Membership Forum 31 May 2018

  • Membership fees have not increased since 2016.
  • The proposed increase is for 3 years to provide a level of certainty, rather than having to go to the Brethren each year for an increase.
  • Victoria has one of the lowest membership fees of any jurisdiction in Australia. Our membership fees are very competitive, not only within Freemasonry, but also compared to other member organisations.
  • Our revenue needs to keep up with our costs for delivering a quality level of service; the best by far in Australia, and for running the business.

Membership fees only cover a small portion of our overall costs. However, the membership contribution needs to reflect the costs of running the fraternity and the level of service required.

  • In the past five years we have sold property to raise revenue of approximately $17.8 million. Over the same period we have reinvested over $25 million in maintaining, upgrading, and developing our property portfolio.
  • Any organisation the size of ours faces a number of fixed and variable costs, from legal and accounting advice, tax advice, utilities costs, office costs, staff, printing, IT, property advice etc. These costs are unavoidable, but we strive to keep them to a minimum and are constantly looking for ways to maintain efficiency and lower costs.
  • On a per member basis some of our current costs are:

 

Operational activity

Annual total cost

$

Cost per Member per year

General Insurances, rates and taxes (net)

$454,000

$53

Printing & publications, design, mail out, artwork.

$101,000

 

$12

Professional fees (accounting, tax, investment advice).

 

$222,000

$26

Rent, utilities, stationery, telephones

$144,000

$17

Employment costs

$1,775,000

$207

Marketing & IT, software& support

$312,000

$36

Grand ceremonial support

$24,000

$3

Quarterly Communications & Grand Installation

$215,000

$25

 

Totals

 

$3,247,000

 

$379

 

Membership fees

 

 

$150 (incl GST) p.a

 

$136.36 (ex GST) p.a

 

  • As you can see, even for this selection of costs, which is not the total of all of our costs, the total expenditure per member far exceeds the annual membership fee.
  • We have reduced our staff numbers from 17.4 FTE in 2017/18 to 14.4 in 2018/19.
  • We need a small cohort of professional staff to maintain our systems and level of service. We do as much of the work as we can in house, with a small group of staff. We could lower the staff numbers and outsource functions such as finance and website management, but the reality is that the costs would be higher still.
  • We try to utilise the skills and availability of volunteers as much as we can. There is room for improvement in this area, but we do have a number of teams, such as the Volunteer Action Teams who do great work with the Brethren and in conjunction with FMV Operations.
  • 90% of the membership fee goes to the General Fund. 10% goes to the Building Fund.
  • We are not allowed to use the Building fund to pay for the costs of running the fraternity for things that are not to do with our properties. So the General Fund has to pay for the majority of our costs.
  • Building maintenance and repairs, upgrades, and development. Database maintenance. Website and social media management, producing, printing, and mailing out the Journal three times a year, Grand Installations, and Quarterly Communications.
  • Setting the membership fee increase for three years provides a level of certainty for members, rather than having to come back each year and raise the fee.
  • The membership fee has not increased since 2016, set for two years, now we would like to set it for three years.
  • CPI does not cover the revenue required to maintain the service levels required, nor to cover the costs of maintaining properties.
  • The development of the DBC will not be complete until 2020 and so any returns from that project will not apply to the majority of the period for these membership fees.
  • There is no prospect of not having membership fees, now, or in the future. The DBC project was never going to provide enough revenue to do away with membership fees.
  • The DBC, or The Eastbourne project will increase our capital asset base i.e. property portfolio, by approximately $30 million, in addition to this we will receive a one-off cash payment of approximately $20 million (this money is already recorded in our accounts, as was required for tax purposes). This money is part of what we, the current generation of freemasons, inherited from our forebears, and we should be reinvesting this money for future generations, not spending it on day to day costs. We have to become more agile at operating within our means.
  • Whilst we truly hope that such an outcome will not occur and that the majority of Brethren understand the reasoning behind the membership fee increase, if for some reason the motion were to not be supported, inevitably costs would need to be cut resulting in a reduction of services, and to the property maintenance and upgrade program.
  • Currently we only offer limited concessions to those Brethren who have attained a 70 year jewel, are over the age of 100, or are engaged in active service overseas. We have also offered a concessional rate on a case by case basis for those Brethren facing financial hardship.
  • The proposed motion increases the concession availability to those who have been issued with a Government Health Care Card, either by DHS, or DVA, or a Pension Concession Card. The Health Care Cards are available to persons who have a reduced income, regardless of age. The Pension Concession Card is the same as the Health Care Card in the benefits available, it is only available to those over 65 years. The Pension Concession Card is therefore an acceptable threshold for obtaining the concession rate.
  • Many members over the age of 65 are entitled to a Pension Concession Card. If you hold a Pension Concession Card, issued by the Federal Government, you will most likely be entitled to be issued with a Health Care Card. It is up to individuals to apply for and obtain this card. Once you have been issued with a Health Care Card, you will be eligible for the membership fee concession rate.
  • The Pension Concession card is the same as the Health Care Card in its benefits, just only available to those over 65 years. The Pensioner Concession Card is therefore an acceptable threshold for obtaining the concession rate.
  • We have raised over $17.8 million from the sale of properties, but we have reinvested over $25 million. This reinvestment has come from membership fees, investment income, and in part from the sale of properties.
  • Our development program has resulted in an increased level of borrowing in order to complete the projects. These borrowings will be brought down as we bring in income from commercial tenancies in Bayside, Box Hill, and eventually The Eastbourne.
  • Generally interest rates have been low and we have benefited from that in terms of our borrowings. However, we have also experienced lower returns from our investment portfolio, as has everybody else, and this has reduced our income stream over the past few years.
  • We are looking at all of our operating costs, both fixed and variable and we will be making the necessary changes to ensure that we can maintain a high level of service, with reduced costs.
  • We have reduced staff levels from 17.4 in 2017/18 to 14.4 today. We will continue to examine how we deliver the best level of service to members, whether that be via in-house, or out sourcing. Our aim is to be financially viable, with a high level of member service. There is no point in just stripping out costs if the resulting levels of service do not meet the requirements of the members.
  • We need to address our revenue sources. Whilst our costs have been higher than we would like we are addressing those and will soon have them down. However, we cannot survive by continually cutting costs. We get our revenue from three sources:
    • Membership fees,
    • Investment income, and
    • Sales of assets.

The first two are renewable, the third is not. We cannot continue to derive income from the sale of assets and properties – this has a finite end. Therefore we need to derive greater income from renewable sources.

Revenue vs Operating costs: 2014 – 2018

Not including Property Sales.

Deficit is made up from sale of assets and properties, and/or borrowings.

Financial YearRevenueOperating CostsSurplus (Deficit)
2014/15$3.58 million$6.76 million($3.18 million)
2015/16$3.69 million$7.93 million($4.24 million)
2016/17$4.14 million$8.46 million($4.14 million)
2017/18$3.22 million$5.40 million($2.18 million)