The Association for Jewish Studies embraces an income-based conference pricing strategy.
Many of the 2,000 members of the Association for Jewish Studies—teachers, researchers, and graduate students in the field—are facing significant financial burdens and rising unemployment rates that can make paying membership dues and conference fees nearly impossible.
But AJS was facing a financial reality of its own: The money it was bringing in from registration and dues wasn’t fully covering the cost of running the organization. So AJS increasingly relied on grants and fundraising, while the expenses associated with its annual conference, publications, and other activities continued to rise.
Knowing that a change was required to keep AJS financially sound and stable, the board in February approved a new conference fees schedule. Beginning with its annual conference in December, AJS will institute income-based fees that match its income tiers for membership fees.
“What this means is that instead of a flat fee for the conference, those who earn less will pay less to attend the conference than those individuals who earn more,” says Executive Director Warren Hoffman.
Members who earn less than $50,000 will see reduced conference fees, while some higher-income members will pay more to make this shift financially viable for AJS. For example, a member who earns less than $20,000 will pay $85 to attend, while those with income exceeding $175,000 will pay $235.
Members will not be required to show proof of income. Instead, the system will be honor-based. AJS thinks people will follow the policy and pay their fair share, because they know the association and its members may be at risk if they don’t.
But he also understands that this pricing structure won’t work for all groups—and he acknowledges that the jury is still out on the initiative.