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henry

SCA stuff

For a very thoughtful take on the current issue and how we got here, please read this post, in which cellio refers to the events of 1994. For those of you who weren't around at the time, let me tell you a story....

In 1994, the SCA's Board of Directors announced abruptly that, due to serious financial shortfalls at the Corporation, paid membership would henceforth be required in order to attend any event. There was a firestorm on the Rialto (an on-line discussion group, back when there could be a single on-line discussion group that included most of the Net-enabled members of the SCA). Some people pointed out that, since most of their groups' events were in public parks, they legally could not exclude anybody from attending such an event, nor could they legally charge admission. Others objected that requiring paid membership to attend even a first event would damage the SCA's reputation for openness, and make it look like a money-making cult (which some in the public already feared it was). Some were offended that the Board had issued this edict without even asking its thousands of members for voluntary help in its hour of need. Some pointed out that the Corporation provides services that benefit everybody at an event, so everybody should be expected to pay for those services.

I and others analyzed the Corporation's published financial reports to see why the Corporation was in such bad shape. Several people (including cellio, if I remember right) requested more-detailed financial reports from the Corporation, were refused, and sued the Board to open its books; the Board chose to spend some of its scant assets fighting this lawsuit rather than opening the books to its own members.

Several of us -- I think it was Arval, Cariadoc, and me -- suggested that instead of requiring membership to attend any event, the Corporation institute a "non-member surcharge" to cover what non-members actually cost the corporation -- which we estimated at perhaps 50c for a typical one-day event. The Board eventually decided to do this, but they set the non-member surcharge at $3-5 instead, clearly intending not merely to cover their expenses but to discourage people from participating without being paid members. Because you know, more paid members means more revenue, which is obviously good, right?

Many people (I think this started with Cariadoc, too) observed a distinction between the Society and the Corporation: the Society runs events and dance practices and calligraphy workshops and fighter practices and things like that, while the Corporation prints membership cards and magazines, pays the expenses of its Board of Directors, buys insurance that covers its Board of Directors and its bank account, keeps track of who's a paid member, hires lawyers to protect its Board of Directors and its bank account, etc. The Society runs on massive amounts of volunteer labor; the Corporation runs on dues checks and the volunteer labor of about a dozen people. It seemed that much of the money we paid in membership dues went to either keep track of membership dues or protect the accounts holding those dues. As the old saying goes, "the bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of an expanding bureaucracy."

And many people, most notably Cariadoc, pointed out that the more assets the Corporation held, the more-attractive a target it would present to lawsuits. There have been a number of lawsuits over the years, but I believe the Schragger case is the most damaging and expensive to date. There will be more, of course. Every time we create a new Official Office In Charge of Fnord-Twergling, we have made a legally binding commitment that fnords will be twergled properly, and the next time a fnord is mis-twergled, the Corporation and all the local officers will be liable again. What if fnord-twergling were handled between individuals instead, with no Corporate imprimatur and therefore no Corporate liability?

Once you've imagined that, let's imagine a step farther. What if there were no SCA, Inc. at all? What if there were no such thing as an SCA membership card? What if you could subscribe to a Kingdom newsletter by writing a check to the Kingdom for the cost of the newsletter -- or not, if you didn't want to subscribe to a Kingdom newsletter? How much would this impede our ability to run events, dance practices, calligraphy workshops, fighter practices, etc? If the Corporation ceased to exist, how much effect would it have on the Society?
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Comments

Mostly makes sense. The only issue I am dubious of in Cellio's post is whether we could find places to hold events without group insurance. In my (outside the SCA) experience that's getting harder and harder to do.

Though there are groups outside the SCA who have managed to pull together some kind of insurance coverage that is paid for by a tiny percantage of event fees.
Yes, there are sites that want an insurance certificate before they'll rent to us. Some hobby groups handle this issue by having a bunch of semi-autonomous regional groups jointly buy an "umbrella" policy that covers all of them. This policy should be cheaper than what we have now, because it would be focused on protecting only the site, rather than protecting the Corporation too.
I didn't mean "don't need insurance" but rather "other groups seem to do this; let's learn from them". I don't know the answer, but I don't believe that it's an unsolvable problem.

Might you consider unlocking the post? I'd like to point folks at it.
I probably will, in a few days; in the meantime you can point people to cellio's public post.
Good idea, thanks.
contributed to the legal fund :o)
Somewhere after #3 -- the summary forms that I have easily to hand list me, Wendy (our California agent), Hossein, and then "et al".
So that lawsuit is different from the "Three Evil Peers" affair? About which all I remember is the song:

"We three evil be
Somebody, Bearington, Flakkari
For we have the nerve of asking to see
Just what the Board does with its money"
It was all bound up together; the "three bad peers of AEthelmearc" were, from the corporate seneschal's point of view, stirring up trouble in various ways. I was the only one of the three who was a party to the suit.