MPP and dual members

The Membership Pilot Program (MPP) is what AAUW calls its initial step towards national dues collection. The odd name probably comes from the emphasis on this being an optional program — branches can still collect dues locally and send the checks to DC just as they’ve been doing for years.

The MPP (live 5/1/09) provides two major benefits:

  • Renewing branch members can pay dues onlne at with a credit card. [Some branches have allowed online payments for years, often using Paypal. Note, however, that AAUW picks up all the credit card transaction fees with the MPP.]
  • Branch treasurers who collect dues locally can remit the state/national portion with an online payment at No checks, no stamps, no envelopes, no muss, no fuss – and a member shows up as renewed on the roster as soon as the transaction is completed.

In my branches, very few members (just one, count ’em) are taking advantage of the online payment, but as a branch treasurer, I love the convenience of the online reporting and payment.

There are some odd quirks, though. Some are due to AAUW’s inconsistent treatment of dual members, i.e. members who join more than one branch. They are “primary” members of their first branch and “dual” members of other branches. They pay national dues just once, and state dues just once to each state. This is an important enough concept that it’s been in the c. 20 word glossary provided to new members, but in some contexts, AAUW members have been known to say “dual members are a local issue.”

I just handled my first dual member joining the branch and paying branch dues (my branch had $0 local dues until July 1). She wrote the branch a check for $5, and I’ll deposit that sometime soon. However, I wanted to get her connected right away, so I went to the MPP and signed her up. Now, at some level, I knew this was going to happen but it still seems odd:

  • AAUW charged the branch credit card the amount of the local dues
  • Sometime this month AAUW will send the local dues back to the branch checking account via electronic funds transfer

When a member is paying national/state/local dues, it seemed odd but not completely ridiculous to send the total amount to the national organization and then get the rebate of the local portion (at the same time, I suppose, that the state was sent their cut). But when someone owes only local dues, to have that local amount make a lonely round trip to national and back seems nuts. And it must be relatively expensive to pay two transaction fees on such a small amount.

The charitable argument for this (don’t ask me about the uncharitable ones) was that “we must process the entire transaction so that we can confirm it.”  I’d argued against that since it required some dissembling in cases where the branch would, say, offer a discount to a graduate student — the person didn’t pay the entire amount, but the transaction was being processed as if she had. I lost that battle.

Anyway, I’m glad for the  MPP for what it is, and hope that “real” national dues collection (with the national organization crafting invoices that say payment is to be returned to them, not the local branch treasurer) will be in our future soon — after enough branches get confidence that the money that’s sent to DC really will come back to them in a timely fashion. [Perhaps that’s the real argument for this process, but then there’s a chicken and egg question: branches won’t sign up for the pilot program because of lack of confidence, so how can confidence be built?]

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