What’s It to You?

I see and hear this exchange all the time regarding membership in a professional society. On the one hand, you have the individual practitioner asking, “What’s in it for me?” On the other, you have the society (or often individual officers of a society or association) trying to answer the question. This usually comes in the form of a personal conversation or as an explanation in the pages of the society’s newsletter or magazine.

Let’s face it: We’ve probably all, at some point in our careers, questioned the value we receive from our societies, particularly in times like these when money is tight. Many of us are fortunate to have an employer cover these costs and maybe we don’t give it much thought. But what if that’s not the case, or the company decides it can no longer provide that benefit? Would you pay the dues yourself? Would you recognize the value you receive in return? Or would you feel you were getting ripped off?

I’ve been a member of several different professional organizations at various times. These memberships typically depend on the course of my career and whether I can afford them at the time. One membership that I have maintained throughout is in the Maryland Society of Surveyors.

Each state society runs things a bit differently, and dues vary just as widely. In Maryland, our dues are $185. Some individual chapters collect a separate, small fee in addition. I sometimes hear colleagues complain about the dues or express that they don’t recognize a value commensurate with the amount they pay. Our society struggles with these issues regularly. And I’m certainly not singling out Maryland; in fact, as I read a wide variety of state newsletters from across the country I see them wrestling with these same issues. The problem is ubiquitous.

In a recent conversation, I was presented with a perspective that I hadn’t heard before. I was talking with our current MSS president and had made a comment about our dues. Later, he asked me if I thought my membership—the value I receive being a member—was worth $185 per year. I thought about it for a moment and answered yes. He then presented his perspective on the question.

Thinking about the time he had expended over the year as president, he estimated something on the order of 80 hours. Applying this to a billable rate per hour (for simplicity let’s say $100 per hour) amounts to $8,000 worth of value for his time, in addition to the $185. So, from his perspective, his annual dues this year were $8,185 (sorry, I know you can all do the math). Of course that’s not cash from his pocket, but he does have a point. And he wasn’t complaining about the amount, just presenting his view.

Think about that for a moment. If the value you had to pay or contribute amounted to thousands of dollars, would you do it? Would you still be happy with the return on your contribution? Does that change how you feel about your actual dues?

This edition of the Red Pages represents a new direction for us. We’ve provided all the state and national societies and associations with a forum to tell—and in some cases, show—you what they’ve been up to: the issues they deal with on your behalf and the value they provide in return for your money.

We hope you, as individual readers, and each of the groups herein learn from what’s in this edition—from each other. Not every state has a large population or a large society. Not every state deals with the same issues. But, as we’ve pointed out before, what happens in another state could easily happen in yours, good or bad.

We hope you find value in this issue—and in your society.


About the Author

  • TJ Frazier, LS
    TJ Frazier, LS
    TJ Frazier is the magazine's editor for surveying and has more than 20 years experience in the surveying profession, currently as senior land surveyor for VanMar Associates in Mt. Airy, Md. He also worked in survey equipment sales for Loyola Spatial Systems, now part of Leica Geosystems. He earned a bachelor of sciences degree in business at Mt. St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md. He is married and has two daughters. Frazier can be reached at tj@profsurv.com.

» Back to our Red Pages 2012 Issue