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Part 2:  But Meggie, What Does This All Mean?

If you are reading this, without reading Part 1: A Value Map for SCA Membership, I want you to stop, click on this link, and read Part1.  Part 2 assumes you have watched and digested the first post.  If you have not done that, Part 2 will be more confusing than helpful.

Assuming you have read Part 1, please read on.

So now you are asking: Meggie? What does this all mean? What are the implications of what you wrote?  And what do we do about it?

Ok, let’s pretend that we have 3 SCAdians.

Svenna: A Heavy List/Chivalric Fighter intent on winning crown.  Svenna has two kids who sometimes go with her to events, but her wife does not play in the SCA. Svenna has a single membership.

Fredrich: A Thrown Weapons Marshal, who is active in his local chapter.  Fredrich has a single membership.

Alysone and Alphonse:  A Middle Eastern Dancer and their partner, a musician.  Neither of them are active in their local chapter. They have a family membership.

Let’s look at the value of a paid membership for each one of these SCAdians.  Reminder, there are 8 different identified stages, or chunks of value, that a paid membership represents:

[Image depicts the value map with 8 stages] 1.  Newsletter, 2. Event Discount, 3. Support Org., 4. Vote in Elections, 5. Hold Office(s), 6. Host Event(s), 7. Webminstry Tools, 8. Fight in Crown.

Svenna:  Svenna is very technically savvy.  She is an active user of Facebook and has the Kingdom.org webpage bookmarked in her browser.  She uses Facebook to coordinate her participation in her household fighting unit, and to stay in contact with the various members of the SCA.  As a result, she never downloads the newsletter(s). She gets all the information she needs for attending events from either Facebook invites or from the Kingdom.Org webpage.  She uses the event discount all the time.  She is not interested in holding events, or holding local offices, and she does not live in a local region that requires voting, so she does not vote.  She has not really used the webminstry tools.  She absolutely fights in the Crown Tournament and wants to win the next time she goes out.  

Of the 8 value stages of a paid membership, she is only using 2, 3, 5 (if she wins Crown) and 8.   So… she is realizing only 50% of the value of a membership.  That said, if she does win Crown, the enhanced access to the Webminstry tools will be of value.  For Svenna, this is not a great value, but since she wants to fight in Crown Tourney, she must buy a membership.

Fredrich:  Fredrich is a little old school.  He has been involved in the SCA since the 80s, and faithfully goes into his membership portal and downloads his newsletters every month.  Fredrich does not like Facebook and does not have an account.  It also annoys him that so much of the SCA is centered around Facebook, and if you get him going on the topic, he will hold forth for at least an hour.  He likes being one of the SCAdian Old Timers, and actively supports his barony, voting in elections and being involved in regional politics.  He has held events for thrown weapons, and in his kingdom, being a Marshal requires that he be a member so that the insurance rider will cover the practices he hosts.  He is active on email lists related to thrown weapons and maintains a paid membership email address with [MEMBER#@ KINGDOM DOT ORG] so that people can officially communicate with him.  Since he does not fight in armor, he has no intention of fighting in Crown, but he likes attending Crown Tournament. 

Of the 8 value stages of a paid membership, he is using 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7.  7 of 8 value stages.  He is realizing 87% of the total potential value of a membership.   For Fredrich, this is a pretty good deal.

Alysone and Alphonse: Alysone and Alphonse found the SCA through their local Renaissance Fair. She is a middle eastern dancer, and Alphonse is a clarinet player for her dancing.  Alysone comes to the SCA to dance, and Alphonse to play music.  They get their information about where the practices & events with dancing are over Facebook first, and then they check the SCA webpage.  They don’t bother to download the newsletters, as the information there is at least a month old and contains a bunch of information they don’t use.  They don’t really care about supporting the organization, per se, they also go to Ren. Fairs, Middle Eastern Dance seminars, and the occasional LARP.  Though they live in a Barony, they have no interest in attending Council meetings, or voting in elections, or hosting events. None of that matters to them.  The only reason they are members is because they love going to Pennsic and dancing in the Bog all night.  The discount on that single event is worth more than the membership fee, so they gladly pay it.  That said, if they can’t make Pennsic in a particular year, they sometimes let their membership slide.

Of the 8 value stages of a paid membership, Alysone and Alphones are using only stage 2, event discount. That means that the value of their membership is only worth 13% of the total potential value.  Although from an accounting standpoint it makes sense on paper, in years when they don’t anticipate crossing the threshold of Non Member Surcharge (NMS) value, they don’t bother to renew. 

CAVEAT: I recognize that the I have made the value stages of equal weight in the above examples. In reality the value of each stage would be weighted by what each member feels is important, but that is outside the control of the model. 

EXERCISE:  Pick some SCAdian participants you know and map out how they realize the value of their paid membership.  Is it worth it for them?   Think of the Artisan, the Researcher, the person who loves working in the kitchen or at Gate, the fencer who loves historical swordplay.  How do they realize the value of their paid membership?

QUESTION:  What other things can we do to add value to an SCA membership to allow other SCAdians participants to want to buy a paid membership?

Additional Considerations:

The Value Map can be used to understand other perennial issues that crop up around membership, both historical issues and also present-day controversies.  In this section, as an example, I intend to talk about Kids in the SCA, and the current Facebook kerfuffle about the creation, promotion, visibility and perceived power of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and its potential impact on membership.

Kids: 

Svenna has a spouse that does not play in the SCA and two children who sometimes attend events.  Why does Svenna not have a family membership for at least her and her two children?  Well, let’s look at what an SCA membership gets Svenna’s kids.

Svenna’s kids, 8 and 12, are even more media savvy than Svenna, the concept of downloading a newsletter is appalling.  Why would you not send a text message reminder of the events that interest members?  They do not participate in reading the newsletters, as the information there does not apply to them. They do attend the occasional event with their mom, but at their level of maturity, Svenna does not need to worry about juggling infants, diaper bags and wallets such that having waivers pre-filled out for her children at gate is a huge advantage anymore, she will just fill out waivers for them at the gate.  They are not old enough to vote in elections, hold office or host events on their own.  Neither can they fight in crown, and frankly Svenna only wants the current email addresses for her kids which she can monitor with her parental oversight.  The 8-year-old likes to play Pokemon with their friends in the back of court, but the 12-year-old does participate in the youth combat program like his Mom.  However, at 12 years old, he functionally sees no difference between supporting the organization by paying for a membership and paying to attend events; there is no pride gained for him, or for Svenna, for being a paying member of the SCA.

Of the 8 value stages of a paid membership, Svenna’s kids would get only a 13% value; membership discount is the only benefit, and since the children only come with her infrequently, it is literally not worth paying for a membership for Svenna’s children. Additionally, since being a parent and fighting heavy list/chivalric combat is often not compatible, it makes more sense to leave Svenna’s kids with her wife or with her parents, else she would have to find baby-sitting at the event.

Conclusion: If you want parents to pay for membership for their children, there needs to be more value for a child membership than avoiding the hassle of signing waivers at Gate.

The creation & promulgation of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion & it’s policies:

First, I want to note that the cultural upheaval that the SCA is experiencing around the creation of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion can not be divorced from the national and (possibly international) argument that is currently underway around how humans can and should be treating other humans. IE the SCA is not special here.  

That said, it does appear that the creation of the position by the BoD and the expectations of courteous behavior expected of SCA participants and members, has *directly impacted* Stage 3 of the Value Map, i.e. the pride in the organization that an SCA member experiences by being a member.  To explain, let’s go back to Svenna.

Svenna, as we noted, is a woman, married to a woman.  Her feelings about belonging to a community, her pride in being a member, her sense of fellowship with the other members, IE the value that she realizes for this stage, has likely fluctuated across time.  Perhaps it increased with the passage of the Inspirational Equality ruling.  Perhaps it dipped during Trimgate.  It likely swelled when she saw knights she knew and knights she had never met wearing Pride fealty chains during Pride Month in June.  It is possible that it has dipped again in reading the letter from Countess Brithwynnn Artur who wrote about feeling that Social Conservatives are being bullied, because the society is choosing to make space for all participants.  Svenna’s wife is African American.  Perhaps she has watched that Pelican hotly declare on Facebook that Black Lives Matter (BLM) Protesters would not be arrested if they did not destroy property.  It is one thing to watch a nation argue with itself on how people should be treated.  It is another to watch people she knows and respected treat her concerns and her safety cavalierly.  She might consider not re-upping her membership next time, depending on how she and her children are made to feel welcome by all members of the society.

This is true in the reverse as well.

Take Fredrich:  Fredrich is old school.  He was a young man when his area went Principality and was also a proud member when it went Kingdom.  He tries to stay up to date, but the US culture shifting under his feet makes him nervous.  Will there be a place for him in the future?  That fear is compounded by seeing the social change he distrusts reflected in the SCA, the place he considers his refuge from the modern world.  The value that he realizes in the Support Org. stage likely has also fluctuated across time.  He may have realized more value before the creation of the Order of Defense, as he considered fencing not as rigorous a discipline as knighthood, but perhaps he has come around now, seeing his local Masters of Defense behave in a respectful manner to the Crowns.  It did not dip when Inspirational Equality happened, as Fredrich’s brother is gay, but the #MeToo movement made him uneasy, as he is not sure his behavior towards the women in the SCA in his past would meet the standards of the rapidly evolving modern society.  Perhaps he sees the creation of the Office of the Diversity & Inclusion as a looming threat to his continued participation in the SCA. Since he wants to continue to vote in elections and be a marshal, he can’t stop being a member, but it makes him vocally unhappy that the value he realizes in the Support Org. value stage might be going down.

It is possible that there are an entire set of Members whose concerns about this value stage are responsible for the fluctuation in membership numbers we are seeing. I do not believe, however, that there is exit interview data available to prove it one way or the other.  

My ultimate point is, if the Value of an SCA membership has declined over time, we can likely pinpoint what policy changes led to that decline, by comparing SCA scandals, BoD rulings, and outside SCA cultural upheavals to moments of downturn, to figure out which value stages were impacted by those moments.  That said, the past is the past.  We can reverse or change BoD rulings, but we cannot take back SCA scandals or undo cultural touchpoints that drew people away from the SCA.  We can only influence how we create value for our paid members going forward.  It behooves the BoD to add value back into a membership by offering new services that the members want, even as Covid-19 devalues parts of an SCA Membership .  Until it is safe, we cannot realize NMS funding, because we cannot host events.  There is only so much leaning on the Support the Org. value stage we can do, by begging former members to renew their membership.  The BoD needs to strengthen the value stages it can strengthen, and create additional value for a member, to encourage SCA Participants to cross over and chose to become SCA Members.

Please note that I have not offered a solution to the problem.  I am only offering a model to all the people who want to solve the problem to think about the problem in a new light.  I am sure any analytically focused individual can tear apart the stages of the value map and dive deep into data analysis to draw their own conclusions about what will help.   I want to re-iterate that I am likely missing value stages, and that some of the depicted value stages may apply imperfectly to your Kingdom. If you can think of one I missed, please email me at marguerite dot lachlainn at gmail dot com, I don’t mind beating up your idea a little, and updating the map as it makes sense.  A Value Map, like a good piece of poetry, is never finished, it is only abandoned.

In Service to the SCA,

Countess Marguerite inghean Lachlainn, OP. 

KMA: Katherine Journeay, (LinkedIn Profile

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