Benefit and Dues Change: Questions and Answers

What is the change in dues?

  1. There is a new membership category, Basic membership, with $35 annual dues.
  2. The Premium membership will be $60, or $150 for three years.
  3. The Limited/Associate membership category – which currently only has 14 members – has not proven attractive to members.

What is the difference between Basic and Premium membership?

  1. The Premium membership includes a subscription to PrimeTime Backgammon; free first entry at the USBGF National Championship event held twice annually, the East event in Charlotte over Labor Day and the West event in San Antonio in February; and discounts on XG software, GammonVillage, and books planned to be published by USBGF.
  2. Many members have stated their belief that PrimeTime Backgammon alone is worth the entire cost of the annual Premium membership. Various other periodic backgammon publications are available to subscribers for as much as $50 per year. The USBGF believes that the additional $25 annual cost for Premium membership provides members with an excellent value.

When will the benefits and dues change occur?

  1. The benefits and dues changes will be effective September 8, 2013.
  2. Renewals for one year or three years will be added to the current expiration date.

Why did USBGF decide to raise dues for Premium membership from $40 to $60 and the three-year membership from $100 to $150?

  1. Expenses of delivering a comprehensive set of benefits are the driver of the change in dues and new benefit packages.
  2. When we first started 3 years ago, the benefit package was considerably smaller than it is today.
  3. The original benefit package included a newsletter originally planned as a 4-8 page black and white issue; this was replaced by PrimeTime Backgammon, a bi-monthly electronic magazine with 40-60 pages featuring writings from the world’s best players and authors.
  4. We have added an Online tournament Circuit to member benefits.
  5. We have gone to two USBGF National Championship events with free first entry to twice a year, from once a year as originally offered.
  6. Our Facebook page, which didn’t exist originally, now offers video tips; some videos exclusively for USBGF members are posted on the website.
  7. Dues have not increased in 3 years; meanwhile, the costs of increased staff, benefits, and website upgrades have risen.

Are there other membership options for those who don’t want the magazine?

  1. Yes, a Basic membership is available for $35 for those who want a slimmer package of benefits. It includes online tournament events, ratings and statistics on both online and ABT and USBGF live events, access to online multi-media library including streamed, videotaped, recorded and annotated matches of expert players. So for members wanting only these benefits the Basic membership dues are a reduction from the $40 Premium membership.
  2. For a person that wants a Basic membership for $35 a year, they get a lot more now than they did for $40 three years ago. We now have: live National Championship each year, with East and West tournaments; an Online National Championship that is quite possibly the best test of backgammon skill of any event in the world; we now own and run the Nation’s Cup, which pits teams from over 30 nations in the Olympics of backgammon; we co-sponsor the International Backgammon Championship, which is another international competition that pits some of the world best players; we have an online Director’s Cup; we host the online Team Event for any five members that wish to form a team; we host the Local Club Championship of three-person teams, which pits the various local clubs against each other to determine a national champion recipient of a traveling trophy; we have monthly events that are very popular and give novices and intermediates a chance to play against world champions; we give instructional videos on Facebook and on the USBGF site; we host seminars and quizzes at ABT events; we teach backgammon at universities and have hosted three national collegiate championships; we keep live and online ELO ratings in the various divisions; we have designed, approved, and will soon be instituting a USBGF Master Point System, which the backgammon community has needed for a long time.

Why are USBGF dues higher than that of other game associations?

  1. Benefits with other game associations are not comparable, nor typically are membership levels similar.
  2. Some game associations charge separately for events, while most USBGF sponsored events have a free entry fee.
  3. The Chess Federation has over 80,000 members, with estimated dues of $46 and revenues of $3 million. The USCF does not offer free videos, but refer members to a for-profit video company which costs an additional $27/year. Add that to their $46 membership and you get $73. We offer a large selection of online tournaments. The USCF does sponsor live tournaments, but in backgammon those already are provided by individual backgammon tournament directors whom the USBGF will continue to support and provide added value to their events.
  4. Here is what a member of the Chess Federation posted on Bgonline:

    “Also, as a member of USCF, I personally get FAR more value from USBGF in the form of online tournaments (which introduced me to online backgammon for the first time and let me play some world class players […], video lectures, the magazine, and most of all, the feeling that you are supporting a nonprofit organization that benefits our game with an incredibly modest investment. Also, the BG community is much smaller than the chess community, so paying a bit more per person to cover similar fixed costs is expected.”

  5. The Bridge Federation has about 185,000 members.

What other revenue options is USBGF pursuing?

  1. The USBGF has a marketing team that conceives and evaluates ideas and plans for execution. A number of fertile initiatives are now under development and will be announced when they are ready.
  2. The USBGF obtains revenues from banner ads on its website and will be including ads in its magazine with discounts for members.
  3. The USBGF is also offering tournament directors services to help promote ABT tournaments.
  4. The USBGF is planning publication of several books (see below) beginning later this year.
  5. The USBGF has approached potential sponsors and donors for support, as well as backgammon equipment manufacturers.

What is the reference to discounts on USBGF books? Is the USBGF planning to publish books?

  1. Yes, the USBGF is planning to publish a book, The Official Backgammon Skills Test: 50 Illustrated Problems and Solutions ,by Masayuki Mochizuki edited by Bob Wachtel, as well as other books.

Are the USBGF financial statements available to members? How can they be obtained?

  1. The USBGF is committed to transparency and makes its financial statements available to members. They are posted on the website at: 2012 USBGF Financial Statements.
  2. Financial reports are posted at least two weeks in advance of an Annual membership meeting. All members are invited to join the Annual membership Meeting telephone conference call and raise any questions or concerns they have.

Isn’t the current budget excessive?

  1. The USBGF is incorporated as a not-for-profit organization and operates on a breakeven basis.
  2. The USBGF provides most of its services through donated volunteer contributions enabling it to keep its budget quite low for the services it provides.
  3. For staff working substantial hours, modest below-industry-scale compensation is provided.
  4. As one member stated:

    “As a member I have access to the financial statements, which I looked at. I was surprised when I saw the numbers for the past year. Admittedly, my first reaction was to send an email writing they forgot to mention that the numbers are in thousands, but then I realized it is the actual numbers. That means the organization is running on a low budget. In addition, if there is any doubt that much of their work is done on a volunteer basis, you just need to look at the salary expense and its breakdown.”

How much of the budget is going toward financial support of the President/Executive Director?

  1. The current President/Executive Director does not receive compensation for his service.

What is included in contractual services?

  1. The contractual services are itemized in the financial statements. Those paid $1000 or more include a web editor and a publication production editor ($6,750), and accounting manager ($1,750).

Will the USBGF be financially viable over the longer term?

  1. Yes, the USBGF is committed to long-term sustainability. That, in fact, is the major reason for the dues increase. Funds will be used in part to expand initiatives that will grow the game.
  2. The original dues structure was chosen without the knowledge of where membership levels would eventually stabilize and relied upon Founding Sponsors to provide necessary start-up capital. The USBGF is now in a better position to project ongoing revenues and expenses. The new dues structure is intended to produce a balanced budget for the foreseeable future, so as to ensure the organization’s long-term viability.

What services does the USBGF offer that aren’t available free or available from other backgammon organizations/outlets?

What is the value-added of the rating system given the ABT point system?

What value is the online circuit tournaments when GridGammon and other backgammon servers are available?

  1. USBGF provides a comprehensive set of benefits that appeal to different members. Not all members value all benefits. Feedback indicates that there are members who particularly value the video lessons it provides; the PrimeTime Backgammon magazine; the online tournaments; the ratings system; the archived matches; the online match series; the discounts on XG software.
  2. However, it’s not practical to price each service separately.
  3. The two classes of membership – Basic and Premium – permit members to choose either to receive all services or a more limited set of benefits.

Shouldn’t the magazine be dropped?

  1. The magazine has received very positive feedback from a number of members. It has in-depth technical articles and comprehensive news valued by members.
  2. The price is low relative to others. The magazine contains more articles and pages than the GammonVillage publication for which the cost for the magazine alone is $50 per year.
  3. Every major game federation has a publication.
  4. The magazine gives the USBGF the opportunity to be in the forefront of disseminating “cutting edge” theory and practice from the best writers and experts.
  5. The magazine is of interest to audiences attending special events (see below), at tournaments, and is part of our presentation to sponsors.

What is the USBGF doing to grow the backgammon community?

  1. Activities and benefits that serve to create interest in the game of backgammon and create a stronger backgammon community further the USBGF mission and ultimately benefit everyone that enjoys the game and future generations. Being a USBGF member is more than just receiving immediate personal benefits; it is also about being a good backgammon citizen and supporting efforts to build and improve our community.
  2. The USBGF, and its sister organization the U.S. Backgammon Foundation, sponsor an annual Collegiate tournament for college students and college teams with scholarship awards for winners, help establish college clubs, assist secondary and elementary schools, provide instructional materials.
  3. The USBGF participates in special events such as the Mathematical Association of America annual MathFest; the Smithsonian Freer Gallery Nawruz celebration in Washington D.C.; and the Museum of Mathematics in New York City.
  4. The USBGF helps new club directors in a variety of ways, including packages of materials.
  5. It provides a Facebook page with video lessons, quotes, problems, and news and photos from major tournaments.
  6. It helps fund streaming of top matches at select tournaments to acquaint more people with top-level play.
  7. It sponsors free lectures and quizzes at selected ABT tournaments.
  8. It offers new members at the novice or intermediate level a mentor.

What is the USBGF doing to address member concerns?

  1. The USBGF is eager to hear any suggestions for improving the organization.
  2. It holds an Annual Membership Meeting open to all members to bring suggestions and concerns.
  3. It holds member meetings at major tournaments at least once a year to hear member suggestions and concerns. It also meets periodically with local club directors.
  4. It maintains and responds to an info@usbgf.org address for suggestions and inquiries.
  5. It appreciates the many constructive suggestions it has received on the bgonline forum and will consider those carefully.

How can you help?

  1. Volunteers are essential to be able to undertake new projects. Please consider contributing your time and talent to the organization. If you are interested in volunteering, contact the USBGF by e-mail at info@usbgf.org. See our website for more details: Volunteers Needed.