|Ruth Haring: President's Report|
|By Ruth Haring|
|November 16, 2011|
It is a great honor for me to serve the USCF as President and to provide my first board-meeting report to the membership.
This report divides my comments into three sections. First, I comment on the health of the USCF; second, I discuss membership trends; and third, I summarize the events I have attended on behalf of U.S. Chess since the Delegates meeting in Orlando, Florida.
State of the USCF
Despite the global economic downturn, USCF is having a good year and we are running about $60K ahead of budget. I am happy to report that we have paid down legal fees and only have a $59K balance left. This amount should be completely paid off early in the next fiscal year. Finally, we can look forward to a future of promoting chess. I urge all chess players, directors, organizers, delegates, teachers, coaches, and others involved with organized chess to work together in a harmonious way in the future so that the organization does not have to bleed precious funds to lawyers.
With our revenues being primarily derived from membership dues and national tournaments, it is key to understand the trends in these numbers and to keep focusing on increasing memberships both through traditional means and through new avenues. It is important to note that approximately 50% of dues revenues come from members under the age of 21.
Our total membership as of October 31, 2011 was 76,508. 58.6% of these members are under 21. Females comprise 16% of the under 21 population. For the adult category, females represent 3.5 % of the population.
One year ago, we had 76208 members, of which 58% were under 21; and in the under 21 population, 16.2 % were female. For the adult category, females comprised 1.44 % of the population.
To give some context, seven years ago on October 31, 2004 we had 83,948 total members of which 57% were under 21, 13.5% of the under 21 members were female, and adult female memberships were about 2.4 %
What does this tell us? Year after year memberships are flat with an increase of 375 members since last October. This modest membership increase during times of economic challenge is to be commended, and also deserves study.
Seven years ago, in 2004, we had 7,440 additional members. If you look into the numbers you will see that this decrease in membership is in the adult category and could be due to a variety of factors which we have discussed before, including the fact that the "Fischer Boomers" are reaching retirement, and some older players may no longer be active members. We obviously need to make a serious effort to boost adult memberships and reverse this trend.
About 60% of our membership is under 21, but this percentage has been flat over the past seven years. On the other hand, female membership numbers deserve serious study. It appears that over the past year we have doubled the percentage of adult female members as a percentage of the adult population. Another encouraging statistic is that about 16% of our under 21 members are girls. This compares to 16% one year ago and 13% seven years ago. It is clear that we have had growth in the under 21 female category, and interestingly, these members might be starting to convert to adult members explaining the uptick in female adult memberships.
If you recall membership trend discussions in previous delegate and board meetings you will remember that we have discussed the membership drop off starting at age 11 in the under 21 category which tells us that a large portion of our membership are new members. More detailed analysis of this should be done in a systematic way and reported regularly.
These metrics represent opportunities and also challenges. It is evident that we need to address the conversion of under 21 members into lifetime adult members. We also need to address the question of how to bring casual online players into the organization. We are hoping our launch of online chess will be the first program to address getting new members into the organization.
In the past we have had membership drives which we should study and I suggest we need to seriously consider a promotional membership program for members between 12-21 in which they are given free membership if they maintain a certain level of activity ( for example, if they play a minimum number of games in USCF rated tournaments, How about 30 games?)
Looking at our trends with female members is also quite an eye opener. Contrast female youth memberships of 16% to female adult memberships of 3.5 %. This suggests that we are losing most of the females in the Scholastic programs without conversion to adult membership. However there is a doubling in the percentage of females in the adult membership population, so some conversion is taking place. I suggest that we have an opportunity and should envision new ways to retain our under 21 female members and convert them to adult members while at the same time asking the very difficult question: "Why do we have only 3.5 % females in our population of adult members ?
Many of our current adult and scholastic members have family members (mothers, sisters, daughters) who play chess, but do not play in tournaments. We need to change this. I think that rather than developing an affirmative action type program we should instead tap our adult members with an incentive membership program which rewards existing members who bring females into the tournament chess realm. We should also consider publishing Chess Life 4 Girls. The potential in this area is great and should not be overlooked.
Moving back to a discussion of Scholastic Chess. We have a population of parents supporting scholastic tournaments and we should find services to offer them that would be considered valuable to them, and ideally result in more memberships or revenue to USCF from these services. For example, the USCF could offer seminars for parents, analysis service for parents who want a master to give an update on the current state of their child's game or a team situation, free Internet service at events for those who have family memberships, etc.
As an organization which has a substantial membership pool in the under 12 age range, we must be vigilant to ensure a safe environment at our events and immediately take strong and permanent action in the case of impropriety. It is important to realize that our customer in the case of Scholastic players is the parent. We risk losing a membership if a parent feels that any of these concerns exists: the child is unsafe; playing conditions make them unhappy; they dislike the venue, direction and administration of the event, coaching or trainer’s attitudes or methods; or fears there is preferential treatment or impropriety. Perception is reality and we need to be actively managing our reputation by continuing to seek feedback directly from the parents and continuously improving our events and programs based on that feedback.
It is worth noting that we have a major new initiative with the Boy Scout Merit badge program and we should be carefully monitoring the participation and conversion levels. This is the kind of story we need to actively participate in and keep associated accomplishments in the spot light.
Report on Trips to Represent the USCF Board
The Boy Scout program is a good segue into the final section of my report, which is to tell you what I have been doing since becoming President to promote chess for the USCF community. Since August I have been busy working to promote a positive image of our organization. One important event that I attended was the World Chess Hall of Fame Grand Opening in St. Louis last September.
Following the U.S. Open in Orlando, I travelled to Athens Greece in my capacity as Secretary of the FIDE Verification Commission. During the time in the FIDE Athens Office I also had meetings and discussions about our top issues with various FIDE officials including Executive Director David Jarrett, Treasurer Nigel Freeman, and FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulous.
When I returned to the U.S., I played in the Labor Day Chess Festival in Santa Clara, California and attended meetings of the Northern California Chess association. On the 1st and 2nd of October I opened the National G/60 and G/30 Championships (also in the Bay Area) on behalf of USCF and also played in the events. As many of you know, I am not a TD or an Organizer. I play in tournaments and talk to many of our most active members at these events. So far in 2011, I have played in nine tournaments, and played 51 rated games.
From the 15th to the 22nd of October, the 82nd FIDE Congress was held in Krakow, Poland. USCF sent a delegation of seven people to represent us at the FIDE Congress. Our delegation included Walter Brown, Sophia Rohde, Francisco Guadalupe, Bill Hall, Tony Rich, myself, and Michael Khodarkovsky.
Our agenda for the Krakow Congress included ensuring that norms and titles earned by our players were awarded, lobbying and working to explain our popular 5 second delay time controls, primarily 40/2 followed by G/1 with 5 seconds delay starting from the first move; providing input and explanation of our opposition to a long list of proposed new fees, and finally to introduce our new team and actively participate so that we will have more commission members from USCF in the future and thereby achieve better representation of our key issues.
Each of the members of our delegation wrote an article which was published here on uschess.org for Chess Life Online, including my own wrap-up. If you haven't read these reports yet, I urge you to follow the links. I am happy to report that all norms and titles earned in 5-second delay tournaments that we put on the agenda for consideration were approved. For now, our organizers cannot hold norm events using the delay time control. It is our hope that delay time controls will be approved as an allowed time control for norm tournaments in the future and we are still working towards this end and hopeful of a positive outcome soon.
I continue to communicate by email and phone with our friends from FIDE to advance USCF interests. We are working with our Continental President and other key FIDE officials with our recommendations for Commission memberships I am hopeful that we will have new members on some of the key FIDE Commissions in the near future. Zonal President Francisco Guadalupe and USCF Delegate Michael Khodarkovsky will give a more detailed international report later.