Footbag Reference: Proposal to Amend the IFPA Membership Structure

Footbag Reference

Proposal to Amend the IFPA Membership Structure

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Note: This is a historical document. The current membership structure is always explained → here.


Justification for Change

The primary reason for changing the membership structure of IFPA is to expand IFPA's ability to influence the development of the sport of footbag world-wide. For the last 5 years, IFPA has been a full membership-based organization where members were charged annual dues of US $10.

Timeline

  • March, 2006: proposed, written, and submitted by Steve Goldberg.
  • April, 2006: approved by IFPA board of directors.
  • June, 2006: approved by IFPA membership vote.
  • January, 2007: new structure takes effect.

In its five-year history to date, the IFPA membership roster has never had more than just a few hundred members. This cannot be considered sufficient because this number represents approximately 3% of the available community of footbag athletes (estimated at 10,000 as compared to "hacky sack" players which is estimated in the millions globally), though in terms of players competing at the very top levels, the coverage is more like 30-40% (based on approximately 1000 players who compete at major tournaments around the world).

This means the organization risks becoming an "elitist" roster of only the best and most serious (or wealthiest) competitors, which is not the primary goal of IFPA.

Secondly, it is apparent that the US $10 membership dues are either too high of a barrier to entry, or represent the fact that players do not appreciate enough value in becoming members of IFPA. Either way, there are many players who simply do not opt into membership, and in some cases, players don't even compete at sanctioned events because they would be required to pay an extra US $10 in order to become IFPA members.

As such, for players registering for competitions that require membership, the $10 membership dues seem more like punishment for entering a competition, as opposed to something players would want to pay because they see some value in it.

This is especially true in poorer regions/countries, and the extra burden of dealing with payment of membership dues also biases membership against non-U.S. countries, since dues must ultimately find their way to IFPA's U.S. corporate bank account.

In addition, the sanctioning process has required organizers in remote areas to jump through hoops to get their competitors signed up for IFPA, often resulting in a lag as long as 1 year in getting people correctly added to the official roster, and resulting in unhappiness on the part of the player. These hoops include transferring funds to the treasurer in the U.S. to pay for the memberships, as well as collecting the "right" information from each member to ensure that their official roster entry can be updated/marked/created.

To address these issues and more, this proposal lays out a more equitable and much simpler system for managing the official membership roster, and creates a clearer way for IFPA to offer value in its membership to all levels of footbag players around the world.

It is hoped that, if adopted, this new membership structure will greatly improve IFPA's acceptance among footbag players, growing its numbers 3- to 10-fold, thus helping IFPA in its mission to bring consistency to organized footbag competitions, to educate players about the sport, to spread the sport of footbag as a healthy lifetime athletic endeavor from youths to the elderly, to manage, improve, and extend the official rules and official events as the sport evolves over time, and to foster amateur competitions and clubs all around the world.


Requirements and Constraints of the Proposed Change

The last five years have shown us that we need to consider all of the following constraints in defining a new membership structure for IFPA:

(a) Ease of Implementation (or, "Scalability"). The sport of footbag is a global sport, but IFPA does not have the resources to enable physical distribution and connections between all the players and organizers world-wide. It is becoming prohibitively expensive to implement the existing membership system given the need to transfer funds internationally, track and report income from memberships given international tax laws and considering IFPA's U.S. 501(c)(3) status, etc. As such, the implementation of IFPA's membership system can be thought of as requiring:

i. minimal or *no* exchange of funds per player to IFPA before they are added to the official roster;

ii. minimal or *no* work nor approval required by the IFPA membership director or any other IFPA director to add individual members to the roster.

(b) Fast Turn-Around. Members should be officially listed in the IFPA member roster within no more than a few days of when the decision is made that they are members (see how that happens in the full proposal below). This means the same day as someone becomes a members, they will often be able to use the footbag.org member-only services without having to wait for their membership to be "processed" (which historically has taken up to a year). This of course implies a web-based solution and assumes that anyone empowered to use the web-based tool has internet access at least on a daily basis.

(c) Parity/Compatibility with Previous Membership Structure. Any change in the membership structure must accommodate previous members and must ensure that nobody "loses" benefits as a result of the change. Furthermore, no existing or past member should feel that they have been penalized as a result of participating under the previous structure. For example, if by the new structure, a member will have to pay US $10 for a lifetime membership, then any previous member who ever paid US $10 at any point should be retroactive made into a lifetime member. (This of course would mean all current/previous members would be added to the roster as a "lifetime" member.)

(d) Sensible Membership Count. The result of any change in the membership structure should be to preserve a "sensible" membership count. In other words, it is not the intent of a membership structure change to "pad" or otherwise grossly inflate, nor understate, the number of active IFPA members at any point in time. The goal is instead to have the official roster reflect a more realistic count of active footbag players and competitors world-wide, who either get value from, or actively contribute to the goals of the IFPA. This change should bring the number of active members closer to 100% of footbag competitors, and 10% of non-competitor footbag players world-wide. (In other words, one order of magnitude increase in membership from the current system.) An example of how this requirement could impact the ultimate structure is in the treatment of "lifetime" vs. "annual" memberships. Players who compete in tournaments but who do not otherwise help organize or participate in committees or give donations to IFPA should probably *not* be listed on the roster in years when they do not compete or otherwise participate in IFPA sanctioned or sponsored functions. Thus, there is a need for annual memberships that expire, by contrast with lifetime memberships that do not. If all members were lifetime members, without any concept of expiration, membership in IFPA would increase monotonically, serving to mask the true nature of IFPA's impact on the sport each year.

(e) Better Value for the Players. Membership in IFPA should be a benefit, not a burden, on the players. In short, players should not be funding IFPA's operations directly, and having no membership fee for the baseline membership ensures this is the case. However, there is obviously other work required (outside the scope of this proposal) to increase member value (both perceived and actual).

(f) Barrier to Entry. Any system we put in place needs to create at least some barrier to entry, even if it's relatively simple to overcome. The reason isn't just for (d) above, but also for the costs of administering and hosting services on footbag.org to support members. For example, if IFPA continues to offer a free video upload service to IFPA members so that footbag players can trade videos online easily, there must be a way to ensure that the costs of such a service "scale". It would be prohibitively expensive to offer such a service to anyone on the Internet. Obviously we need a way to limit the number of people who claim to be IFPA members in some way, so that only "real" footbag players and/or organizers and/or aficionados of various forms are included on the roster. Similarly, the value of the membership data is much higher if the players had to go through some explicit process to register for IFPA membership; i.e., they are more likely to give their true name, true mailing address, true age, and true e-mail address, if they have to overcome some barrier to registration to IFPA. (As a counter-example, anyone can get a Hotmail account, and so people come and go constantly from Hotmail all the time; many people have four or five Hotmail accounts, and abandon them almost as quickly as they sign up. Among other things, IFPA should be able to ensure that each member is only listed once on the roster.)

(g) Adherence to 501(c)(3) Qualification Rules. The original incorporation of IFPA was as a "Membership Organization", and as such, the details of membership are part of the corporate documentation. There are probably multiple ways to treat the new membership structure if adopted, including redefining the organization to be a "Non-Membership Organization" or amending the By-Laws of the Corporation to spell out the new membership structure within the context of a Membership Organization. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and must be considered in light of the qualification standards for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, which IFPA should attempt to retain.


Scope of the Proposed Change

This proposal is limited to the treatment of individual memberships, as set forth in the initial articles of incorporation and in the initial by-laws of the corporation. It is expressly not meant to imply any changes to -- nor recommend any changes to -- other types of membership. For example, there are several proposals on the table to create other types of membership of IFPA, in particular, corporate memberships, club memberships, national governing body memberships, etc. These are all considered outside the scope of this proposal, which is intended to be interpreted in the context of the official IFPA membership structure as of January 1, 2006.

Furthermore, to fully implement this proposal, there *may* be a need to formally amend either the Articles of Incorporation or the By-Laws of the Corporation with the State of California. This should be evaluated if and only if the Board of Directors agrees in principle to this proposal.


Success Criteria

The proposed membership structure will be considered a success if all the following statements are true after one year and into the future:

(a) The requirements set forth in section 2 above are met.

(b) The number of annual members consistently exceeds 999 members each year, excluding lifetime members, for the first two years.

(c) The number of lifetime members grows by at least 25 members each year. (This will exclude the initial set of lifetime members that are automatically granted lifetime status per the proposal below, and is thus only the *incremental* lifetime members after the initial transition to the new scheme is complete.)

(d) A separate donations drive collects at least the equivalent of previously-budgeted income from memberships, as the proposed system will all but eliminate income from memberships. In other words, with approximately 300 new memberships each year, the IFPA generated approximately US $3,000 of revenue per year towards its operations under the current membership scheme. If this proposal is adopted, IFPA will need to either generate an additional US $3,000 in donations, or otherwise amend its operating budget to account for the lower revenue target implied by this proposal.


Proposed New Membership Structure

Membership in IFPA shall be defined in terms of four "tiers" or levels of membership:

Tier 0: non-voting member at large. Members of footbag.org are automatically Tier 0 members, and can access footbag.org member-only areas of the site (such as member search, adding/editing clubs on the club list, member forum, etc.). They cannot, however, vote in IFPA elections, run for IFPA offices, sit on IFPA committees, or be counted in the official IFPA member roster. Anyone can become a Tier 0 member by registering for a free account on footbag.org. Tier 0 membership does not expire, though members may request to cancel their footbag.org account and thus cease being counted in the official non-voting membership count.

Tier 1: basic IFPA membership. Members at Tier 1 have the right to vote in IFPA elections, participate on IFPA committees, and access IFPA-member-only areas of footbag.org (e.g., video/photo upload service, create and participate in online groups/committees, etc.). Members can attain Tier 1 status free of charge -- by attending any sanctioned IFPA tournament or festival or by seeking recognition from a Tier 2 or higher member. Tier 1 members can also pay for a lifetime membership. (The duration of a membership does not affect which tier it is at.)

Tier 2: IFPA organizer membership. Members at Tier 2 receive all the benefits of Tier 1, plus the ability to apply for event sanctioning, event sponsorship, etc. In addition, Tier 2 members are able to send e-mails to the announce@footbag.org mailing list, add events to the event list, and access other organizer-only areas of footbag.org. Most importantly, Tier 2 members have limited access to update the IFPA membership roster by designating other members as Tier 1 members, either directly (using a web-based tool) or indirectly (requesting an IFPA official to update the roster accordingly). This is normally done in conjunction with tournaments or festivals they are organizing, but may also include their own club members and anyone they can "vouch" for or "recognize" who requests an annual Tier 1 membership. For convenience, Tier 2 members can have direct access to the membership roster (if such a tool is available) immediately surrounding a sanctioned event they are running, usually 1-2 weeks before and 1-2 weeks after the event. All other times, Tier 2 members must request updates from the Membership Director or an official empowered by the Membership Director as part of the volunteer staff of the organization. In general, such requests will be approved and implemented immediately; however, the Membership Director has the discretion to deny such requests if they seem to be frivolous or abusive. Becoming a Tier 2 member requires paying either an annual membership fee, or a lifetime membership fee.

Tier 3: IFPA director. Members at Tier 3 have all the privileges of Tier 2 members, but also have direct access to the IFPA membership roster, as well as board level voting privileges (per the IFPA By-Laws).

Membership dues break down according to the following schedule:

  • Tier 0 Membership: ANNUAL=free; LIFETIME=free (no distinction). Tier 0 membership is automatic and free, whenever anyone applies for footbag.org membership. All current members of footbag.org are automatically Tier 0 IFPA members (non-voting members at large).
  • Tier 1 Membership: ANNUAL=free; LIFETIME=$10. Annual Tier 1 memberships are free, provided that the member is unique (members may not be listed on the roster more than once) and that the individual competes in any IFPA-sanctioned footbag event (each event attended extends the individual's Tier 1 membership for 365 days from the date of the event). In addition, any individual wishing to become a Tier 1 member may simply request it from any Tier 2 member (or above) they know. A Tier 2 member can thus "vouch" for or "recognize" a Tier 1 member for a period not to exceed one year from the date they are added to the roster. This means it is also possible for non-competitors to join IFPA as a Tier 1 member without paying a fee. (For example, a club organizers who is a Tier 2 member can recognize all of her club members as IFPA Tier 1 members each year at her discretion.) The only way to become a lifetime Tier 1 member, however, is to pay the $10 fee.
  • Tier 2 Membership: ANNUAL=$25; LIFETIME=$150. Tier 2 memberships must be renewed each year unless the member pays the lifetime fee. Of course, any Tier 2 member becomes a Tier 1 member for life the minute they pay their $25; so even if they let their Tier 2 membership lapse, they will remain a Tier 1 member. (The rule is, if anyone ever paid membership dues to IFPA, they become a Tier 1 lifetime member.)

Tier 3 Membership: Elected offices or appointed offices based on IFPA By-Laws.

Next Steps

If approved, the steps to implementing this new membership structure is relatively straightforward. Here is a road map:

(1) Immediately convert members from the old roster to the new roster based on the following schedule of membership dues paid over each member's lifetime:

(a) current footbag.org members: Tier 0 lifetime (no change)
(b) paid $10 at any point in the past: Tier 1 lifetime
(c) paid $20 or more at any point in the past: Tier 2 annual
(d) paid $150 or previously listed as lifetime: Tier 2 lifetime

Note that because many players' memberships will have lapsed before we apply the schedule above, the "annual" clock starts on the day of the transition, and is not affected by the player's current member expiration date. (In other words, any time we grant an annual membership, it is for one year from the date of the grant.)

(2) Modify footbag.org's member database to track membership tiers instead of just having a single membership flag.

(3) Modify footbag.org's administration system to understand new tier structure; e.g., don't allow Tier 1 members or lower to add events to the event list. Etc.

(4) Modify footbag.org's membership administration tool to allow Tier 2 members limited functionality; make more "turn-key" and tie up all edge cases.

(5) Communicate broadly about the new structure, including updating the online membership system.

(6) Procedural: Amend the By-Laws to account for any implications this change may have in the formal corporation By-Laws or Articles. Crafting this change in a way that doesn't conflict with the existing By-Laws would be ideal. However, as mentioned above, amending the By-Laws may be required for full compliance with IRS codes and US law.

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