Diversity and Inclusion

1.  AIA Dues Not Aligned with the Small Firm Practitioner

Posted 03-21-2013 23:01
This message has been cross posted to the following Discussion Forums: Diversity and Inclusion and Small Project Practitioners .

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.


Leslie W. LeBon, AIA

(Note: this letter was also sent to AIA National - Bryan Lipps and Kermit Baker. So far only Bryan Lipps responded)

Leslie LeBon AIA
Laguna Beach CA

2.  RE:AIA Dues Not Aligned with the Small Firm Practitioner

Posted 03-23-2013 14:51
I am in the same boat and agree. I have always participated in the AIA starting as student in AIAS, and AIAS pres my senior year of college. I never joined, until I worked in a large firm willing to pay our dues each year. currently unemployed, the dues are exorbitant. I am still on the board here, and very active with the chapter, but wish the dues were a lot cheaper.
Lawyers, for which I have designed offices, were suprised to find out how high our dues were compared to their bar dues.
It would be great if dues were less, I believe we would get twice the members easily, if they were affordable.

Gregory Stock AIA
Gregory Stock Design
Orlando FL

3.  RE:AIA Dues Not Aligned with the Small Firm Practitioner

Posted 03-25-2013 22:37
Thank you for raising this issue.  As a small practitioner, faced each year with paying AIA dues or paying my insurance, there will soon come a time when no amount of altruism will allow me to pay my dues.  I appreciate that our Chicago chapter has worked to hold costs steady for us during the recession but I still think that the cost of membership is a major deterrent and the losses incurred by the AIA by lowering the dues would be offset by the increase in the number of members (which would also make the organization relevant to more architects - a potentially positive side effect.)
I think that making AIA membership more affordable would certainly do much for making the AIA more diverse and more inclusive.  Please do keep us posted on any progress!

Lisa Kulisek AIA
Kulisek PC
Chicago IL