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Old 01-20-2005   #61
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Originally posted in the WG Forum.

Well, this is a sticky one.

Naturally, no one wants to pay more than they have to, but at the same time its hard to sponsor research, have full/part time employees, issue press releases, pay for legitimate expenses, and all that other stuff without money.

Worse, if we want to avoid sponsors from having too much control, then membership dues are an issue. Costs per year/members per year = membership dues.

There are other issues, like membership levels. I know no one wants the SEMPO level system, but there have been strong arguements for and against individual vs corporate memberships.

Danny Sullivan wrote some good stuff last year that was aimed at SEMPO but was very well thought out (IMO):

http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/...ead.php?t=1020

FYI:

SMA-UK Levels:

Individual (250)
Corporate (1000)
Associate (on application) - Ian's note: basically sponsors
Junior (125) - Ian's note: Students

With a 10% discount to members of SEMPO

SMA-EU Levels:

Corporate member (one vote promotional benefits) 1500 Euros
Member (one vote) 375 Euros
Junior Member (no vote) 75 Euros
Guest (no vote member of other SMA) 0

I was thinking something like:

Corporate: $1000
Member: $250
Student: $50
Guest: $0 - Paid member of another SMA

Issues

There are many that are just starting out that can't afford even $250. One line of thought was to allow them to join as Student and, on request and review, upgrade them to voting status. Another suggestion was to decrease the Member fee to $150 or $99.

Another problem:

Assuming a $150, 000 yearly budget, thats:

600 members at $250 (double SEMPO's current membership)
1000 members at $150
1516 members at $99

Now of course if there are corporate members that pay more, this number will get better. If a lot of student sign ups, this number will get worse.

Another thing to keep in mind - the membership for the average (free) SEO forum is between 1000-5000 members, many of which are members with multiple memberships (I'm a member of about 5 forums, for example). I imagine that if we only get the forum crowd that we are looking at a maximum of 2000 members, if that. And I think that's pretty optimistic - most forums only have about 150 truly active members.

We want to be accessable to everyone, which means fees as low as possible. But there is no use if we are affordable to members but can't afford to run the organization or to provide the resources, information and benifits the members would want to join for in the first place.

There are also other issues such as - what would a corporation get for their $1000? Why not buy an individual membership? If we encourage corporations to buy individual memberships, what's to stop a large corp with a lot of members from buying blocks of votes and effectively taking control? On the other hand, why not one member one vote? Which is the correct approach?

If you say that we only have individual memberships but a corporation only gets one vote, then if I am hired by that corp and have my own membership, why does my vote not matter anymore? What if I wanted to vote against what the CEO wanted? The voting records are private, after all. On the other hand, what if everyone votes the way the guy who paid for their membership tells them?

Also, a large corporation will often, by it's nature, get more business out of a membership to an organization, simply because that's where other large orgs will "shop". Does that mean they should pay extra? Or should the spoils go to the victor? Is this even an issue for members?

Personal note and disclosure: I have 4 clients who want to sign up as members - 2 as a company. They want to write a company check (not personal) and send whoever they feel like to a meeting - so individual is out for them unless it's transferable. They don't have a problem paying extra for this priviledge. They don't want to have an individual membership because that causes political issues within their organization. Non-Profits could not buy an individual membership legally, I expect. Should we leave them out?

They don't need to sign up - I'm their SEO. But they want to in order to support the industry.

150 Company memberships at $1000 = 150,000
300 at $500

With that added, the number of members we need in order to break even is much lower. But there should be a benift. I don't think the benifit should be multiple votes (that's just me) but some ideas include:

Transferable vote - whichever employee wants to go, can go
Ability to have a booth at shows
Ability to buy advertising to the membership (not get advertising , just be allowed to buy it)
etc

So it's a sticky situation, and will have a direct impact on our membership levels and ability to provide the services that we are promising to provide.

Thoughts? We have until Feb 28 at the latest to figure this out. Which is not a lot of time.

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Old 01-20-2005   #62
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There were some comments made after that post, but no decisions. I'll let them comment themselves if they wish.

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Old 01-20-2005   #63
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Very good summary, Ian! I think it very clearly shows the complexity of issues to deal with having to decide on a membership fee structure.

I think especially it's worth to not the relationship between ...

- how much influence we want to keep to ourself - and how much "sponsor money" we will accept
- how much we want SMA to do
- how many members we need to reach the goals

If we want to really accomplish something - and I personally very much want that, then we need money. Not for me or anyone of the other SEOs working for the project, but to be able to hire a professional administration, to do research, training material, to communicate with members etc. All the things the members want SMA to be able to do.

So the equation is pretty simple: The more we want the more we have to pay unless we accept more money from the engines (or other vendors)

I understand people that have few money but still want to take part in this. That is one of the reasons I support different member levels. If it was up to me I would even be willing to lower the "Junior Member" level to 25 or 50 Euro. But thats just me.

For SMA-EU we are just not going to get hundreds of members right around the corner, and we definately don't want to rely on the engines money which really only leaves us with one option if we want to do something: Pay more
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Old 01-20-2005   #64
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I realize I have no authority or right to be in this discussion, but I thought I'd share my opinion anyway.

I really like having different levels of membership:

- Corporate
- Non-Profit
- Individual
- Student

The voting issue is not that thorny to me. I don't see why each membership shouldn't count as a single vote. I do see the issues with distributing different privileges or benefits based on membership level. There's certainly a long list of items that the group is offering, so why not simply give greater access/rights to larger contributers.

I also think that letting members join at the student price level if the individual level is unaffordable is a fine idea. Just make sure that individual memberships get some extra advantage.

The price range of $200-$400 for individual is certainly acceptable to me. I honestly couldn't see paying less than $200 dues and still getting something valuable out of it.

For students, a sum of $50 seems very reasonable. When I was in college, $50 was certainly a goodly sum, but if I had paid it, it would show a certain level of commitment. Lower than that amount seems to be an invitation to people who don't really want to participate.

For the corporate level, I see $750-$1000 as a good sum. I really don't know too much about that level or the non-profit. However, I know there are trade organizations that charge corporate members upwards of $2000 per year, but generally some type of advertising or marketing exposure privileges follows that.

I will say this:
I will do as much as I can promote and recruit members, as I'm sure many hundreds of others will too. I'm really quite excited about the SMA. I hope you don't mistake my comments for anything but the giddiness of a professional who's never had a community to call home.

A couple other questions:

1. Will there be a dedicated forum/online community for the members?
1a. If so, will it be closed to the general public?
2. I assume dues will be yearly? Will there be an option to purchase a lifetime membership so as to help with initial funding for the organization?
3. What kind of research is the organization planning? Will there be privileges for members to submit questions, projects, sites, etc.?

Sorry if I'm intruding where I'm not welcome. You're free to ignore my posts since I'm not technically involved yet.
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Old 01-21-2005   #65
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Actually, randfish...

It's your input (and that of others) that is the reason this is posted here publicly and not in the depths of some self-appointed sub-committee.

Whether you join or not, the fact is that you are a member of the industry and the reason the SMA exists - so post away!

More importantly - those were excellent comments and much appreciated. Anything commented on here will be read by the working group and taken into consideration, of course.

Thank you for taking the time and thought to post.

In answer to your questions:

Quote:
1. Will there be a dedicated forum/online community for the members?
1a. If so, will it be closed to the general public?
2. I assume dues will be yearly? Will there be an option to purchase a lifetime membership so as to help with initial funding for the organization?
3. What kind of research is the organization planning? Will there be privileges for members to submit questions, projects, sites, etc.?
1. Yes - there will be a forum, blog and website. It wil probably have various levels of access - for the public, for members, and for SIGs. We want to keep information available to the public, but there will be certain areas that will be appropriate as member only, I imagine. I'm not sure if we want it to be yet another SEO Forum, though, so that will have to get sorted out by the members. We certainly want to encourage networking and information sharing though, and a forum is one good way to do that. We have a dedicated website SIG made up of volunteers that has already installed drupal on the site: www.sma-na.org and we will be adding functionality in layers. Based on the talent involved (ie not me - I suck as a designer) I expect really good things from them.

2. So far, we haven't discussed lifetime memberships, per se, but that's a good idea! It did come up in a discussion on a membership drive - ie possibly give lifetime memberships to anyone who brings in a certain number of members, or whatever. It was a random comment that seemed popular, but hasn't been discussed fully yet. One good thing about yearly memberships is that our costs are likely to be yearly, so that works out well. But of course we will need a boost in our first year just due to run up costs, so that's actually a good idea - I'll bring it up.

3. I posted this potential list of benifits in the working group just a few hours ago. Remember, this is just a list, not policy. Nothing has been voted on, and many things we will want the members to vote on, rather than the working group, especially things related to money being spent.

But here it is - some possible reasons to join IN ADDITION to the warm fuzzy feeling of promoting the industry as a whole and belonging to something larger than yourself that's trying to make a difference:

Networking
Group Insurance discounts - health, dental, business, travel, auto, etc
Discounts and special offers from other members and sponsors
Ombudsman service between SE's and members
Members only tools
Members only research and information in addition to the public info we generate
A knowledge base regarding common questions and problems
RFP (Request for Proposal) system
Sub-contracting brokerage
Advocacy services
Legal help such as pre-designed contracts
Discounts from copyright lawyers
International resources related to website content theft
Market growth initiatives - ie Chamber of Commerce presentations, advertising
Access to the services of other SMA's
Approve/recommend content for training - ie colleges, online training centers
Set out standard practice guidelines for business dealings, directories, etc
Partner with like minded orgs like the AMA, ATWA, and others
Provide news and event coverage related to the industry
Become a member of the W3C, IEEE and so forth to represent SEO/M views
Provide information regarding industry scam artists and con men
Provide independent information to potential cleints regarding the benifits of SEO/M
A search engine industry mutual fund run by reputable brokerage firm
Independent meet-and-greet functions
Support for SIGS - city SIGs, hispanic or french SIG, copywriter SIG, etc
A member only newsletter or (better yet) glossy magazine with news, tips etc
Job board
Scholarships
Cool swag
Press release service
Certification
Legislative advocacy
Travel discounts and benifits
Salary surveys
Competitions and awards
Member discounts for directories
Opportunities to be published
Looks good on a resume/CV
Volunteer opportunities
Seminars and conferences

I'm sure the list can get larger. There may also be things that should not be there. The members will decide. This was just off the top of my head based on what I've been personally thinking about recently, so it's not official in any way.

Cheers,

Ian
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Last edited by mcanerin : 01-21-2005 at 01:01 AM.
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Old 01-21-2005   #66
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mcanerin - Thanks for your kind words. I can already see that the organization's founders have the kind of attitude that will breed success for the group as a whole. It's a good feeling.

Thanks for your answers to my questions as well. If I may, a few more recommendations:

1. Instead of or in addition to a forum - a wiki website, possibly running mediaWiki, that would allow members to coalesce SEO/SEM knowledge into a great resource. Mediawiki allows for approved member-only editing, thus eliminating much of the spam problems associated with wikis in general.

2. A private dialogue system (like PMs in the forums) that allows member to communicate with one another.

3. Possible standards setting for webmasters, as W3C does. It would be terrific for SEOs to adopt additional meta data for web sites/pages similiarly to the Dublin Core initiative, even if the search engines aren't using it (yet). Other HTML and web standards would also be welcome.

Let me also make a recommendation against one of your listed items - "A search engine industry mutual fund run by reputable brokerage firm" - I majored in finance in college and worked with/around many brokerage firms and mutual funds. I would recommend that if you are seeking to provide investment recommendations or opportunities, you do it through an ECN. I'm personally a fan of arca|ex.

You'll find that no matter how noble a brokerage firm or the individuals involved seem, their primary interest is not in the success of your investment, but rather the success of the fund. Working with Wall Street is dangerous business, and throughout the history of the mutual fund, only a single one (I believe it was Vanguard's in the early 90s until the dotcom collapse) ever beat the earnings of the S&P500 regularly.

The primary problem with a managed mutual fund is that it creates by nature an antagonistic relationship between the management team and the investors. Certainly, the higher it performs, the more investors it will attract, but the management team makes money by making trades and getting commissions on those trades and paybacks on large purchases of stock (especially IPOs).

Please be very cautious if you pursue this route. I know it's just a suggestion from off the top of your head, but it pays to be careful in the world of finance.
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Old 01-21-2005   #67
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That's a very good point about the mutual fund - thanks. I'm building my own portfolio of SE related stock, which is why the idea was in my head. I figured it would be good to a) get all the financial and other info as soon as it's released, b) being able to show up at AGM's and c) maybe make some money

Agreed about the S&P500 - it's one of the best no-brainer investments out there.

It sounds like an SE themed fund may be too complicated to offer to members though (at least at this stage) which means you've just saved us a bunch of time finding that out - thanks

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Old 01-21-2005   #68
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Ian and Mikkel (and other SMA organizers) -- I appreciate your approach in these threads. The transparency is terrific.

Quote:
There are many that are just starting out that can't afford even $250. One line of thought was to allow them to join as Student and, on request and review, upgrade them to voting status. Another suggestion was to decrease the Member fee to $150 or $99.
It won't just be the ones starting out who can't afford $250. It'll be folks who do SEO/SEM for smaller companies and/or in smaller towns where salaries are smaller, but have the fire/passion and want to learn and be part of a larger organization like SMA. Hopefully there's room for these folks, too, and I suspect there is from the welcoming tone and approach I've seen in all these discussions to date.

I think the idea above (start as student and review for upgrade to voting status) is a good one, but it may be more work than organizers realize.

Another idea, a bit similar perhaps, is to create a way to accept members who have more time and effort to contribute than money. Problem is that you'd have to find a way to vet the ones who are just trying to freeload and separate them from the ones who really want to roll up their sleeves.

Quote:
If you say that we only have individual memberships but a corporation only gets one vote, then if I am hired by that corp and have my own membership, why does my vote not matter anymore?
If my company joins at the corporate level, I would still expect to be able to join as an individual if I desired. Are you suggesting the SMA wouldn't go for this? Or the employer? I realize every situation is different, but do a lot of companies really dictate what groups and organizations employees can join in their private lives? Sure hope not.

Quote:
Also, a large corporation will often, by it's nature, get more business out of a membership to an organization, simply because that's where other large orgs will "shop". Does that mean they should pay extra?
A corporate membership level makes sense, but they should only get one vote -- transferable sounds fine, as bigger companies likely have specialists who are more knowledgeable about certain issues and would be more qualified to vote on certain things. And of course the corporate members who pay more should get more out of the membership. That seems fair. Sports teams give their season ticket holders various benefits that individual ticket buyers don't get. Makes perfect sense.

I think we should all be smart enough to understand that you get more when you pay more. But ... the SMA has to make sure that the voice of the individual member can be just as loud and listened to as the corporate member. If they get more benefits, fine. Just give me the same chance to speak up and be involved.

And yes on randfish's lifetime membership idea -- or maybe 5-year and 10-year memberships that come with a discount? Something to encourage the folks with the cash to give more of it out of the gate.

Quote:
cool swag
Now you're talking.
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Old 01-21-2005   #69
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mcanerin - where are we with the developments of SMA-NA?

Is this estabished now, in a week, month...?
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Old 01-21-2005   #70
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fathom
mcanerin - where are we with the developments of SMA-NA?

Is this estabished now, in a week, month...?
Up and having first meeting at the pub tonight....lol.... well maybe not but want to on the notify list also.
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Old 01-21-2005   #71
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AussieWebmaster
Up and having first meeting at the pub tonight....lol.... well maybe not but want to on the notify list also.
- where to register? [intend corporate member]
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Old 01-21-2005   #72
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fathom
- where to register? [intend corporate member]
I just gave them my email address over at the site figured they would reach out when ready... though would gladly help if needed.
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Old 01-21-2005   #73
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AussieWebmaster
I just gave them my email address over at the site figured they would reach out when ready... though would gladly help if needed.
Ya so did I - but kindda felt like a loner... no one there, nothing to do but look at my login time!
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Old 01-21-2005   #74
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One of the first things we want to get up is a notify list so people can sign up and show interest, and maybe even asnswer some questions that will help us pin things down.

The website was only installed a couple of days ago, and very few of us have ever used Drupal (Help Wanted...) so it might take a couple more days or so to get things going - but we definately want feedback and to launch quickly as well.

In short, we've got some busy little elves scurrying about behind the scenes, and will be getting things going asap. The to-do list is huge, though, and we don't want to do something stupid accidently because of being rushed.

The latest news is that we are probably (pending approval from the rest of the working group) moving off of the Yahoo group and onto a private forum within the Cre8asite forum (Thanks Kim!) because forums are WAY easier to use.

Once we get a forum up on the SMA-NA site we will move once more (and finally). I hate making little hops, but sometimes you find you need to bootstrap the people who are doing the bootstrapping

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Old 01-21-2005   #75
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Personally I don't like the idea of a lifetime membership for one simple reason: Future members and elected executive commitees should be allowed to adjust things over time - also membership fee and such. Life time memberships will limit that very much. In fact, I am not sure how you would enforce it ... What if a future general meeting agree to drop the life time member status - also for the ones that have it? Will SMA have to pay back the members money long gone of they do so? No, SMA cannot, and should not, make life time commitments.
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Old 01-21-2005   #76
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Mikkel -

If you don't like lifetime, why not at least offer 3, 4 or 5 year initial memberships so the group can get a jump on budgeting. After all, the startup expenses (I would expect) will be quite high, whereas maintenance afterwards will be less.

It would also give those of us who are very committed a chance to get a bit of a discount and also help out some with the startup costs. I don't see too much of a problem with lifetime memberships, but you have more experience and foresight than I. It would certainly be nice to have something more long term.
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Old 01-21-2005   #77
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randfish
Mikkel -

If you don't like lifetime, why not at least offer 3, 4 or 5 year initial memberships so the group can get a jump on budgeting. After all, the startup expenses (I would expect) will be quite high, whereas maintenance afterwards will be less.

It would also give those of us who are very committed a chance to get a bit of a discount and also help out some with the startup costs. I don't see too much of a problem with lifetime memberships, but you have more experience and foresight than I. It would certainly be nice to have something more long term.
What type of start up expenses are we talking about - I know legal fees would be a big part - but not too much... there would be no office per se, etc.
Hosting for a site would not be too expensive as there would really be no video just text.
Prep for the site could be done voluntarily.... same as content
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Old 01-22-2005   #78
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcanerin
The website was only installed a couple of days ago, and very few of us have ever used Drupal (Help Wanted...) so it might take a couple more days or so to get things going - but we definately want feedback and to launch quickly as well.
No problem with this: modules, mods, anti-spam, styles, filters, inc, templates, general functions, etc.

Quote:
Once we get a forum up on the SMA-NA site we will move once more (and finally). I hate making little hops, but sometimes you find you need to bootstrap the people who are doing the bootstrapping
If you want to start fresh rather than moving this can be setup in a few hours. If someone else provides a psd graphical for look/feel appeal, got no problem handling the rest.

Last edited by fathom : 01-22-2005 at 12:17 AM.
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Old 01-22-2005   #79
randfish
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Location: Seattle, WA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AussieWebmaster
What type of start up expenses are we talking about - I know legal fees would be a big part - but not too much... there would be no office per se, etc.
Hosting for a site would not be too expensive as there would really be no video just text.
Prep for the site could be done voluntarily.... same as content
AW - Mcanerin's list from above made me think that there would be significant initial costs. These items in particular:

Group Insurance discounts - health, dental, business, travel, auto, etc
Members only tools
Advocacy services
Legal help such as pre-designed contracts
Discounts from copyright lawyers
International resources related to website content theft
Market growth initiatives - ie Chamber of Commerce presentations, advertising
Approve/recommend content for training - ie colleges, online training centers
Become a member of the W3C, IEEE and so forth to represent SEO/M views
A member only newsletter or (better yet) glossy magazine with news, tips etc
Scholarships
Cool swag
Press release service
Certification
Legislative advocacy
Travel discounts and benifits
Competitions and awards
Opportunities to be published
Seminars and conferences

All cost money/time. I would guess that the organization's value and importance would increase exponentially the faster these could be implemented. I realize there are no office/executive salary costs, but these items still require a significant budget.

BTW Speaking of salaries, will the SMA be hiring some full-time people to work on the administration and implementation of all these services? In what city? Who will decide? Will it be part of an initial vote?
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Old 01-22-2005   #80
Mikkel deMib Svendsen
 
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
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If you don't like lifetime, why not at least offer 3, 4 or 5 year initial memberships so the group can get a jump on budgeting
I don't think that would be wise. It's like peeing your pants if its's cold - it only last very short. What are we going to do after the first year when all the 4-5 year or lifetime member fees are gone?
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