Anemic dues structure will hamstring the new 140-member association. My analysis suggests that the members have much more capacity than they are willing to commit to the organization.
The Oregonian (Wade Nkrumah) passes on the announcement of the new Nonprofit Association of Oregon, sponsored by Technical Assistance for Community Services (EIN 93-0685385 Form 990), an organization that already provides training, tech support, and consultant referrals to nonprofit groups in the state. The purpose of the new association is to expand beyond training to address public policy issues relating to nonprofits, build awareness of nonprofits, and share resources.
The organization is starting with 140 nonprofit charter members, out of about 14,000 registered 501(c)(3) organizations in Oregon. The dues are on a sliding scale based on budget, running from $25 to $300.
A little arithmetic shows that there is already a problem with this association. Figuring that the dues might average something like $100 per organization, that's a budget of only $14,000, which doesn't go very far to address public policy issues these days.
It seems to me that the NAO has fallen into the same trap of many nonprofit organizations around the country, which I observed first-hand during my stint as interim director of the National Council of Nonprofit Associations (EIN 52-1689643 Form 990) back in 2000. Dues are set too low for a viable association, ostensibly to enable small scale organizations to participate.
But in this case, there isn't even a need for that approach, since TACS already provides technical assistance, the type of service that small scale organizations need most.
To show that there is more capacity, even in this charter group, I looked up the revenue of the founding organizations on the IRS Master File and succeeded in finding 110 of the 140 groups listed on the NAO web page. Even this select group has astonishing aggregate revenues of $894 million. I have summarized the data in the chart that pops up if you click the image on the right (or you can download this 17Kb PDF file). Surely this group can afford more than $14,000 a year in aggregate dues.
Anyone interested can download the source data I used, which is a comma delimited text file that should open in any spreadsheet or database program.
The way I look at state nonprofit associations is this: there is a core support group, which consists of the organizations with revenues over $1 million, or approximately 20 employees, to somewhere in the vicinity of $50 million, approximately 1,000 employees. In Oregon, there are about 62 groups just among the founding members that fit this profile, with aggregate revenues of $527 million.
The two organizations larger than that are a community foundation and Mercy Corps (EIN 91-1148123 Form 990), the international relief and development organization based in Portland. Groups this size may belong to a statewide association, but they really don't have much interest in influencing state policies toward nonprofits. And smaller groups, though potentially much more numerous, lack the capacity to make a meaningful financial contribution, though they may have some benefit in adding voices.
Turning back to the IRS Master File data, statewide in Oregon there are about 570 organizations in the $1 million to $10 million range, and about 60 in the $10 million to $50 million range (excluding hospitals and higher education). These comparatively few organizations have an aggregate revenue of just under $3 billion. They have the capacity for paying dues considerably greater than $300 and could create a viable organization with the ability to influence public policy toward nonprofits.
Unfortunately, the nonprofits of Oregon have chosen the path of least resistance—opting for nominal dues and minimal expectations. They will be left with an ineffectual statewide organization as a result.