We are sure that members will be delighted that the trustees have once again held the annual subs to the existing level of £29 for UK/single membership and at the existing rates for all other members. This is despite continuing prices pressures from all areas of our operations. Most notably have been recent increases in the cost of postage to North America and other regions outside Europe.
The decision to hold the subs at this level means that we have – in the 40 years of our existence been very consistent with the subs. The original membership subs back in 1982 were £8 for single UK members and we have discovered by using a Bank of England calculator that this works out at £29 in ‘2020 prices’.
Membership subs back in the 1980’s were spent almost exclusively on the production of the magazines, but nowadays there is far more to the WFA’s operations than what took place 40 years ago. Clearly a lot of the change is driven by technological progress. Reading back copies of the Bulletin suggests just the work in collecting annual subs by cheque was phenomenal. Of course this has now somewhat diminished, with many members paying by Direct Debit. We now also have set up a ‘continual payment authority’ method using Paypal which we hope will become increasingly popular as this will reduce the administrative burden on Sarah Gunn and Maya Shapland who – between them – operate the WFA’s office.
It is interesting to speculate if those original members (and there are some still with us, thankfully) ever imagined the ‘extra’ benefits we can now offer.
These membership benefits now include:
Annual conferences which are undertaken when allowed – we hope to resume these next year.
‘Bumper’ editions of Stand To! over the centenary period
One off - extra magazines published (for example the ‘Unknown Warrior’ special)
An increase in magazines from six to eight in this calendar year (four editions of Stand To!, and four Bulletins are planned for 2021).
A very impressive website which has a members’ area (accessed via a simple password system) with access to:
- Back copies of all editions of Stand To!
- Military Factsheets (republished from the early days of the WFA)
- Gun Fire magazine
- RND magazine
- Virtual Battlefield Tours (which will remain available on the WFA’s website for a year)
- More than 3,000 Stereoscopic Images (and this number will increase)
- 8 million Pension Records
The WFA’s website continues to expand with podcasts, book reviews and an ever increasing number of articles for members and indeed non-members to enjoy.
We have also set up a number of projects which many members have become involved in, such as ‘Alias’, ‘Hometown’, ‘Rolls of Honour’ and others.
Although the branch network was set up in the 1980s and is not therefore ‘new’ – the number of branches have massively increased in the 40 years of our existence, with only the 2020-21 period interrupting the regular meeting programme among the more than 50 branches in the UK and elsewhere.
We also have vibrant Facebook, Twitter pages and a rapidly growing YouTube channel with lots of WFA video content. It is unlikely that John Giles would have remotely envisaged this kind of activity back in the early 1980’s!
Of course the recent introduction of ‘webinars’ has been incredibly popular, with these regularly being fully booked with 500 members watching (and and more viewers watching on Facebook).
We offer branded goods and an annual WFA calendar – which generates helpful revnue to keep the WFA ‘ticking over’.
The annual commemorations at the Cenotaph have (in non-Covid years) grown to use the new ‘buzz word’ “Exponentially”.
Can we sustain the existing developments and maintain subs at existing levels?
Well the answer to that is “we hope so”. Certainly there are several exciting ‘irons in the fire’ which we are working on which will significantly add to the ‘members benefits’ and we are delighted with the quarterly income we are receiving from Ancestry. But this income in itself creates a dilemma. The Royalty income is derived from the success of the Pension Cards on Ancestry’s Fold3 platform and Ancestry’s overall success as a business. At the moment we are only just into a ten year long agreement, and it may be not possible to renew this either at all, or on the current terms. It is also possible (although unlikely) that the Royalty income will ‘fall off a cliff’. So we need to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
To that end we have set up an ‘investment subcommittee’ in order to make best use of the reserves we are building up. This investment subcommittee has recommended and the Executive Committee agreed that surplus cash assets be invested – the aim of this is to grow the WFA’s capital and to avoid very low or nil (or even negative) interest rates which would of course mean erosion with inflation.
These reserves do of course give us a very helpful cushion should the Ancestry royalty income cease unexpectedly. We aim, as far as possible to ensure members’ subscriptions meet ‘usual’ expenses but the sheer level of Ancestry royalty income means we inevitably use some of this for ‘usual’ expenses. So, whilst we will hope to keep subs at the current level, we can offer no definite guarantee in that respect.
What can members do to help?
Please pass on the word about the WFA – it is an over simplification, but if we all recruit one new member, the WFA would double in size.
If you pay be cheque please do consider converting to ‘direct debit’.
Also, if you have not previously done so, and when it is allowed, why not come to branch meetings if you are able. Or, if you like – volunteer to help either with one of the national projects we are running or help at a local branch. Or even consider setting up your own branch if there is not one in your areas.
You may also want to remember the association in your will. Legacies come in from time to time, and we are sure to make full use of these as part of our on-going work