{ association insights } by Vicki Wilbers • Executive Director Sustainability: Progress or Pain? T

he “Roaring ’20s” are once again upon us. Perhaps you attended a New Year’s Eve event with that theme and more recently

celebrated the “Roaring Chiefs” Super Bowl win after the 50-year drought! Whether or not a fan of the Chiefs or of dressing in ’20s flare, we all can take time to reflect on a new decade. It’s also an opportunity to look at the progress and changes that occur—in a foot- ball franchise in half a century or of America over an entire century. It’s somewhat hard to comprehend what has transpired in 100 years to bring us to our modern culture. Innovations like phones that were rotary with party lines to cellphones with apps and camera features that are out of this world. Even a mere 30 years ago, I remember my dad’s “bag” phone in his truck that made the horn honk when it rang!

And, what does it take to get where we are now 50 or 100 years later? For the Chiefs, it seems to be a clearly smart move by organi- zational leadership to bring forth a young, vibrant quarterback in Patrick Mahomes who matched well with the legendary coach, Andy Reid, and to support that relationship as a foundation to build bigger and better things. For innovations like phones, it clearly takes something or someone within an organiza- tion’s leadership to see the big picture and shoot for the stars. The leadership and legacy of Steve Jobs and its impact on the Apple brand—and all of us—comes to mind.

So too it is for the ADA and the MDA as we progress toward the future. In the past year both entities have adopted strategic plans for 2020-2025. Both associations continually re- view our history—we celebrate wins, analyze weaknesses and continually strategize for the opportunities and threats we face.


While the ADA always has as its focus that of its membership, it recently has given the

8 focus | MAR/APR 2020 | ISSUE 2

subject more attention. At the end of 2018 the ADA had a membership market share of (58 percent with a net of 163,000 members or 62.9 percent with a net of 129,000 mem- bers). While this number is considered posi- tive, the Association is operating in a more challenging environment than ever before with changing demographics and impending membership shifts, thus creating future risks. Ultimately, these risks present concerns over long-term financial—and thus, organization- al—stability, and were a driving factor for the ADA’s decision to re-evaluate membership dues categories and discounts.

The ADA Board of Trustees asked the ADA Council on Membership to develop scenarios through a membership dues streamlining process that would ensure a more balanced financial approach to membership and rev- enue. From this task, at the 2019 ADA House resolutions were presented and adopted to address the biggest structural issue facing the ADA—and most of the state societies—the steep decline in full dues paying members.

Why the decline? Primarily, an aging mem- bership and an Active Life dues category—a category that continues to grow in numbers because it’s comprised of Baby Boomers prac- ticing dentistry longer. To be “Active Life” a member has been an active member for 30 consecutive years or 40 total years and is age 65. While the Active Life category represent- ed 11 percent of MDA membership in 2019, that is an increase of 3 percent in the past 10 years (since 2009), and the ADA projects this number will increase by 5 percent over the next five years. • 2009 Active Life = 180 members • 2019 Active Life = 268 members • 2023 Active Life = 283 members (the highest total within the ADA projections through 2043)

Currently, the Active Life category receives a 25 percent dues reduction of full active

dues—a discount of $142 ADA and $118 MDA. Thus, basic math illustrates how this growing dues category, multiplied by a lower rate, is having an exponential effect on ADA financial and organizational stability.


This brings us back to the ADA Council on Membership resolution that was adopted at the 2019 ADA House. The resolution states that, beginning with the 2021 dues cycle: • The ADA Board will consider propos- ing an annual dues adjustment of at least the average consumer price index (CPI) over the last five years, currently 1.5 percent. Remember, while the ADA Board can make proposals, establishing the annual ADA dues amount remains the responsibility of the ADA House.

• The ADA will eliminate the $30 dues for graduate students/residents, making it a $0 dues category.

• The ADA will restructure the dues discounts for new graduates. This eliminates the current 25 percent and 75 percent dues discounts, making it a two- year dues reduction of $0 the first year following graduation and 50 percent of full dues the second year following graduation. New graduates would pay full dues beginning the third year fol- lowing graduation (whereas they had not been paying full dues until the fifth year following graduation).

• The ADA will discontinue the 25 per- cent discount for Active Life members to bring that category to full dues.


I noted that this resolution applies only to ADA dues. However, it’s now the MDA Board’s turn to consider evaluating its membership structure and the challenges we may (or may not) be facing to determine if we will align with the ADA structure. That really is the point of this entire article—to provide transparency and information to the

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