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Re: [Membership] Fees for Organizations

Hi Nii -- comments below:

On Fri, Apr 30, 1999 at 06:49:10PM -0000, Dr Nii Quaynor wrote:
> >There are many levels of membership in the organization, depending on
> >how much you pay.  We could adopt a similar model -- the "individual"
> >membership ($50 or less), the "contributing" membership" ($50-$100),
> >the "supporting" membership ($100-$250), the "network hero"
> >membership ($250-$500), and the "Internet Sage" level ($500-$1000).
> >Each level would still get one vote, but in addition you would get a
> >little perk: The individual member gets listed on a web page, the
> >"contributing membership" would get an ICANN coffee cup, whereas the
> >"Internet Sage" would get a nice fountain pen and a lifetime email
> >address.
> >
> I understand, but consider these issues. Is the different level of "service"
> acceptable? It can be demeaning and some may stop participating. Imagine you
> come to the meeting and see your collegue with the "gold" fountain pen
> whilst you have a coffee mug? May be I better talk to the pen holder before
> I vote?

While I don't think that fountain pens vs a coffee cup would cause a
problem, the general concerns you express are certainly valid:

In the case of the philharmonia (www.philharmonia.org, incidentally),
the memberships go up to $10,000 or more, and the large contributors
are corporations, foundations supporting the arts, and so on.  They
don't vote, but you can be darn sure that an official from the
Packard foundation (which, as I recall, makes large contributions)
had something to say, the Philharmonia staff would listen most
respectfully.  I don't think that they would make decisions 
contrary to their fundamental judgment as a result, but the issue 
really is access -- large contributors have opportunity for much 
better access to the decision makers.

IMO, the key here is that there should be a maximum membership level,
and it should be set to a value so that it is not significant in the
eyes of ICANN -- that's the motivation for the $1000 limit in the
example I gave.  Note that the GIP contributions are limited to
$50000, so, while I am sure that the ICANN staff would appreciate a
$1000 contribution, it isn't going to significantly sway their
decisions, nor is it going to grant unusual access -- relative to the
total ICANN budget, $1000 is not a significant contribution.   (We 
could quibble about the exact amount, of course, but in general 
there certainly is a level that is simply not going to be enough to 
influence ICANN.)

As to whether someone might be intimidated or embarassed because they
only had a coffee cup, vs a gold pen -- that's a psychological effect
with potential cross-cultural implications that are hard for me to

In the US it wouldn't be an issue, I'm pretty certain: the
contribution isn't a membership fee; it's a contribution to a good
cause, and the token you get back is known as a "thank you gift", and
its value is always substantially below the value of the
contribution.  There may be some snob appeal, but it's pretty far
removed from any decision process.  In the ICANN case, your company
may have donated $1000 to ICANN, and I may have sent in $50 as an
individual, but I don't think that would affect how we interact over
email, nor do I think either you or I would modulate our votes on 
that basis.

A similar case is how public TV stations support themselves in the US
-- they have these membership drives, where they harrangue and beg
you to join and support them, like charity marathons, and show some
of their best programming to entice you to watch.  They have
incentive "thank you gifts", like the video of a Rolling Stones
Concert they just aired (a $49 value!), or a cookbook authored by the
host of a cooking program, or something like that.  Come to think of
it, membership may entitle you to vote for the board of directors of
the TV station.

It might be kind of cool to flash my ICANN gold pen, like it might be
kind of cool to flash my Rolex, if I had one, but some people might
think I was an utter fool to throw away $1000 on ICANN, and get a 
$25 pen in return :-)

So, while I agree that there are definite concerns, I think that they
can be successfully addressed: All contributions are voluntary; free
memberships are possible; all members get equal voting power; the
"thank you gifts" with larger contributions are not significant from
a decision making perspective; there is a cap to prevent undue
economic influence; there is a revenue source to pay the costs of
verifying identity.

Public TV stations and other charitable organizations in the US at
least partially support themselves through this kind of mechanism.  I
don't know how well it would work internationally, but it might be
worth a try. 

Kent Crispin                               "Do good, and you'll be
kent@songbird.com                           lonesome." -- Mark Twain