Financial Updates and Changes for SIGDOC in FY 23–24
Being one of the 38 SIGs under ACM certainly has its advantages. We are able to leverage the ethos, reputation, and corporate support of ACM to underscore the importance of what we do. We are able to house our multiple publications in the highly-visible and well-indexed Digital Library. We are able to use the services provided by ACM staff to run successful conferences. And these are just a few advantages provided.
That said, being a part of the ACM infrastructure also means we are subject to its policy changes. Even as one of the smallest of the 38 SIGs, we are not impervious to reverberating policy changes instituted at the highest levels of ACM leadership. This write-up provides updates for the SIGDOC community on one such major policy change: the sudden and drastic increase in overhead costs.
As Chair of SIGDOC, I, along with all other SIG chairs and other representatives, serve on the SIG Governing Board (SGB). About two years ago, we were informed that ACM leadership was planning on making changes to the current overhead model and would be seeking input and eventually votes on a few proposed methods or models of adjusted overhead to account for increasing costs and inflation. Overhead refers to the costs of ACM doing business and staying financially solvent. Each SIG contributes overhead costs as part of their membership in ACM. For some context, the current statement on overhead by ACM is such:
Overhead. This fee is part of doing business at ACM. [Overhead] is not a fee for service. [Overhead] is currently calculated based on the total expenses of each SIG, both general operations and conferences. To cover overhead, SIG leaders (through action of the SGB) have chosen to implement a formula based on a sliding scale, starting at 16% in FY’07 and FY ’08, and decreasing by 0.8% for every $125K of expenses. Thus different SIGs and their conferences vary in the percentage used for overhead. The activities covered under overhead include general office support for SIGs and their conferences, accounting and finance support, and assistance with publications, membership, marketing, webpage/wikis, etc.
The base overhead for SIGDOC has been $10K since I came into office, and really since the early 2000s. The exigence for the change here is inflation. ACM is requiring additional funds from the SIGs to help the organization remain solvent and recover the shortfall in their reserves.
As of our SGB vote in 2023, the new overhead for all SIGs is $25K — that is the minimum, regardless of SIG size or operational cost. That means that SIGDOC will need to find an extra $15K to send to ACM on a yearly basis.
For some context, SIGDOC receives just over $10K in revenue from the Digital Library based on our bibliometrics. So, this revenue stream has offset the overhead cost in years past. With the Digital Library revenue staying the same, but the overhead increasing, we’ll need to find a way to be a money-making organization in the future. There are four revenue streams for SIGs. They are:
- Membership and subscription fees
- Publications, including the ACM Digital Library
- Miscellaneous sources (interest, grants, corporate donations, etc.)
I want to address these, in turn. In terms of membership fees, SIGDOC professional membership will be increasing from $35 to $45 as of July 1, 2023. The student rate of $19 is staying the same. Membership fees is the clearest, most obvious way we could recoup some of the $15K of overhead increase.
In terms of conferences, our philosophy has always been to break even. We always seek to make our registration fees as low as they can be without losing any money. Moving forward, we’ll likely need to move away from a strictly hotel-based model of conferences since the costs of hotel labor along with minimums we need to cover in terms of food and beverages has gone up. (We also don’t have full control over which hotels respond to our RFP, so we are at the behest of the hotels in the city who respond to ACM’s call.) We’ll likely need to return to hosting our events on campuses (or other spaces) that have affordable rates. This works against our intention to mitigate volunteer burnout, but we don’t have too much of a choice.
In terms of publications, the $10K is flat. Our publications are not large enough to generate bibliometrics that would push this number up.
Lastly, where we lag behind most other SIGs is far and away in corporate sponsorships. We range in sponsorships each year, anywhere in between $3000-$7000 dollars for conference sponsorship. We need to get this number up mainly because Microsoft has cut the funding for the Student Research Competition (SRC), so now — to even host an SRC at all — we need to pay for travel reimbursements for participants.
All said, SIGDOC continues to value access, affordability, safety, research support, and mentorship of graduate students and junior faculty. An increase in overhead, even by just $15K, presents a bit of a challenge.
To help address the problem this year, we have had to increase our conference registration rates.
SIGDOC Professional Member — 2019: $250 | 2022: $260 | 2023: $350
SIGDOC Student Member — 2019: $100 | 2022: $200 | 2023: $225
It hurts our hearts to do this, as travel costs have already increased, but financially we need to break even for this conference to remain viable in the eyes of ACM. The rates you see are the lowest we could possibly go to break even for SIGDOC ’23 while still supporting the SRC, our volunteers, and paying for our site hotel.
For SIGDOC ’24 and beyond, our goal is to keep our annual event going, maintain our values, and adhere to this change in ACM policy. Practically speaking, to do so we’ll need to increase our membership rates, locate conferences in spaces with affordable rates, and develop a more robust sponsorship model that includes industry and academia.
We hope to return back to cheaper registration after this year and, if we move forward in the above three action items, we should be able to.
What can I do? Great question — glad you asked. Here are two ways:
- If you think you are on a campus that would be suitable for hosting a conference, please reach out to the leadership team or attend our open business meeting in Orlando or over Zoom (Saturday morning, on Oct. 28th).
- If you have inroads or ideas for corporate sponsors, reach out to the conference sponsorship chair (for ’23, that is me!).
Thanks for reading through and for your continued engagement in SIGDOC. Reach out with any questions or ideas, or you can comment below.
— Dan Richards, SIGDOC Chair