News & Press: InSider

AIS: More than Just Two Conferences!

Friday, November 16, 2012  

Although we may not have the opportunity to read this often, please take a moment to review the mission of AIS. Once you have, you’ll also note:  

AIS strategic goals include providing services and products to meet the diverse needs of members and related communities; and being the global leader for excellence in information systems research, practice, and education.  

As we look back at the past several years, it is stunning to see the progress that has been made towards meeting that mission and achieving those goals.   Collectively, AIS has 33 institutional members and more than 4,000 individual members from 94 countries, working in 37 special interest groups (SIGs) across 32 chapters on a global basis. From a student perspective, AIS has more than 2,300 student members from 13 countries across 77 student chapters.  From a publication perspective, the AIS eLibrary contains 22,000 articles, access to ten journals, and countless IS conference proceedings.  More than 330,000 full-text articles have been downloaded from the AIS eLibrary in the past year alone and the AIS eLibrary averages more than 57,000 unique visitors per month.  

When I think back to when I first became acquainted with AIS in the late 1990’s, the association was focused primarily on managing two large IS conferences (AMCIS and ICIS).   As highlighted above, the association has grown dramatically since those early days.  AIS now provides a global platform, a collaborative eco-system (if you will), of information systems related scholarly research, teaching and practice.  Indeed, we have made enormous strides towards reaching our mission and achieving those goals.    

This brings me to the reason for writing you today.  As Doug Vogel recently announced, the AIS Council determined that an increase in membership dues is necessary to continue the growth and development of the association.  Although the decision was made in June 2012’s Council meeting, the realization for the need of this membership rate change had been discussed in the AIS Finance Committee for some time.  The reason is straightforward.   The expenses in the membership services portion of the AIS budget are growing at a faster rate than the dues that the association is collecting.  In contrast, the conference portion of the AIS budget is financially self-sustaining (sometimes even earning modest surpluses that are used to support various activities of the association).  As described above, however, AIS has grown to become much more than simply two conference:

  • AIS Webinars
  • Career Placement / Job Posting Services
  • Globally Recognized Research & Teaching Awards: LEO Awards, AIS Fellow Awards, Excellence in IS Education Awards, Distinguished Member Awards, Technology Awards, Best Publication Awards, and numerous more at the chapter and SIG conference and workshop levels
  • AIS eLibrary (22,000 titles, 27,500 full-text downloads and 57,000 unique visitors per month)
  • AIS Student Chapters (2,300 student members from 13 countries across 77 student chapters)
  • 32 Chapters, 37 SIGs, and numerous Affiliated Conferences & Workshops  Worldwide
  • Special Interest Groups (SIG) Platforms for Collaboration and Workshops
  • Senior Scholars Forum and Collaboration
  • Doctoral Student Consortiums and Competitions
  • Junior Faculty Forum and Collaboration  

The trend of membership service expenses outpacing dues collections has been a financial trend that the Finance Committee and Council have been tracking for several fiscal periods.  During this time, the notion of a dues increase to offset this trend was consistently rejected.  Instead a combination of budget actions were taken, including numerous cost cutting initiatives, delaying and / or de-scoping new member services, non-dues related fees, and an increasing reliance on conference "surpluses” (when and if they occurred.)  

When the Finance Committee and Council were reviewing the proposed fiscal year 2012/13 budget in June, the membership services budget deficit once again came to light.  Council members were left with a choice.  Knowing that it had been six years since the last membership dues increase, should we seek even further expense reductions in services, or do we keep moving the association forward and adjust membership dues to properly reflect the level of member services that are being provided?  After years of opting for the former, the Council unanimously voted for the latter.   

As difficult as a decision that this was for Council members to make, it does acknowledge what seems to have been taking place at AIS for the past several years.  Fundamentally, the association is transforming from a conferences-focused to a membership-centered association.  In fact, here are highlights of additional member services in AIS since the last membership dues rate increase from six years ago:

  • Launch of the New AIS Student Chapters (including the hosting of two national student conferences, the launch of student Case Competitions, establishment of 77 Student Chapters and numerous new Student Chapter Awards) 
  • Launch of the AIS Webinar Video Series 
  • Expansion of the AIS eLibrary
  • Launch of the New AIS Association Management System (AMS) and Website
  • Establishment of a New Initiative Fund (NIF) (provides ‘seed’ money for the development of new association-wide projects)
  • Launch of the IS Branding Campaign
  • Establishment of Many New Awards in IS Research, Teaching & Service
  • Expansion of 14 AIS Chapters and 11 SIGs
  • Negotiated Discounted Prices for 25 Journals  

To be perfectly candid, in hindsight what is most stunning, is that the association has been able to accomplish all of this (and so much more) without a dues increase in six years.  

Towards that end, I would like to take a moment and comment on other financial related news of the association.  The association met budget for the fiscal year that has just ended.  The external auditors have completed their annual financial audit of AIS and with the preparation of the association’s fiscal year-end financial statements.  The auditors recently presented the results with members of the AIS Finance Committee on Friday, November 9, 2012.   As is customary, electronic copies of these reports will be made available for download to all AIS members after their approval by AIS Council in the December 2012 Council meeting in Orlando.  Overall, however, the financial stability of the association is as strong as ever.   As reported in my June 2012 presentation to Council, the financial reserves of the association have recovered from the 3rd quarter 2008 financial crisis in the United States and are now at their highest levels in AIS history.   The association continues to earn modest surpluses in most fiscal years, as one would expect from a Non-for-Profit 501(c)(3) Association.   Most importantly, however, AIS remains a debt-free association.  I’ll repeat, AIS has continued to expand and thrive in these challenging economic times without adding long-term debt.

Finally, I would like to add a few personal comments and insights.  Next June 2013 will mark the end of my three-year term on AIS Council.   It has been an honor and a privilege to be your AIS Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair for the past 2 ½ years.  I have been awestruck by the dedication and contributions to the association by the council members that I have been privileged to work with.  All AIS members should keep in mind that AIS Council and committee members are not paid for their services.  They freely give of their time for the betterment of the association and the profession.  Similar to you, they pay AIS membership dues every year (and thus, take these types of decisions very seriously).  I have found AIS to be the most financially transparent organization that I have ever worked with.  From the preparation of year-end financial statements, to monthly financial reporting, to analysis of association’s financial reserve holdings, to transaction level detail, everyone in the AIS front office is an open-book of information and has been extraordinarily professional. Although the Treasurer’s role has required more work than was anticipated, I genuinely look forward to another opportunity to serve on AIS Council.  

I hope this background and additional information pertaining to the membership dues increase is useful.   Please let me know if you have questions, comments or concerns.     

Matthew L. Nelson, CPA, Ph.D.
AIS Treasurer
AIS Finance Committee Chair

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