by Bill Goichberg

One year ago, I wrote in the USCF Delegates Call, “We have been facing a vicious cycle. At our current adult dues level, membership continues to decline, which in turn causes clubs and tournaments to fold, which produces further membership decline, etc. We urgently need to turn this cycle around, but since our finances are not as good as we would like, we wait until they are better. But they never seem to be good enough, and it’s hard to have strong financial results when Adult membership keeps declining... We should not tolerate the continued erosion of our valuable Adult membership base while we wait for the perfect moment to take this long overdue step.”

Subsequently, the Executive Board took the courageous step of announcing a six-month dues sale, which offered one year full Adult membership for $39 if paid online, between October 2006 and March 2007. The combination of the dues sale, our improved publications and website, and more and better renewal mailings appears to have succeeded in increasing Adult membership during a fiscal year for the first time since 1995, after 11 consecutive years of substantial decline which saw us lose about 40% of our Adult members.

The following table tells the story. Note that until August 2006, there was a “Youth” category for age 20 or below at expiration paying about half the Adult fee; in 2006 this category was changed to “Young Adult” for age 25 or below at expiration. So even though we have apparently lost 314 “Adult” members in the past year, actually these and others have simply been reclassified as “Young Adult,” and if we compare Adults age 25 or up with the same group last year, we have a gain of 551 members.

Adult members as of May 31
(Includes Economy Adult 2001 to date; that membership was abolished by the delegates in 2004 but still has a few multiyear members)
All Age 25/up
1992 29730
1993 31311
1994 31766
1995 32892
1996 31792
1997 29997
1998 29418
1999 28529
2000 27593
2001 26582 24852
2002 25384 23677
2003 23988 22308
2004 21915 20261
2005 21212 19601
2006 20399 18848
2007 20085 19399

1) The age 25/up figures are estimates assuming that members with birth date unknown, about 7% of the total, have the same percentage of age 25/up as those with known birth date.
2) Prison members were part of the Adult category until 2003-2004. As a result, the totals prior to 2003 are probably inflated by 500-1000, and the 2003 total by about 300-600, compared to the years after 2003. Even considering this, we lost an average of clearly over 1000 Adults per year in the 11 years following 1995.
3) “Economy Adult” memberships without a publication were offered 2001-2004 without success. See below.
4) Additional Family members who are age 25/over increased by about 100 in each year 2006 and 2007. This is not reflected in the above numbers.

The financial impact of the dues sale was apparently slightly negative for the 2007 fiscal year. Our cash position has improved by almost $80,000 due mainly to an increase in multiyear memberships, but half the two-year income and two-thirds of the three-year income must be deferred for the future, both to do proper accounting and to assure us a cash cushion to guard against unexpected problems. As some of these multiyear members would otherwise have renewed late or not at all, the deferred revenue from the dues sale should help boost our 2008 and 2009 membership revenue. There is also the hidden benefit that whether one year or multi, when the dues sale members expire, many will renew, while with higher dues, most dropping out as a result would be unlikely to return.

After the end of the $39 dues sale on March 31, the Executive Board started another dues sale at a slightly higher rate, $41 for online purchases. I favored continuing the $39 rate which is a proven winner, but also feel that players and affiliates are confused by too frequent changes in rates, so am sponsoring a motion to place the current $41 online rate into our Bylaws. As the rate would remain $49 for mailed or phoned purchases, affiliates may in effect obtain an $8 commission by selling memberships for $49 at clubs or tournaments and submitting them to USCF online.


Other membership categories, mostly for young people, have recovered nicely after a two-year period of collapse following the dues increases, unfortunate experiment with economy memberships, and suspension of a scholastic publication in 2003. See table below; our gain of 1204 members this fiscal year was the largest in four years.

May 31      Dec 31
1988         53205         52153
1989         51596         51105
1990         52577         54623
1991         57667         58454
1992         63403 (A)   67613
1993         68831         72014
1994         73565         79021
1995         81636         83598
1996         83155         84047
1997         83291         84791
1998         84929         85250
1999         84160         86299
2000         86109         88569
2001         87956 (B)   90005
2002         89282         94937
2003         90637 (C)   89925
2004         85856         83091
2005         80334         81792
2006         80623 (D)   82755
2007         81827

A) Effective 1/1/92, free JTPs were no longer allowed for most scholastic tournaments.
B) Non-magazine economy option offered for adults, 2001-2004. About 5600 adult members (full plus economy) were lost during this period.
C) Start of higher dues and Economy Scholastic memberships, Chess Life replaced School Mates for Scholastic members.
D) Chess Life for Kids started for Scholastic members, Economy Scholastic category ended.