Budget Matters Revisited

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

My co-author for this month’s column is Jim McGhay, AAPG Treasurer. Later this month, you will receive your dues statement, where there are two items that might attract your attention. We address them here.

In our October 2011 column, we reviewed the state of the AAPG budget, endeavoring to explain the causes of its cyclicity and what the Executive Committee must do to redress budget shortcomings.

As the EC and HQ staff have been analyzing our budgets during the past six months, it has become painfully apparent that our Association must find new ways to pay for the products, services, and programs – in quantity and quality – that we all have come to expect from a world-class organization. Of course, the alternative is to speak the unspeakable – cutbacks that, in seeking to preserve value, actually reduce it.

Contrary to some members’ perceptions, we do not have vast stores of excess funds sitting idle that can be used to balance the budgets. Yes, we have our investment portfolio, ably managed by the Investment Committee, which is considered the AAPG’s rainy-day fund to ensure the long-term financial viability of our organization in case of emergencies. The primary goal of the fund is to maintain at least one year’s worth of operating capital. Right now, the emergency fund holds less than that – $15M in operating funds, $17M in operating costs. So, as you can see, there are in fact no truly accessible stores of cash on which to draw.

As we wrote in October, two ways to address the need for revenue are by increasing dues, affecting all of the membership somewhat equally; and by increasing our service fees, which are paid directly by the individual and thus a choice that is separate from membership dues. In January, the Executive Committee voted on these two issues. Here are the details of the results.


The Executive Committee is always and rightfully reluctant to raise dues; this act is not only unpopular, but affects us personally. During the past two decades, dues have increased about every three years for an average of about 3 percent/year, essentially keeping pace with inflation. However, services have continued to increase disproportionately even more than dues. Dues amounts to only 13 percent of the Association’s total revenues, but it does represent one method of assisting with the balance of revenue and expenses. Therefore, to bring services and dues back into equilibrium, the EC has decided to raise the basic member dues from $90 to $105. This increase will help your Association in avariety of ways.

Printing and Shipping Costs:

One budget item, which has been out of sync with its actual cost for several years, is the cost of printing and shipping the BULLETIN. This is especially true with the availability of this journal in digital form and the continuing decrease in the number of members requesting the printed copy. So, increasing the “hard copy” printing and mailing fees for the BULLETIN is another area that must come closer to “actual costs.”

Our bylaws state that all members will receive the BULLETIN as part of their yearly dues. In early 2004, the EC decided to make the digital version of the BULLETIN the default method for distribution. Any member who chose to receive the BULLETIN by hard copy was expected to pay for its extra cost. Unfortunately, this policy was never fully implemented. Currently, 80 percent of the shipping costs are still being absorbed by the Association; starting in July, however, these costs will be switched to those who choose to receive a hard copy of the BULLETIN. As a consequence, the EC voted to increase the shipping fees by $50/year. Increasing the shipping costs for those members who receive the hard copy BULLETIN will raise about $40,000 for the budget. With this policy, AAPG joins many other professional societies who faced the same issue with printing costs, and reached the same conclusion.

And now some positive news for future budgets! In early January, the executive directors of the AAPG, SPE, and SEG signed a Memorandum of Understanding to co-sponsor a new annual convention, titled the “Unconventional Resource Technology Conference (URTeC).” AAPG will act as the convention operator. The purpose of this meeting is to host an integrated, multidisciplinary science and technology event for onshore unconventional plays. Extensive floor displays will include all aspects of the science and technology behind the development of unconventional resources. The technical programs will highlight the interdisciplinary nature of the plays.

The first URTeC is scheduled for August 2013 in Denver. Several people have spent substantial time working on developing the structure and the organization of this conference, specifically Rick Fritz, Alan Wegener, David Lange, and David Curtiss. This convention is the newest program that has high upside potential for expanding our annual income. Needless to say, we are excited. Now the real work begins as we start to assemble the entire conference for its inaugural event.

At the Annual Convention and Exhibition on April 22, the AAPG will recognize the significant achievements of many of its members at the Awards Ceremony. We also wish to acknowledge here one group that goes unrecognized and is vital to the daily operations of AAPG – the AAPG staff. We have more than 70 employees working in five broad directorates: Communications, Finances, Global Development and Conventions, Geosciences, and Education. Within each directorate, we have two-four additional groups. In addition, we have three regional offices (London, Singapore, Dubai). All told, that is a lot of moving parts.

We have worked with many different professional societies, and one of the real strengths of the AAPG is the dedicated headquarters staff that has worked together for many years. Continuity like this can be rare in large professional associations, and it allows us to have extended success with good historical memory for the Association. For those of you who attend the annual convention in Long Beach this year, please take the time to say “thanks” to those staff who will be working there. They are a vital part of our Association, and we want to acknowledge them for their dedicated service.

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