SHRM Raises Dues on the Heels of Increase in Board Pay

From the HR blog at TLNT.
From the HR blog at TLNT.

* See updates below

When I wrote this week about the SHRM Board of Directors quietly and secretly raising the amount of the “honorarium” it was paying itself, I mentioned that I had e-mailed a list of a half-dozen specific questions about the Board’s recent actions to the SHRM public affairs staff. I hoped that the Board, and Chair Robb Van Cleave, would answer some or all of them.

No such luck, of course, but one of the questions I asked was this: “Is SHRM planning to raise membership fees in the near future? I have heard from a number of sources that they believe it is going to happen.”

Of course, SHRM didn’t respond to ANY of my questions and gave me the famous “SHRM doesn’t want to be part of the story you’re doing” line instead.

Well, today my question to the SHRM Board about membership dues comes up again because Chief Global Membership Officer Janet Parker (a former SHRM chair and Board member who replaced China Gorman in June) just sent an e-mail out to volunteer leaders of SHRM announcing a $20 per year hike in dues –from $160 to $180 annually.

Here’s what Parker’s e-mail note said, in part:

Dear Volunteer Leader:

For the first time in more than 20 years, SHRM is increasing membership dues for professional, general and associate members. For memberships beginning January 1, 2011, annual dues will increase $20, to $180, or about 39 cents per week.

The increase – our first since 1990 – is necessary because:

  • We want to ensure that SHRM continues to provide leading-edge services and products, enabling you to stay ahead of what’s next. This means investing in new resources and content that you want and need on a timely basis.
  • The cost of doing business has increased over the past 20 years. Even with the increase, dues won’t cover the average cost of providing benefits and services to our members.

When members were asked to put a value on their SHRM benefits, the average response was $400. At $180 a year, SHRM’s dues will still remain lower than those of other major HR or professional associations.

We will continue to provide:

  • A new member discount, $15 off the membership price ($165 v. $180);
  • $100 memberships to the professionals who provide administrative services to SHRM chapters;
  • A discounted first-year rate for chapter members of $165;
  • And for members who have lost their jobs due to the recession, a one-year extension of their memberships at no cost.

Parker also gives a link to “talking points” – PR speak for making sure everyone gives a consistent and carefully-crafted message with just the right amount of PR spin to it – so that the volunteers can talk to other SHRM members who may have questions about it.

Or, it may be simply a way to get ahead of the bad press that SHRM may be anticipating for raising dues right now in the wake of the secret action by the Board to raise its own pay.

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Here’s what SHRM’s talking points won’t tell you: this is a terribly bad time to be raising dues, and especially bad given the actions of the SHRM Board of Directors to raise their own compensation without any attempt to be transparent or open about it.

You can make a good case that one $20 raise in dues in 20 years isn’t a big deal, and truthfully, it’s not. What you can’t make a case for is the timing of all of this in the wake of the ongoing economic struggles the country is facing, and, the SHRM’s Board inability to be willing to stand up and be publicly accountable to the membership for its actions.

It’s too late in the day for me to ask for a comment from SHRM on this latest news, but I will tomorrow. Don’t be surprised if they say that they don’t want to be a part of this story any more than they were the last one.

UPDATE: SHRM was quick in getting back to me on this story, but that’s because they have their response down pat. A spokesperson for SHRM let me know that “you won’t be hearing from us in response to your new questions.” As a journalist and SHRM member, I continue to be amazed at how unresponsive, secretive, and tone deaf the SHRM Board continues to be about this subject.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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