Dear President Jacob, I've been an AIA member since 1982, starting as a UC Berkeley student member. When I graduated in 1984, I continued my membership as an Associate and then turned into a full member once I became licensed. There may have been a year or two that my membership lapsed due to affordability but I always renewed when I could because I always believed in the AIA. I have also served my local chapter (Orange County) and State chapter, in various positions over the years. I am one of the majority of architects in this nation, a small firm proprietor. While the economy has struggled since 2007 and thousands of architects have been laid off or downsized, my practice has managed to keep me afloat enough to (barely) make ends meet. And while salaries and wages have diminished, AIA dues have significantly increased. When I received the invoice for the 2013 dues renewal and noted the fees of $848, I realized the AIA, which is an organization that is supposed to help architects, had become unaffordable. At the same time, at the local level, the once vibrant Orange County chapter is on the brink of folding having downsized due to its loss of members. The fees have become exorbitant and as a result, this has created an elitist organization comprised primarily of big firm architects. As an MBA and business owner, I know that you don't raise rates when no one is buying; but that is exactly what the AIA has been doing. It's bad economics and it's bad policy. I lead a forum of small firm architects in my city of Laguna Beach, and I know that the AIA has lost a significant amount of members much like myself, those that perhaps need the organization the most. Their reason: they don't believe they are getting what they pay for. In the parlance of economics, costs are trumping benefits.
I know the AIA in the past has offered a one-time discount for those that can't afford the annual dues, but that is simply not enough. To gain membership, the AIA needs to restructure dues to accommodate the small firm practitioner. Only then, will the AIA see an increase in membership and be able to grow into the helpful organization it once was, serving architects at all levels.
I hope that the AIA will rethink its membership fee structure and make the organization more accessible to the very backbone of the AIA, the small firm architects.
I could go on, but I think I've made the point that the AIA appears to me to have become an ossified, sclerotic organization that does not see the need to change, and certainly doesn't want to hear from its dues paying members except for that check in the mail. Ironic, isn't it? The AIA is full of the most creative, hard working, dedicated people you can ever find, but its leadership provides no means for input, no way for their voice to be heard.