At the USCF Executive Board meeting yesterday, the Board approved a motion to reward affiliates who submit 3-year adult memberships with a $10 merchandise credit certificate for each membership.

The Affiliate and Membership Growth Committees had moved the institution of a $3 commission on each one year adult membership at the Delegates meeting in August.  The commission on such memberships was $5 before being eliminated effective this January due to the federation's worsening financial situation.  However, since the August meetings, financial reports have shown that USCF lost $160,000 between June and September, so the Board believed it too risky to bring back any commission on one year memberships at this time.

Three-year memberships are priced at $109.  Prior to 2001, the commission on them was $7.  I presented the idea of a $7 or $10 commission on these memberships to the Board, which selected a $10 credit slip instead because those using the credit are likely to order other merchandise at the same time.  In support of this idea, I offered the following arguments:

1.  It cannot cost much compared to the present, as very few 3-year memberships are currently received.

2.  If the number of 3-year memberships shows a significant increase as a result, this will help USCF's cash flow problems.

3.  Due to USCF's poor renewal rate, it is likely that many members who renew for 3 years would not have done so if they had to pay one year at a time.  3-year renewals will thus promote membership totals.

4.  Renewal notices will not have to be sent each year to the 3-year members.

5.  Affiliates will once again enjoy an important symbolic benefit.  True, its value will be limited by the fact that most players join for just a year, but if USCF cannot afford even a $1 commission on a yearly membership, this is better than nothing.  If properly promoted by USCF, it will give some affiliates the idea of pushing the 3-year memberships.  

6.  Affiliates should be encouraged to award 3-year memberships as prizes.  This could be part of what might be called a "USCF Booster" program.  Players and organizers could be encouraged to become "USCF Boosters" at a time of fiscal crisis by joining for 3 years or awarding 3 year memberships.  The 3-year memberships could be called "USCF Booster" memberships.

7.  Tournaments awarding "USCF Booster memberships" as prizes could get a special incentive, such as one free TLA line for each Booster membership advertised.

8.  Tournaments awarding Booster memberships could also have a special TLA symbol indicating that they are helping to promote chess and/or keep USCF financially sound.

9.  Special tournaments could be suggested, with special rewards.  For example, a Quad that charges about $30 per player and awards a Booster membership to the winner of each section is something that just about any affiliate can run, and may warrant no rating fee plus a free TLA of up to 4 lines.  If such a quad draws just 16 players, USCF will receive $436, plus possible other memberships!  If many affiliates can be encouraged to hold "USCF Booster Quads," a large amount of income will result.  

10.  "USCF Booster Swiss." Another special tournament that would warrant special incentives is a 4-round Swiss in which a 4-0 score wins a 3-year membership, 3.5 points 2 years, and 3 points 1 year.  With a $20 entry fee, this structure is likely to award most fees as membership prizes, but is unlikely to pay out more than it takes in, unless the turnout is very poor.  I held a Rated Beginners Open with this format in Poughkeepsie a month ago and it drew 10 players (despite Chess Life misprinting the $20 entry fee as "$200" and failing to correct this error after I pointed it out). The result was that 80% of the entry fees collected went to USCF for memberships.

Note that items 6 through 10 have not yet been approved.  This program is now being considered by the Membership Growth Committee, and the remaining details will hopefully be announced soon. homepage