Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Why are lifetime memberships so freakin expensive?

A little rant post... Not much of a rant though... Facts, and a tiny bit of rant.

Looking at OFO memberships recently, I noticed that the annual rate is $35/year... Not bad, given the publications. 

Then I noticed they offer two and three year memberships, at exactly the same price (70 and 105)... I guess it saves you the tiny hassle of renewing for a few years, but other than that... 

Then I looked at the lifetime membership - SEVEN HUNDRED FREAKIN DOLLARS... 

That's TWENTY YEARS of membership fees before you begin to break even. Twenty years ago I was in grade 1 !!! How do I even know if OFO will be around in twenty years? 

I sort of get it, because the money needs to come from somewhere for OFO news, the website, Ontario birds (publishing AND mailing). But to be honest, beyond that, the website doesn't really do a great job of selling me. 

(Members enjoy - the Ontario Bird Records Committee - hahahaha... No one enjoys the OBRC... They - at best - tolerate it) ;) 

Next up - my hometown group - the Hamilton Naturalists Club!

$45/year !??!?! What the heck! That's $10 more than OFO - and I don't see any colour journals being published. 

In fact, I don't see anything on that page (at all) about what my benefits are as a member.. In classic "Ontario Nature" style - they just offer up more ways to give away your money. 

Lifetime membership - Seven hundred and fifty freakin bucks?!?! That's $50 more than OFO! Although it will "break even" in under 17 years, unlike the 20 years it takes for OFO... Although given that my only (usual) use of being an HNC member (in the past) has been reading the Wood Duck newsletter - that seems like a LOT of freakin money for newsletters...

What's your take on these memberships? I personally would have to see these groups cease to exist, as I think they're important in bringing the youth into birding/nature (they helped me) - but I'm still having a hard time trying to justify the funds for a few newsletters... 

What say you?! 


  1. You missed the boat on these two .....

    OFO -- I joined for Life for $50 when it first started.

    HNC -- I joined for Life for $100 a long time ago (and was apparently the last person to do so before they raised the price)

    I have no complaints LOL!

  2. Alan's an unfunded liability! Brandon, what you haven't factored in are the inevitable increases in dues over the coming decades so a lifetime membership may make sense if you're not planing to retire to Costa Rica in the next five years.

    Also, I think many of our cherished clubs have been slow to offer reduced dues for those of us who are happy to receive pdf publications. Those who cling to their dead tree newsletters should pay for the pulp and postage!

  3. Your missing some important points.

    Both are charitable donations, meaning they're first and foremost to support the organization/club financially... nobody's getting rich on this, and anything they dish out in the way of journals, newsletters, or other benefits, I'd consider a bonus.

    That said, I'm not Mother Teresa, I'm cheap. Thankfully, being charitable donations, you get a tax refund from either membership, which you haven't considered here. The credit rate is about double for any donations over $200 in a year. Using OFO as the example, in Ontario, you'd get a tax credit of about $7 for the $35 donation (if you didn't donate over $200 total elsewhere), or about $240 for the $700 donation. So the "break even" is a little over 16 years, not 20 (although both are completely ignoring inflation... whatever, is this a "Finance" blog? Of course not, it's a weather blog...).

    Even better would be if you had never donated to charity before (or at least never claimed it on your tax return), in which case you'd qualify for the First Time Donor "super credit", and you'd get a $415 back from the $700 donation... or a little over 10 years to break even (again, completely ignoring everything you should have learned about time-value of money in high school). Heck, buy both lifetime memberships for $1450 total, apply the super tax credits and you're looking at two for less than the price of one.

    Full disclaimer: I passed on the lifetime memberships myself... like I said, I'm cheap.

    1. Are you ever not thoughtful and reasonable when replying to these crazy blog posts ;) ???

  4. Another fact to consider: many naturalist clubs including Sydenham Field Naturalists, Lambton Wildlife and Nature London support purchase of land for conservation purposes. Many of the places I visit exist as natural areas at least in part because of the donations made by these clubs to secure priority land. I pay my membership fees in-part to show support for the good work of these volunteer driven groups.

    1. I agree that's a worthy cause - but at the same time, why wouldn't I pick and chose which projects to support myself? What if I totally disagree with the properties they're going after?

  5. Brandon, Brandon, Brandon. The HNC benefits are self-evident to members I think. A portion of every membership goes to the Sanctuary Fund (to purchase land). The rest goes to the General Fund to pay for the paper, printing and mailing of the Wood Duck! Guess what? I doesn't break even! Couple-grand a year short. It costs a lot of money each year to print nine issues of 28 page 8 X11 Journal with 8 pages, count 'em, 8 pages of colour.

    As stated above, it is self-evident why you would want to pay $45 a year to join. If like minded people don't get together to try to make things better, who will? Don't think we can count on Steve Harper. Besides $45 a year accounting for inflation over the years? Still seems pretty reasonable to me. Obviously some people can't afford and that is too bad but they can always come to hikes and meetings, gratis.

    In regards to Life Memberships, perhaps they could be cheaper but you know the problem OFO got itself into with its initial $50 Life Membership. They were soon scrambling for money. Lucky they got over 1000 members now and can afford full colour issues no problem.

    By the way pdf Wood Ducks are freely available on the HNC website