Mon 10 Feb 2020 8:08AM

2020/21 budget: should we consider raising membership fees?

JN Jez Nicholson Public Seen by 56

Tony Shield correctly pointed out on another thread that, "expenditure for microgrants has been approved, and unexpected expenditure for Loomio incurred - should budget planning be started and revenue raising reviewed? Last year there was a proposal to increase some membership fees- should membership fees be reviewed so that income matches expenditure aims?"

Yes, absolutely. Let's gather some opinions before we get too close to the AGM (in May/June).

I don't have the finance figures to hand, so could a fellow-Director chime in with some a very rough budget statement please? Just the facts.

Connected to this: Administration of corporate membership is a proving to be a pain. We issue invoices which then have to be chased. The majority are SMEs and the time/effort cost outweighs the money brought in. We then have to repeat on renewal.


Edward Bainton Mon 10 Feb 2020 6:20PM

We issue invoices which then have to be chased. 

Could we/you require payment in advance, with a proforma invoice issued after the fact?

I'm an SME myself, and life is just too short to chase late payers. Most will have no problem paying in advance for things when they have to, they just need to route it through the appropriate policies.


RobJN Mon 10 Feb 2020 9:55PM

It's not the creating of the invoice that this the issue its the chasing them to pay that causes problematic. For example, we strike up a conversation and get good interest. We then get asked to send the payment details (which is what's on the invoice) but nothing... chasing... chasing...

How to convert interest to actual payment with more ease. We could not let them escape until they have paid but I suspect that won't go down well!


RobJN Mon 10 Feb 2020 10:00PM

Here is the latest financial statement (8 Feb):


 £  2,984.39


 £     100.00

Total Cash

 £  3,084.39

Plus Corporate Membership Invoices

 £     200.00

Less Corporation Tax (est)

 £     200.00

Total Assets

 £  3,084.39

Less Microgrant commitment

 £     500.00

Less Reserve

 £     500.00


 £  2,084.39

I think a reserve of £1000 is more appropriate and it should be noted that a good chunk of the current funds has come from two ad hoc projects. These are not guaranteed and hence our annual expenditure plan is based on the income we get from membership. We aim to spend it all in support of our member.

2020/21 plan:


£ 500        Membership from individuals (100 x £5)

£ 250        Membership from corporate (5 x £50 @ SME rate)

£ 750


£ 50        Website domain

£ 500        Microgrant program

£ 200        Conference fees / Travel expenses for bilateral meetings

£ 750


RobJN Mon 10 Feb 2020 10:04PM

So far, 9 months in, we are overspending due to higher website/webservices costs. We are also under on income due to the corporate membership issue above (volunteer help wanted).

Finally it should be noted that we currently have web hosting paid by a community member. I feel it prudent to plan for us having to pay this ourselves (circa £120 per year).


Edward Bainton Mon 10 Feb 2020 10:31PM

So are these prospects for corp membership who don't actually convert to payment/membership, or are they existing members/contractually agreed to be members but are late paying what they agreed?

I understood the latter but I think you're saying former?


RobJN Tue 11 Feb 2020 12:00AM

Either new corp members who have provided a verbal (or emailed) commitment to pay. Or they are existing corporate members whose membership has lapsed and we are keen to get them paid up for another year.

To be honest it doesn't make much difference as we are not doing work up front (i.e. they don't get into arrears other than the informal commitment they made).


Jez Nicholson Tue 11 Feb 2020 3:53PM

In general, (some of) my opinions are that:

  • The organisation should be self-sufficient, ie bring in enough to cover reasonable costs without needing freebies.

  • The organisation should be able to redirect more money via the microgrant programme.

  • Normal member fees are exceptionally low. They could go up...but equally I don't want to punish the people trying to make a difference when 1000's get it for free. Doubling to £10 would not hurt.

  • SME rates are low. Just being mentioned on the web site is worth £50 for the SEO. The rate should rise by 20-50%

  • We should look for other ways to raise revenue.

  • Money donated via OpenStreetMap.org to goes to the OSMF. Some people do this annually to 'pay their dues' to OSS. Some of it should be allocated to Local Chapters. And/or we should give people the opportunity to donate at the local level.

  • I would be happy for the organisation to eventually have a paid employee or two. But that's for the future.

  • I don't want it all to be about 💰 money


RobJN Sun 16 Feb 2020 3:36PM

Are there any further views from members on the fees that we should charge next year?


Edward Bainton Sun 16 Feb 2020 9:39PM

I'd be perfectly happy with £10. Maybe give Directors discretion to fix a lower rate for those unwaged/OAP/etc.


Tony Shield Mon 17 Feb 2020 5:52PM

I think Ed is right on this. When I first joined I thought the fees were low, but now I see fees are low and numbers are low - I will be happy at £10pa.

Do we need corporate members if they are delinquent as a group?

Are we allowed to increase membership - perhaps by emailing contributors? or at least new contributors with an introductory welcome so they know what they have signed up for? Not for the slightest am I trying to limit membership, and I dont know what the rules for emailing local contributors are.


Jez Nicholson Mon 6 Apr 2020 6:57PM

Just wondering, is there something comparable? I don't know what the other Local Chapters charge or even if we should follow them, but there must be other professional/friendly bodies....


Gareth L Tue 5 May 2020 7:00PM

So some comparisons:

OSM Ireland are, i think, €15 for ordinary members (€5 concession), €300 for corporate.
Swiss OSM charge about £17 for ordinary members, and about £125 for corporate.
OSM France are €20 euro for ordinary members with a €10 concession. I couldn't spot the corporate pricing.


Cj Malone Thu 20 Aug 2020 10:51PM

Do membership fees have to be a fixed amount? It may be worth considering pay what you want.


Jez Nicholson Fri 21 Aug 2020 7:44AM

connected to this, we should re-check the tax rules. A straight donation with no strings attached would/could be tax free, whereas annual subs are. At minimum we could continue with subs and have an option to donate......and perhaps the OSMF could share some of the donations they are receiving on behalf of the mappers https://donate.openstreetmap.org/ ;)


Dan S Sat 22 Aug 2020 12:20PM

Related: I had a chat with someone from The Guardian. They're encouraging people to make donations rather than subscriptions, for exactly the tax reason that Jez mentions.
So - I'd be in favour of that suggestion, to have a basic subscription, with optional but encouraged donation at the same time. (Possibly tricky to administer if part of the transaction is taxed and part is untaxed?)


Nick Ananin Fri 21 Aug 2020 6:47PM

With significantly increased membership fee (e.g. £20) what if there were some real benefits e.g. discounted fees for members to access facilities such as https://ncap.org.uk/ (who use OSM)


Adam Hoyle Mon 24 Aug 2020 11:04AM

That's a really great idea. The challenge is making the relationships and negotiating the discounted fees, mainly as OSMUK has no staff, just volunteers. Do you have any relationship with ncap or any experience with negotiating discounts? If so, would you be up for volunteering to try to get it in place?


Adam Hoyle Mon 24 Aug 2020 2:03PM

Having thought about this some more since writing this morning - perhaps we can ask corporate members of OSMUK if there is anything they could offer to individual members of OSMUK.


Nick Ananin Mon 24 Aug 2020 3:25PM

No relationship to NCAP - simply thinking the sort of benefits that might attract new members. Perhaps worth asking existing members for other ideas?


Nick Ananin Tue 25 Aug 2020 10:50AM

I have wondered previously about the purpose of OSM and specifically in relation to the UK. From the mailing list the implication seemed to be that OSM did not require "extreme precision/accuracy" - I am not sure this should necessarily be the case. Personally I have derived pleasure from seeing what I have mapped on OSM being used by other systems (e.g. NCAP and others). However, it does not solve many issues nor do other maps. I relate this to the case where a neighbour died from a heart attach but the first responder could not find the address as data was not shared. So take a similar scenario and as a member of the public, using Google maps try to quickly find the nearest defibrillator!
I therefore believe that perhaps this review of fees is a good point in time to review the purpose. For example, what if OSM and the underlying open data available to other map systems was 'THE map of choice'.
I know this means that I might upset some folk but the key thing is that any data must always be 'open' and easily accessible.
A starting point would be to look at a SWOT e.g.:
Strengths = Large number of volunteers, huge range of skills, local knowledge, passion for mapping ...
Weaknesses = Limited resources, credibility, recognition ...
Opportunities = Create transparent links between all parties with an interest i.e. community, businesses (social media, supermarkets), government etc, education (schools etc)...
Threats = Individual parties try to take control ....
Thinking this through, this could be a pilot project where membership (say £20 but with various concessions, life membership?) would provide free resources (hi-vis vests, use of differential GPS and/or RTK equipment, AI enabled cameras that recognise features and log automatically on OSM, local training etc.) - the latter provided by funding from corporate members. The corporate members benefiting from improved data. For example a supermarket would have accurate and up to date maps (including new builds even before OS has mapped them) for deliveries. In turn delivery vehicles could be provided with cameras to capture street-level imagery. The potential for genuine collaboration is huge.
With an enhanced profile, perhaps agencies would start to take OSM mappers seriously. We have the skills but agencies such as OS and government (inc local) do not seem to recognise the importance when we identify errors in their data. One outcome could be a central error reporting tool (run by OSM) that is visible to all. OS could even use OSM data for 'provisional' data (i.e.
Other outcomes could be the funding for staff to be employed e.g. a dedicated trainer that provides training for members that ensures quality. If corporate members see real benefits, that makes it easier to seek resourcing for the whole OSM movement.
In essence I see this as an opportunity to look at the potential benefits but also risks (a business plan including vision). I acknowledge that there are potential risks but risks can be managed. I also realise that I may be the only one that is frustrated with lack of openness by various UK agencies and see this as a way to force change for the better.


Jez Nicholson Tue 25 Aug 2020 1:01PM

Hi Nick,

You are quite right in most/all of your points....and sound like a future Director of OSMUK....

OSM in the UK should consider its purpose. With Ordnance Survey making Open Data releases, their data becomes more usable to casual users. Our purpose is not to 'be the Open Data replacement for Ordnance Survey'.

OSM data is extremely useful to a number of companies from large corporations to SMEs, but they have limited opportunity to express their gratitude in tangible ways because, well, we don't ask for anything. Amazon actively update the map at source, whereas others take without giving back. The UK Government largely ignores our existence whilst writing 2 * £30million cheques to the OS. OSMUK makes us more visible by having a body that they can talk to. We spoke to a researcher at the Geospatial Commission, as well as TfL, Bing/Microsoft, and Mapillary/Facebook. That's one of the benefits of your membership.

At the moment OSMUK acts a bit like a union, the benefits are a collective voice and legitimacy. It represents mappers in the UK, but doesn't control them. You don't even have to be a member to receive the benefits, but if you are then you have opportunity to set the direction. I believe that the individual membership subs are nominal to reflect that there are no direct benefits (apart from camera loan, or a microgrant). Your comments have made me ponder whether there should be some.


Nick Ananin Tue 25 Aug 2020 5:01PM

Hi Jez

I am merely voicing my opinion and you are correct in that we are like a union i.e. as unpaid workers we should be able to organise ourselves to gain advantages not available to us individually. Specifically how to make our freely given time more effective and efficient. For example, apart from surveying we should not have to spend a time getting errors that we identify reviewed and amended by the relevant agencies - a union should/could have 'weight'

I also agree that the purpose is not simply to replace OS but with sufficient clout then OS are more likely to genuinely collaborate with OSM.

Why I bang on about purpose, is that without that clarity it is difficult to work towards developing function (what is produced), process (how) and structure (who) etc. Part of the process of identifying the purpose (which should be constantly reviewed) is how OSM in the UK meets (or can meet) the needs of the wider community (including businesses, government etc)

It strikes me that OSM is uniquely positioned to facilitate wide collaboration for the benefit of society (e.g. reduce deaths per the example I cited), the economy (e.g. efficient delivery of goods and services) and the environment (e.g. modelling using spatial data that can help reduce impacts). I guess like many of my ideas this is probably seen as a step too far but given that you are already talking to significant organisations, perhaps this could be explored with potential collaborators.



BTW - re "With Ordnance Survey making Open Data releases, their data becomes more usable to casual users." - not proactive i.e. they only give what has limited use (e.g. UPRN without any real value - ask Robert Whittaker) or no longer of interest to them


Jon Harley Sun 23 Aug 2020 12:31PM

I've long thought that our corporate rates are absurdly low. Half the problem getting them to pay is probably that it's such a pathetic amount of money nobody will take it seriously.


RobJN Tue 1 Sep 2020 8:25PM

Hi all. Those members of OSM UK should now have seen the AGM notice so will know that we included the following proposal:

  • Members: £7.50

  • Corporate members (small): £75

Much higher numbers were suggested and are seen in some of the other local groups outside the UK. Nevertheless we have used this lower figure as last year's AGM demonstrated the challenge of increasing fees too much.

The £7.50 figure comes from the current £5 plus new costs that we have picked up this year. Those are the cost of Loomio and the cost of our web server which we are picking up for the first time. A huge thank you to Stu for covering the server costs on his own for the last few years.

The £75 comes from the same percentage increase we applied to member.


Nick Ananin Wed 2 Sep 2020 8:39AM

I signed up to auto renew membership - does this increase in rate happen automatically or do I have to update something?
Incidentally, do we have membership numbers that we can add to our Loomio profile to show that we are members of OpenStreetMap UK? I realise that not everyone using OSM UK Loomio group is not necessarily a member but should we not encourage all members (including corporate members) to use Loomio so that as a group we make 'better decisions without meetings'?


Nick Ananin Thu 3 Sep 2020 1:05PM

I note that Loomio fees for non-profit varies but based on annual payment: $US 200.00 (£150.75) per year for up to 10 'active' users and additional active users at $US 20.00 (£15.07) per year. So if most/all members are active on Loomio i.e. they want to be involved in decision making, then the proposed £7.50 fee falls short? Or maybe I have misunderstood the situation?


RobJN Thu 3 Sep 2020 5:40PM

We're on the Community Plan (which is different from the Community Active Plan) as we have no paid staff. So at the moment our fee is less than £100.


Nick Ananin Thu 3 Sep 2020 9:13PM

That makes sense - so based on just over £2 per active user that is around 50% of members?


Nick Ananin Fri 4 Sep 2020 8:53AM

I am wondering if this Loomio group should be for members of OSM UK only or do we allow anyone expressing an interest but then 'encourage' them to join OSM UK?
N.B. Loomio enables admin to 'Invite guests to thread'.
On that note about membership of this Loomio group, as far as I can see currently it is 'Open' but the "recommended privacy setting for new groups is Closed" see the section of the user manual.
Is this something that the Board has discussed?