This meeting has been called by the Soil & Health National Council and is open to all members.
The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the priorities of the Association in the face of steep cost increases relating to Organic NZ magazine publishing, and an ongoing associated budget deficit.
National Council wants to inform and discuss with members the various challenges and options in front of Soil & Health. National Council is also formally proposing an increase to membership fees, to $90 per year. A change to membership fees requires a formal decision of the membership
The meeting is at 10am on Saturday 3 June. You can register below:
- Discussion item – Challenges and options in front of Soil & Health. See papers below for more background on this discussion item.
- Decision item – Remit: “That the Soil & Health Association adopt a new annual membership fee of $90 per year.”
Background information and papers
What is the situation?
Soil & Health is a charitable incorporated society that provides education and advocacy on soil fertility and organics, and publishes Organic NZ magazine. We have a small staff team and a number of contractors, supported by a voluntary National Council representing members.
The Soil & Health Association has had a structural deficit in it’s finances for several years. This is because magazine cost increases such as paper and postage have not been covered by an increase in revenue. Recently the deficit has been masked by the receipt of two large bequests, and by grant funding received during Covid-19. However the deficit has now reached a point where action must be taken.
What has National Council done so far?
National Council have considered options to reduce the deficit over multiple meeting in recent months. These are outlined in the timeline below.
- October 2022 – National Council considered the existence of a structural deficit in the finances, as part of preparing the 2023-24 budget which showed a $60k deficit, and commissioned work from the General Manager on options to tackle it.
- December 2022 – National Council considered the paper “Soil & Health Dec 2022 Budget Presentation”, and agreed in principle a proposal to save money through reducing magazine issues to four per year (saving about $25k) and pursuing additional activities to raise revenue.
- February 2022 – A new business plan was considered, based on reducing magazine frequency and undertaking alternate activities.
- March 2023 – A decision was made not to proceed with the new business plan, based on team feedback and concern that the reduction would create a negative spiral of contraction in subscribers and members.
- March 2023 – National Council made the decision to call an SGM to discuss the matter with members and to propose a raised fee as an alternative way of tackling the deficit.
- March 2023 – National Council approved an interim budget for 2023-24 to allow the Association to operate, on the proviso the budget would be reviewed after the SGM.
Papers associated with this process are attached:
December 2022 – “Soil & Health current investments and functions“
December 2022 – “Soil & Health Dec 2022 Budget Presentation.”
March 2022 – “Interim approved budget” – note this includes tabs showing budget with 4 issues of the magazine, and budget with 6 issues but a raised fee.
Why have we called an SGM?
National Council have determined that a discussion with the wider membership is the wisest next step. Any change to our functions or structure have major consequences. For example, reducing the magazine frequency is the simplest way to reduce costs but it risks creating a negative trend in our readership and membership.
National Council considers that keeping the magazine at six issues per year is ideal, but is currently not affordable. As an interim measure the Council has therefore approved a status quo budget for the 2023-4 year, which will be reviewed as soon as possible after this SGM.
Increasing the membership fee is considered to be inevitable due to rising costs. The last time the membership fee was increased was in 2019, when the price went from $45 to $55. It is now time to look again at the fees and ask what is the correct level. Part and parcel of the proposal to increase the fee is a recognition of Soil & Health as more than just a magazine. This means we should be setting our membership fee at a sustainable level for the Association to do its work, rather than benchmarking against other magazine subscription prices.
What are the priorities for Soil & Health?
Producing Organic NZ is currently the major activity of Soil & Health as it takes most of the financial resources and person-hours.
We would like to develop other functions such as: increased events and member community-building, advocacy and campaigns, and engagement with local and central government. However resourcing for these functions either has to come from voluntary effort or by diverting existing financial investment or person-hours.
Discussing these options with the wider membership is part of the purpose for this Special General Meeting.