Ouch: Membership Dues Have [Fallen] at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

[UPDATE:  Per the SFBC, "...you should have read Part VIII, lines 1b and 2a, of the 990s for both the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Education Fund."

So, here's 2010:

1b makes sense but 2a is not membership dues so adding them together doesn't help.

And 2011:

Again, 1b makes sense but 2a is not membership dues so adding them together doesn't help.

And here's 2012:

(And the Bicycle Coalition Education Fund 990's don't really factor in all that much, like $10 or $20 grand each.)

So IDK, would you, Gentle Reader, suppose that different strategies were applied for 2010 and 2011 vs. 2012? I would. Because the "non-contribution portions of membership dues" went from $0 in 2010 and 2011 all the way up to $135,933 in 2012. Is there any explanation for this? Did the accountant(?) for 2011 and earlier fill out the 990 forms incorrectly? IDK. Is this kind of a thing a big deal, worth amending a bunch of other recent returns? IDK.

(Did IRS laws on this topic change the past several years? I don't think so, as this guide from 2008 remains unchanged.)

Now when I say "membership dues," what's actually written in there for 2012 is "memberships." Now memberships is a different thing, IMO. Memberships is what the SFBC spent a lot of time crowing about when memberships were actually increasing. But these days memberships are decreasing. Why is that? I ask.

So, what the SFBC is now calling it a 3% "membership income change" I'd call it a 3% membership dues decrease. And this comes at a time when the population of San Francisco is increasing and at a time when SFGov and the SFBC officially "expect" a sixfold increase in the number of trips made by bicycle in San Francisco by 2020, all the way up to 20%. ("20 by '20" or something.) I don't think anybody believes in this fantasy, you know, actually, but, well, there you go.

So, membership dues at the SFBC have decreased more like 3% year over year, rather than 40-something percent.

But if I were running the SFBC and I were as sensitive about giving out my 990's as this...

"The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's annual reports discuss our biggest successes and challenges, and present a broad picture of our income and expenses. If you have specific questions about our finances, please contact Leah Shahum, Executive Director, 415/431-BIKE x306."

...I'd amend my returns so that they would be self consistent, at the very least. END UPDATE]

And by the past year, I mean let’s use the most recent Form 990, the one* that was filed about four months ago, and compare it with the one what was filed for the year before.

Check it. Here’s the 990 for 2011 - $344,663 in reported membership dues:

Click to expand

And here’s the 990 for 2012 – just $185,921:

Now, what could explain this sudden and dramatic drop in “support?”

Well, we had the Chris Bucchere accident in the first quarter of 2012 and some members didn’t exactly approve of the way that SFBC officers dealt with the issue. Perhaps revenue went down in the following quarters?

And we had the shocking SFBC endorsement of Republican-backed Mayor Ed Lee near the end of 2011 – I doubt that paying members would have approved of that had they been given the opportunity.

You know, this guy, the one who always looks up to the formerly-despised Willie Brown:

Of course, people can always do a Barter Membership, but you’d think that dues-paying members would volunteer anyway, right?

Take a look at the numbers on the tax returns, it seems as if the SFBC is just another arm of the SFMTA or, indeed, of SFGov. (Except it’s an agency that can officially endorse Ed Lee for Mayor.)

Oh well.

Anyway, this is why the SFBC no longer boasts of increasing membership anymore.

[UPDATE: Did the 10% discount for SFBC members at Rainbow Grocery really make that much of a difference? IDK. See Comments.]

*There’s also something called the Education Fund, which also gets membership dues – $10k for 2011 and $20k for 2012. But if you throw those numbers in you’re still looking at a 40-something percent decline year over year.

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8 Responses to “Ouch: Membership Dues Have [Fallen] at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition”

  1. Lafter says:

    They don’t give a discount to rainbow grocery anymore. The best perk to being a member.

  2. Rob Anderson says:

    People may be waking up about the real dangers of riding a bike in the city. See the UCSF study on cycling accidents in SF.

    And then there’s the pressure a traditional bicycle seat puts on a crucial part of the anatomy.

  3. fisherbelle says:

    I didn’t renew my membership after they announced no more Rainbow discount.

  4. Ric says:

    I was a member of the SFBC for three years but began to feel increasingly out of touch with the organization’s leadership. Two issues in particular made it difficult for me to remain engaged.

    First. the effort to make Market Street a primary bicycling route, Second, the Golden Gate Park bike lanes.

    In both cases, the efforts seemed clueless and unhelpful. Any sensible rider knows that lateral movement is one of a bicyclist’s best friends. Yet both of those exercises in “bike friendliness” channel bikes into bounded lanes that make steering around an obstacle impossible.

    In addition, I became annoyed at the Coalition’s incessant pleas for more money, more money, more money on top of what I perceived to be my already-generous $250 yearly membership.

    Taken together, I concluded it had become time to become a former member. I must say I’m happy with my decision…

  5. Grego says:

    I too disagree with several fundamental SFBC policies. This hasn’t stopped me from continuing my membership and annual donation to the group, though, because of just one thing:

    THEY’RE THE ONLY ONES EFFECTIVELY WORKING FOR CYCLISTS IN SF.

    As long as they keep helping cyclists from being killed, run over, shoved out, ignored in planning, etc., I’ve got their back.

  6. DDD says:

    SFBC is tainted by my bitter hatred of the jfk bike lanes, on a route I used to love.

  7. Kristin Smith, SFBC says:

    Hi SF Citizen,

    SF Bicycle Coalition Communications Director here. Just saw this post. Thanks for taking such an interest in the SFBC’s financials. Unfortunately, you’ve shared an incomplete picture, which has led to an inaccurate conclusion.

    To get an actual and full picture of the organization’s membership income, you should have read Part VIII, lines 1b and 2a, of the 990s for both the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Education Fund. When you compare these between 2011 and 2012, they’d see the membership income change was less than 3%, and I think most nonprofit, membership-based organizations would tell you this is in keeping with normal dips and growths. I’m happy to speak with you more about it (email kristin at sfbike.org).

    We’re proud that the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s membership is one of the strongest and most active in the country. And we’re especially proud that our active and diverse members have continued to speak up to win more accessible streets — including new bikeways on Fell & Oak Streets and Folsom Street; all day access on BART; and helped educated thousands of people each year on using our roads predictably and safely.

    Also, we miss the Rainbow discount as well; removing it was a decision by Rainbow, not our organization. But we still have more than 65 other discount partners.

  8. Martin says:

    Could it be that people wonder why a tiny nonprofit like SFBC would direct dues to the salary of a full time PR flack? For that size organization ordinarily, you’d see the ED responding to the press and public.

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