View Full Version : Post Convention Review

October 1st, 2002, 12:27 PM
I was not able to go this year.
I didn't see any discussions in the forums - like we had last year (but some tried to open the door) - and I am frustrated by that.

(The following is my personal issue from the convention)

The $5 increase in USMS dues.

I am confused (especially since I didn't see anything that outlined in the convention meeting notes that called for anything that drastic). Did I miss something? Was it in the pre-convention packet?

My confusion:

- We have a HUGE surplus - something under a million, why not touch that 1st and control costs for next year.
- What MORE are we as swimmers getting for the increased cost?
- More importantly what are the 90% of our membership (the ones who don't compete) getting?
- What are the risks of raising the cost of membership? (was that even discussed)
- I wasn't sure from the insurance notes whether the cost was more or less than last year.

How do I explain it to my non-competitive swimmers?
(and I am sorry, no the magazine does NOT qualify as a benefit to them, (ask them, if you don't believe me)).

My lurking suspicions are:

1. this is funding for the 10% (the elite)
2. the rest of us are being taxed for the inability to say "no" (or hold) to projects on the convention floor or boardroom.

I mean no offence to the convention or delegates. There is a lot going on in 3 days (been there/seen that), but to raise the cost, IMHO, is something that affects all of us deeply (and our ability to build and retain swimmers). And to have it happen without an opportunity to review or comment - seems kinda back door.


October 1st, 2002, 01:05 PM
Who is the 10% elite that you refer to as "competitive" swimmers and what does competition have to do with any increase in dues? Here in New England close to 50% of our members participate in either SCM, LCM, SCY, Open Water or One Hour swims. We don't receive any money from USMS for any of these competitions. How does the competitive swimmer contribute to this dues increase? Seems much more likely that the shortfall is the result of a missed projection in terms of membership growth and that the $5 increase represents a lack of confidence in the organization's ability to do a better job next year.

Here in New England we have increased our budgets, expanded our volunteer organization AND lowered membership dues over the past six years. How did we do it? We averaged better than 25% per year in membership growth.

I don't think the increase in dues is such a big deal--per se--but it does represent a lack of confidence that our national organization has a good plan to grow our membership. Otherwise, everyone at convention would have been satisfy to invest our surplus in such a plan.

October 1st, 2002, 01:38 PM

Insurance most definitely DID go up from last year. A lot (my memory fails, but I believe it was in the range of $100,000). It's largely fallout from 9/11. Insurance was the single biggest reason we were facing an alarmingly large deficit budget.

USMS had not raised dues in 12 years. I felt that a $5 increase was extremely reasonable, and frankly the fiscally responsible thing to do. Personally, I think USMS offers its members a great deal more than it did 12 years ago. I believe SWIM magazine is a great service to our members, and it's getting better with every issue. One of the most important benefits to our members is this website. And the cost of operating it is not insignificant.

I had wondered how long USMS could continue to operate without raising dues. The time has come. And my conscience is clear for voting for the increase.

October 1st, 2002, 02:06 PM
The HOD vote in support of the dues increase was overwhelming. I suspect that had you been in attendance at this year's convention, you too would have supported this action. I, for one, will not fret over a $5 ANNUAL dues increase, I want to continue receiving all the benefits available from USMS.

I don't compete regularly, two or three times a year, so I guess I'm not one of the elite 10% but I still feel that USMS is a great organization run predominantly by volunteers for the benefit of its members.

As was so eloquently put by a member of the Finance Committee during the great debates, "I paid $5 for a cup of coffee this morning."

A $5 increase, the first in 12 years, is not a big deal in the overall scheme of USMS. I think it is still the deal of the century at $20!!

Rob Copeland
October 1st, 2002, 02:35 PM
And to follow on with the previous comments –

By my estimation and review of the 2003 USMS budget, there is a fixed cost of about $19 per member, which includes Swim (and I hear Jack’s point here), insurance, the national office staff, a contribution to the International Swimming Hall of Fame, our Executive Committee, and Convention costs.

To Jack’s suspicions that we are spending to fund elite members. I don’t see this. The above mentioned costs are for the benefit of the general membership. And, in fact unless I am missing something we actually generate additional revenue from our elite swimmers. Again, according to my read of the budget we will generated $20,000 in National Championship meet surcharges, against an expense budget of around $5,000 for the Championship committee.

To Jack’s question were the risks discussed? The short answer is yes. From my fly on the wall perspective this decision was not an easy one to make. Most of us are concerned about the effect of the increased dues on membership, and before the dues were raised a number of proposed budget items were cut or dropped completely. However, even with these budget cuts and without the dues increase we would completely wipe out our surplus in a little over 3 years.

To the question what more are we getting for the extra money? This is a great question! The USMS Executive Committee is dealing with this very topic. They want to develop programs to promote “Swimming for Life”. And while this does not come close to answering the question, I think a follow you question is: “What do we the swimmers want from Masters?" (more pool time, better coaches, more communication, …) And, how can the national organization either provide or assist the local clubs in providing these services?

October 1st, 2002, 02:57 PM
This issue should have been discussed better. Even with the HUGE surpluses? The organization would have been bankrupt within four years. You cannot run that large a deficit each year and continue the present services.

The following are just some of the services USMS provides to ALL it's members
1) Number one is insurance, without it many programs would cease to exist immediately. Even with our excellent records there were several companies who would not even bid on our insurance, the first time in history for this. And those who did bid doubled their prices.

2) Swim magazine is a communication device for all swimmers, not just the elite. Many years ago just results were published, so it catered to the elite more. Now there is a wide range of information within Swim magazine.

3) Coaches group is expanding to provide better coaches for all members. These coaches serve the fitness swimmer just as well as the elite. The coaches committee also loans out a Snooper for videoing our membership.

4) The web site is a tremoundous information area and an expensive but necessary device to serve all our members.

5) Fitness and safety are expanding to better serve all our members, note the fine Fitness articles.

6) The video and book libraries are tremoundous resources for ALL our members.

7) The National organization is helping with the Long Distance and Ocean swim programs throughout the US. “Fitness swimmers” are swimming many National championships and ocean swims.

8) The Sports Medicine committee is actively getting information to our membership.

The Places to Swim, Rulebook and many many others are now available free online.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of new benefits for ALL our members. I could not help think for the price of a Starbucks coffee is all this increase came down to. Just the standardized inflation rate of 3% the last 12 years would have called for a rate hike, without the ENOURMOUS increase in insurance. Just remember insurance is double what it was last year. Many companies are going under because of insurance.

I think all the members did the right thing. We cut where we could, then had to aprove the increase. Like Meg, my conscience is clear for voting for the increase.

Wayne McCauley
SPMA Chairman

October 1st, 2002, 03:01 PM
I don't mean to stomp on any toes....but please also be considerate of what I am trying to represent... please explain it to me... please hear me that - $5 is a shock to me... as an increase.

- If NewEngland has 50% participation - wow. I am using the figure of 10% nationally, compete. If that figure is wrong, I will re-review my comments and take them back.

Let me retract the word "elite", if I can....bad choice of terms. I meant anyone who swims at a meet. Going back to my (bad?) statistic that 90% don't compete in any meet.

- I re-read the insurance notes. I saw uncertianty about the figures. I saw a note to change from $175K to $150K, but I didn't see anything about going up overall and the affect on the budget. Was there something I missed in the convention meeting note? Please point me to the notes I am missing.
Is it in the finance minutes?

- I agree with Meg that the web site (this post and all the discussion forums) are a great way to reach people faster and provide for an exchange, (to the betterment of all) is a great tool. I also believe it has saved us a ton of money (nationally and locally). For example, I noticed that they saved $15K by not doing some printing that had been done in the past.

- Lol...prespective.. thats what we need. $5 for a cup of coffee. A very valid comparison - and a good one.

I see it as a 25% increase in dues. It may be a matter of difference of viewpoint. I see it as a lot and others may not see at as anything. I have no problem with that, I still want to ask my questions.

Let me see if I can boil down my frustration (and I will pay it, I know... I have set myself up as a target). I am asking for back ground on the process.

My concerns are:

1. No notification or discussion ahead of time. IMHO it could have had some very interesting comments, if were published ahead of time.
2. What are we going to do with the money? (or did we do?)

I see I generated a fast set of responses.

Thanks Rob.

I hear you discussed the topic.
I, as a non-convention goer, I didn't see the charts or minutes that outline them. I didn't see the bullet about wiping the surplus in 3 years, is that in any of the meeting notes. And what changed? (again I am asking innocently). A 25% increase means we are planning to spend more or cover existing items that have gone up.

Like you I am very curious on what people want from USMS. But are we raising the money to answer the question? Or are we collecting money to solve a want that hasn't been identified yet?
(and yes, they are sarcastic question... and don't require a reply).

the items Rob lists that apply to the fitness swimmer are insurance and the swim magazine. IF (and I mean IF, because I don't know the facts) neither of those changed, what am I going to tell my fitness swimmers they are going to get from the increased fee? IHOF is not going to satisfy them.

Thanks all for your input, everyone.. really thanks.... I am pleasantly surprised at the passion Maters swimming in and out of the pool generates (and that includes myself).


October 1st, 2002, 04:03 PM
response to breaststroker...

Those are the benefits we have been getting all along - which we should continue to hype.
Thats what we were getting for our old USMS dues.
(Our LMSC charges $22 a year).

Except, for what I am hearing, to be a $100K change in insurance cost. (The per person change would be $2.50 a person.)

What I can't account for.... yet... but am learning as we go along...
thanks to all....

It was stated, in this thread, that we would have no surplus in 3-4 years. (do I remember right that it was a $800K surplus?)
The insurance would take 8 years to take it down.

What accounts for the rest of the money, $400K over 3-4 years?

Question: I saw a lot of committe notes that talked about proposed cuts. We those cuts put into place?

Need to put it in laymans terms for me.
Boil it down to the basics.

Again, thanks for the education (for all of us who weren't there).


Rob Copeland
October 1st, 2002, 07:12 PM

The best source to get answers to your questions would be to email the chair of the Finance committee, Tom Boak, or Doug Church (USMS Treasurer). Either one should be able to provide all the information you need. And more.

You should be able to get to Tom at Finance@usms.org and to Doug at Treasurer@usms.org.

And my apologies to Tom and Doug if this generates a flood of emails for them.

October 1st, 2002, 08:13 PM
I will email them.
I was hoping to have the answer within the forum (so they wouldn't get a flood of emails).

There may be others interested in the same question.

October 1st, 2002, 10:12 PM
One item that has not been mentioned in this thread is that we have been funding some of our deficit spending (in the sense of more spend that membership fees in) with earnings from our previous surplus. As you all know far too well, you can't make much interest on one's money these days. So yes we have to spend more but we will be getting less from non-membership income.

The cost of the insurance did change during the cource of the discussions. In large part it was an optimistic attempt to balance the budget. We do not know how much the insurance will cost since, along with the fact that some won't even bid, no company is willing to commit to a price until 30 days before renewal which occurs in January. For all we know something could happen and the cost will be $250,000 more. We just don't know.


October 2nd, 2002, 09:35 AM

Your point is well taken that there wasn't any pre-convention discussion about the deficit. I had heard a rumor a few weeks before convention that there was a deficit, but didn't realize its extent until the Board of Directors meeting the first night of the convention.

As to whether committees made cuts where they could, I can't speak for anyone else, but Publications Committee, of which I am chair, DID cut its committee budget. I honestly can't remember what we had the previous year, but I asked that it be cut down to only $100 for my convention registration and $15 or $20 for incidental expenses. Otherwise, my costs are pretty fixed, and there wasn't anything else for me to cut. It costs what it costs to print the rule book. I realize that the amount I cut was a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of the deficit, but I did what I could. I believe other committees made similar cuts.

As Leo alluded to, I think we got in this fix because we were too reluctant to raise dues incrementally over the past 12 years. Rather than raise dues by $1 or $2 the first year we had a deficit, we dipped into our surplus. I can understand your concern that a $5 increase all at once is a lot, at least percentage wise. We could have, and probably should have, increased dues a little every year instead of waiting until we had a crisis and doing it all at once. We got into this same predicament in my LMSC a few years ago and had to increase dues by more than we would have liked in one year, because we had ignored the fact that our expenses were increasing, but our income was not. We also made cuts to our budget (e.g., our convention delegates no longer get their meals paid for by the LMSC). We worried about the impact this increase would have on our members. And guess what--not a single person complained. I'm not sure they even noticed that their dues had gone up!

Some of the justifications quoted in this forum, I believe, are based on verbal comments made during the Finance Committee meeting, or during the House of Delegates. They do not appear in the minutes, so I can understand your confusion.

I wish Doug or Tom would chime in on this discussion, because they know the details a whole lot better than I do. I confess before you all that I am a financial ignoramous, barely capable of balancing my own checkbook (actually, I can't even do that because I lost my checkbook on vacation in Savannah this summer, but I digress!)

I think it's pointless to argue about precisely what percentage of our membership across the country actually competes in meets. It's safe to say that it's a minority of the membership. But I agree with Rob that competition in USMS is pretty much financed by the competitors themselves, and that there is no vast commitment of USMS resources to underwrite competition. The valid question remains: what do the remainder of our members, those who do not compete, want from USMS? Personally, I think they're already getting what they want from USMS (or else why would they join in the first place). They want a place to swim and a coach to help them with their technique, and to write workouts for them. They want the insurance that makes this possible. They like, but do not require, SWIM Magazine. And that's about it. I'm not saying we shouldn't continue to come up with benefits for fitness swimmers. But I also think we shouldn't beat ourselves up because they choose NOT to participate in one of our benefits, which is competition.

October 2nd, 2002, 04:57 PM
Meg.... nice reply (said very sincerely).

I find myself concerned about "who do we serve" - because most of my fitness swimmers would NOT become USMS members, unless my team "ordered" them to do so.

And every year its like pulling teeth to get them to re-up.
(Maybe we need a stronger team management (!!???))

IMHO if another alternative became available.... there goes our base.


To chime in, I am not worried about the competitive swimmers, they are in it heck or high water... lol...lets raise their fee another couple...

I had mentioned a two tier fee sysem in the past... maybe its not a bad idea? Certainly USMS has more value for them then it does for the fitness swimmer.

Food for thought

October 2nd, 2002, 05:16 PM

I think you are on the wrong track. You should be motivating your fitness swimmers to participate as a TEAM in meets. Of course, you need to right kind of support from your LMSC. Our NE Championships (SCM and SCY) we field 300+ RELAYS! That means, we are getting the non-elite, ordinary, "fitness" swimmer to participate in the meet as a fun TEAM activity. Also we score points for our workout group competition 16 deep by age group. That ensures that just about EVERY swimmer will score points for the team as long as they swim relays.

You were closer to the mark when you said it might be "team management." To somehow think that the best way to retain members is to avoid $5 increase in fees (that's a few cups of Dunkin Donoughts coffee for the non-Starbucks consumers among us) is very pessimistic. In fact, people will spend a lot more money on just ONE meet--our typical Championship meet surcharge is $13 and when you add in the obligatory post-meet team parties we're looking at $50+ just for one day.

I believe there is a strong correlation between meet participation (especially on the regional and local level) and membership growth rate. Based on somewhat limited data we believe that NE has the highest meet participation rate in the USMS. Based on analysis done several years ago by the USMS National Office NE was also had the fastest growing membership among large Clubs, LMSCs.

October 3rd, 2002, 12:26 AM
I am confused (especially since I didn't see anything that outlined in the convention meeting notes that called for anything that drastic). Did I miss something? Was it in the pre-convention packet?

Tracy sent out an email that had the proposed budget along with YTD actual and budget, last year budget and actual and 2000 actual. The proposed budget show a very large deficit. Now with that deficit, how was it going to funded? There was talk here in Pacific about the deficit and the buzz of convention especially after the BOD meeting was about what was going to be done about the deficit. Finance committee had many meetings to discuss how to reduce the deficit.

I wished there was more opportunity to discuss it beforehand, but if you looked at the numbers ahead of time, you could see the direction that would have to be taken.

More importantly what are the 90% of our membership (the ones who don't compete) getting?

I am using the figure of 10% nationally, compete. If that figure is wrong, I will re-review my comments and take them back.

I think it is time to review your comments (and take them back :-)) ). Pacific had about 2,000 swimmers who competed in at least one SCY, SCM, LCM or Open water event in 2001 (that is 20% of Pacific membership competed in at least one organized event) . (the 2000 is about 5% of the entire USMS membership ( 10% of the membership would be 4000). With NEM having nearly 1000 who competed, (we are now up to 11,000 of the 42000 USMS members producing about 3000 competitors-7.5% ) that would leave about 31,000 to produce 1000 competitors to make 10%. (Strip out the swimmers from NEM and Pacific from those who attend Nationals, and you will go over the 1000 needed to get to 10% and be well on your way to a much higher number).

I think a much better estimate would be about 20% of the membership will compete during the year.

Except, for what I am hearing, to be a $100K change in insurance cost. (The per person change would be $2.50 a person.)

And what no one has mentioned yet is that the HOD voted to pay the Webmaster/IT Manager monies that is more in line for the work that he produces for USMS. The House also voted to increase the compensation for the Newsletter editor. Those two positions will total almost $100,000 ($2.50/member)

So if you look at it in the macro, the insurance and the staffing was the reason for the increase in dues. Both of those reasons affect all the membership, not just the competitors (elite or not).

To chime in, I am not worried about the competitive swimmers, they are in it heck or high water... lol...lets raise their fee another couple...

I had mentioned a two tier fee sysem in the past... maybe its not a bad idea? Certainly USMS has more value for them then it does for the fitness swimmer.

Do the competitors get a rebate on their dues because championship contributes more revenue than the expenses it generates :-) .

Over the past ten years, USMS has increased the services for its members. It has been able to do that due the increase in membership and the amount of volunteer effort that it has received from our members. Now in order to keep the same amount of service for an expanding membership base, we have had to hire professionals to ply their trades.

I think that it is worth it. I think that we need the professional services of Bill Volkening, Jim Matysek, Trace Grilli and Esther. Their services are essential to United States Masters Swimming and contribute to the growth of our great sport. While I dont like spending more money than I have to, I consider the increase an investment in the growth of USMS and casting my vote for the increase was the right thing to do.


October 3rd, 2002, 10:32 AM
For the first time in my experience with the convention, a preliminary budget was distributed prior to the convention. I found it extremely interesting to have time to look at the various requests for funding. Because I took the time to look at the budget in detail and because I had questions, I attended several of the Finance Committee minutes.

I knew we had budgeted a deficit for several years, but I thought we still finished the year with a surplus. That was not the fact for 2001 and projected for 2002. Therefore, going into the convention the Finance Committee knew some things had to change.

I was very impressed with how Tom Boak ran the Finance Committee meetings. When there was a question about an item, a committee member was assigned the job of locating the person who made the request and reporting back at the next meeting. All requests for funding were looked at thoroughly. Committee members even had the breakdown of each request (not just a total number, but an itemized request).

Two major changes in expenses were in our ISHOF contribution and in matching funds for the Legacy Fund (endowment). The ISHOF contribution was reduced by 50%. Contributions to the Legacy Fund are no longer matched by USMS. It was only after all expenditures were reduced as much as possible that the committee addressed the income. By that time it was obvious that an increase was necessary.

Betsy Durrant

October 7th, 2002, 12:03 PM
I see it as a 25% increase in dues. It may be a matter of difference of viewpoint. I see it as a lot and others may not see at as anything. I have no problem with that, I still want to ask my questions.

Actually, I think you mean you see it as a 33% increase in dues ($20 vs $15). But as others have pointed out this is the first increase in 12 years. That means the increase over that period is less than 3% annually! Clearly a VERY reasonable number and $20 in today's dollars is arguably far cheaper than $15 was 12 years ago. And as somebody else pointed out that doesn't even take into account the fact that we have far more services available today than we did 12 years ago.

I think it is time to close this discussion :)


September 13th, 2003, 02:01 AM
Well, most master swimmers are not a poor lot. Most have professional jobs ranging from at least 65,000 to 250,000 a year, so 5 dollars increase will not affect them. I support the rise of increases because the cost of everything has gone up. And I like Swim Magazine.

September 18th, 2003, 08:52 AM
Cinc310 -

65,000 - 250,000?! Where are you getting that estimate from? Since the average national houshold income is roughly 52,000 (depending on the Statistical (http://ferret.bls.census.gov/macro/032002/hhinc/new06_000.htm) measure), I would be surprised and pleased to see USMS with such a affluent demographic...

Rob Copeland
September 18th, 2003, 10:41 AM
The dues increase that Cynthia mentioned occurred at the 2002 convention, not this year. There was no increase in individual member dues discussed at this year’s convention. The 2004 USMS individual membership dues are the same as 2003.

Chris, if you are not making the $65-$250K salary. Make sure you bring your USMS membership card to your next salary review with your boss. I’m sure he/she will quickly rectify the situation

September 18th, 2003, 11:26 AM
Well, I was thinking about members that are lawyers, Doctors, and Programmers and the various professional people who claim to be master swimmers. Certainly Northern Pacific and Southern Pacific and Metropolian have higher income averages because of the high cost of housing in these places. On the other hand, some of their members could have brought their house 30 to 20 years ago when housing was cheaper. And the younger masters swimmers are more college educated than those 60 years and older since less people went to college then they now.

September 18th, 2003, 01:35 PM
The Marketing Committee did a survey a few years ago, and it did find that as a group, Masters swimmers were fairly affluent. I don't remember what the numbers were, so can't say whether $65,000+ is accurate. But it was definitely above the national average. Maybe someone from the Marketing Committee can remember.

September 18th, 2003, 02:05 PM
I believe the actual values were $87,000 for Women and $97,000 mean income for men. Very very high, we should have Mercedes and other high end sponsors. The average education level was just about Masters degree level.

But no your theory about California raising the averages is wrong. It was the swimmers from states like Conneticut and the other New England areas that raised the amounts. I almost started to say something about Arizona. I was born in the "right to work state" and the same job in California would pay 20 to 50% more. But you do have Scottsdale, and it has not been cheap to live there for 50 years.

There is a bottom line to all this dues increase. The swimmers get about 400% more value over the last 12 years, for less than the cost of living increases.

Again, jackkangaroo
Many of the benefits were NOT available all along. In just the last 5 years many value added programs and information has been added for our members.

Both the web site and Swim magazine have so much more content for the fitness swimmers, the ocean water swimmers, the triathletes, and the competitive swimmers. Both listen very well to the members wishes.

Only this last year did the web site put a fitenss article up for everyone. The last couple of years coaches have been paid to put up on-line swim workouts. The magazine has "Ask the Doctor" and many health and sports medicine related articles. Soon the web site will have a Sports Medicine section. Even these forums are relatively new, and took time and money to put up. The list would be very long if everything new in just the last 5 years were listed.
For all the non convention goers, if USMS had to pay the going rate for all the volunteer work our LMSC people and convention people do, the dues would be $1000 per year. There are people in some of the conventions that went from 8 in the morning to after midnight and later (Finance) To say Tom Boak and the other Finance committee members and others in attendance did a GREAT job would be an understatement.

Many of us left convention with long lists of WORK to do. None of us gripe or complain, the work just gets done. It is a wonderful organization with very talented people.

Wayne McCauley
SPMA Chairman

September 19th, 2003, 10:15 PM
That's true that the average income is lower and those jobs that tend to be unionized in other states are less unionized in Arizona. Another place that is really overpriced in housing is Flaggstaff. Also, there are high incomes in Ct or MA or some of the NorthEast. Anyway, Wayne, the Tucson area is very different from when you live here 30 years ago. I lived past Houghton street in the far Eastside. Its developed a lot in the past 7 years