Message from the Treasurer
Kimberly G. Smith
Into the Millennium with a Million
At of the end of 1999, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology surpassed $1,000,000 in net assets, thus signifying the end to any past financial problems the society may have experienced. This threshold was achieved through a most generous bequest by Past President Charlotte Magnum and the combined efforts of President Martin Feder and myself and our Executive Director Peter Studney, our Account Manager Susan Heckman, our Convention Manager Wilma Salvatore and other members of our society's staff at our Business Office. The society owes a great debt to these dedicated staff members (pun intended!).
Now for more good news!! Based on the strong financial position of the society, the Executive Committee approved several changes that will directly benefit current members and hopefully attract more new members to the society. Some of these changes were already evident to those that attended the Annual Meeting in Atlanta: registration for full members was reduced to under $200 and the abstract fee was reduced by $5. At the Atlanta meeting, the Executive Committee voted to abolish the abstract fee entirely for the Chicago meeting. They also voted to reduce full membership dues by about 10 percent to bring them back below $100 to $95 for the year 2001.
Those three reductions in the cost of being a member of SICB decreased meeting registration, abolishment of the abstract fee and reduced dues for full members - were all goals of mine when I became treasurer several years ago. However, there still remains the issue of the cost of the Annual Meeting, which historically has been a net "user" of funds as opposed to a "source" of funds for the society. In order to accomplish this goal I felt it was necessary to reduce the cost of producing our Annual Meetings, and, thus, I supported the move to a new management company, which promises to continue the high level of service but at a greatly reduced cost. I reiterate that this was done for mostly financial reasons, and not because of any displeasure with our Annual Meetings. I have nothing but the highest praise for Wilma Salvatore and her staff; all of you that attended the Atlanta meeting know what a wonderful meeting it was.
The dark cloud on the horizon is the decreased revenue that the society is receiving from the American Zoologist. Most of the society's current revenue comes from institutional subscriptions, not subscriptions from members. Institutional subscriptions, particularly foreign ones, are decreasing at an alarming rate. If this trend continues, I predict that in the near future American Zoologist will become a luxury, not a necessity, for the society. To combat that scenario, the society must develop alternative sources of revenues. The simplest method would be to increase the membership so that dues become a significant part of the annual revenue. The other two alternatives are to turn the Annual Meeting into a significant money maker, rather than a money loser, and to invest the assets of the society in riskier markets. Making the Annual Meeting a large money maker seems unrealistic to me unless the meeting gets a lot bigger, and I leave it up to my successor Treasurer-elect Ron Dimock to decide about investing. (Currently, the society's funds are in money market accounts and certificates of deposit.)
The society must diversify its sources of revenues and increasing the membership seems to be the logical way to do it. Hopefully, the cost saving measures that we have been able to institute this year will draw some previous members back and generate interest among potential new members. It is time to spread the word!