking place immediately, but instead the by-laws acknowledge that this new membership system will need to first be put in place. So while this change in membership structure is coming, it’s not quite here yet.
There are many reasons the Structure Task Force, the LWVUS Board of Directors, and ultimately the delegates to the convention felt these membership changes were necessary, and important. First, we believe these changes will help us grow our total membership, which is so important in making us a powerful organization that can fulfill our mission to “empower voters, and defend democracy.” Second, as we grow this membership we believe the sliding scale membership dues amount will allow us to gain members that better reflect the diversity of the electorate within our country.And finally, the change to a percentage sharing structure for membership dues, between the three levels of League, will allow more membership dues money to stay at the Local and State level, which is one way we can strengthen those levels of our organization, where the fight for democracy is currently happening.
As a member of the League Structure task force, during every single meeting and call where we discussed these ideas and plans for our League’s future, and later as a delegate at the Convention, representing my local League, I was thinking of Indiana, and how these structural changes would help grow and strengthen our local Leagues, as well as LWVIN. I’m so thrilled that the delegates at the Convention shared that same vision, and adopted these changes. I know they are a departure from the past, and change can feel daunting, but I am excited to see how strong our League will grow as these membership changes occur over the coming year.