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Because of bureaucratic stuff, I'll have to demand more money from my members. It's not much, around 5€ a month. Each member already pays a membership fee (15€ / month) which is really fair and will be still low compared to other communities in the area.

Most of the members come from poor families or families with migration background, hence, they don't have much money but I know, through other members, that everyone could basically afford it. I can't influence the additional costs and they have to be paid. Everyone who refuses to do so must leave my community.

I do absolutely not like this but my state made it so and I can't influence it. I already explained the situation to the worried members. Some of them have no other community to establish or integrate themselves in the society. For some of them, my community is their only opportunity to get to know other people. Because of these circumstances, I advise them to pay the extra fee as most of them can't afford to join another community. If they leave, I fear that they'll lose important friends and an entry point to the society. It affects parents and their children likewise.

Still, a bulk of members deny to pay the extra fee. I already told them that it's for their best to be part of the community. But they insist to leave if the extra fee is enforced. The real problem now is that a lot of members share the intention of not paying which will definitely break the community out of a financial long-term view. And if the community breaks, there will be absolutely no chance of forming another community which has low membership fees.

How can I make clear that the extra fee has to be paid because, otherwise, it would break the whole community?

There's no opportunity to demand bigger grants or more money from the state for the families. The membership fee can't be paid by a third party because there is none.

Edit: Concerning the "anti-fraud" system: it's just a document which is signed by me and proves that every member paid the fee. It's there to prevent people from not paying the fee and still participating in the community.

@Andy's comment: Actually, there are institutions and they could even pay the fee. But since the community receives government help, these institutions are not willing to pay the fee entirely. Also, these organizations demand that I repay them, not everything but around 30%. Most charity organizations don't help me as there are other communities which are in despair, too, and they need the help even more because they aren't government founded. Basically, I could ask these organizations to pay them but it would most likely be the same as with @just_curious' idea: I can't pay for everyone and people start to claim about inequality.

I have now talked to the local authorities and sent an email to the state. They responded that the fee is necessary to cover "costs which are of temporary cause". I was now informed that the members of my community have to pay the fee for at least six months, not forever.

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    Does each member have to pay this extra amount, or do you need to collect the right total amount? – Monica Cellio Sep 2 '15 at 13:20
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    Well, I just have to pay the right amount but I have to show a document which proves that everyone paid to prevent "fraud". – Zerotime Sep 2 '15 at 13:25
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    Could inoficially gathering the needed amount of money as some kind of voluntary donation from the members who can afford spending an excessive amount of money, hand out to each member 5 Euro such that each can officially pay the additional fee, be a copout for this situation. Of course, for this to work you need a strong community feeling and spirit, such that a bit wealthier members are willing to support the poorer fellow members ... – just_curious Sep 2 '15 at 15:13
  • @just_curious It's a great idea but there are too few people who could support the poorest. I have talked to the "richer" member who could afford to pay some fees but it's not possible to pay all. Therefore, I wouldn't like to use this approach as it spreads rumors of inequality among the others members. "How did he measure the needs of person X? That's not fair! Perhaps, it's better to just leave..." – Zerotime Sep 3 '15 at 12:45
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    "The membership fee can't be paid by a third party because there is none." - Is there a possibility of another (more affluent) community, via a donation drive, charity auction, general goodwill, etc. could help? Do you have relationships with other entities that could assist with such an event? – Andy Sep 3 '15 at 13:39
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As you have stated in your question and comments, the government is requiring a specific financial transaction for each member of your community. You mentioned its for anti-fraud purposes. This can be a census counting mechanism for the population your community serves, a way for them to backtrack transaction history if needed, or a way to identify specific individuals you serve. The monthly minimum fee required by the state seems high to me, but that's something you need to explain to your constituents as a requirement.

Generally, your cost of doing business has increased 33% per member. While to you this seem like not much money, it is a huge increase in percentage, and will be noticed by your members if your constituency includes many of limited financial means.

In addition, your fee is regulated. You need to explain this to your constituents. Why is your fee what it is?

You mentioned that you are concerned about losing members either because they cannot afford the fee, or because they oppose the increase in principle. How many can you afford to lose, but still can keep operations running? You should know this number. Simple economics tells you that you will lose some.

You mentioned that your community provides a service that other communities charge more for. This suggests that actually you have a lot more room to raise your fees. Since part of the mission of your community and the demographic you serve. is serving people with limited financial means, I applaud your desire to keep fees as low as possible. I suggest you "politely" explain this to your constituents by offering "suggestions" of alternative communities they could receive similar services. When they compare the difference in price vs. quality, they'll realize they have a good thing in your community.

With this polite comparison (you don't want to compete directly in nonprofit services), it should help you retain more members. You will also likely find more members to replace the ones you might lose as a result of the membership fee increase.

Now - a simple thing about asking people for more money - people don't like it, but they'll accept it. Since this is a cost of doing business, I would raise your monthly dues to 20€ to reflect this minimum cost of doing business. Only call out the "extra" fee, if the government is specifically asking you to. Is there some ability for a sliding scale? The most needy pay the mandated minimum, and those with more means pay a higher fee?

If the stated fraud detection reason is at the member's level - are they real or deserving - then at the time you collect the dues is when you would include the "government surcharge" or whatever the fee is called.

When was the last time you raised membership fees? If its been a long time, then you can point this out. "We have not raised our fees since 2001" or whenever.

Best of luck! It sounds like you have a wonderful community! You need to remind your members of your focus on keeping costs low, the value your community provides, and why the costs have increased. Also, don't be afraid of losing some members. You will find replacements.

  • The reason why the membership fee is so low is that we receive grants from my state. (Yes, pretty ironic that the state now demands more money if he could just cut the grants...) Therefore, I'm not allowed to neither lower nor increase the fee on my own. Also, I'm not allowed to save money if there's no immediate reason. If I saved money to have a backup plan in the worst case scenario and my local tax authorities were to find out, I would pay devilish tolls (4-digit figure). Additionally, I would lose the support of the government. – Zerotime Sep 3 '15 at 12:53
  • If too many were to drop out, the grants will be cut. If the grants are cut, I can't provide some services / things (stuff for crafting, books, homework help, etc.) because they are too expensive to book or buy them individually. I would have to raise the fee resulting in more people leaving what will leave the community with dangerously few members. Eventually, I would have to end the community because there's no money. – Zerotime Sep 3 '15 at 12:59
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    Can you explain more about the anti-fraud concern of the state to charge a specific transaction. – Greg Chase Sep 3 '15 at 18:52
  • I've edited my question to provide additional information regarding the anti-fraud system. – Zerotime Sep 4 '15 at 18:28

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