Giving To AGU

I’d like to use this forum to make a pitch for charitable donations to AGU. And no, no one at AGU has asked me to write this post. And yes, it is related to publications, so it is relevant to discuss on this blog.

A quick glance through AGU’s annual report reveals its statement of activities, the annual balance sheet, about two-thirds of the way through the document. AGU supports itself with many revenue streams, with by far the biggest being publications, a distant second is meetings, and an even more distant third is “grants and contracts.” Dues come in fourth place in the revenue stream, with just under $1 million a year, and annual giving contributions is about half of this. Note that dues for AGU are just $50 a year for regular members, which is relatively low for an American scientific society.

Looking at income and expenses, it is pretty clear from the balance sheet that AGU’s publications subsidize many of the other functions that AGU performs. These include a lot of activities that I personally like, such as the following:

  • student travel grants
  • membership, subscription, and travel support for scientists in developing countries
  • congressional and media fellowships
  • public policy forums and scientist engagement support
  • a large suite of outreach and public education programs
  • a few research grants in specific fields
  • a few targeted undergraduate scholarships
  • numerous awards, many with monetary prizes

These are a few of my favorite things about AGU. I would hate to lose them.

I am making this call for giving to AGU because this list will be threatened in the near future. Why? Because Open Access is coming. The pressure is rising from several directions, but the demand from funding agencies alone will force it on the scientific publishing companies, and AGU, in partnership with Wiley, will have to adjust to this new reality.

The AGU executive staff and the Board of Directors, charged with the fiscal responsibility of the society, are assessing this situation. I have an earlier post on the solution they have devised: the new policy of subscription-based access for 24 months and then open access for papers in AGU journals. This ensures that subscription fees will remain a large component of the funding model, but they will almost certainly shrink in the coming years. This shrink will jeopardize many of the items in the list above. I don’t want to see that happen.

The good news is that there is something that we can do about it: willingly give more. At the moment, extra giving is a rather minor component of AGU’s total budget: something like 1% of the annual revenue. While this seems to be down in the noise level of AGU’s financial portfolio, giving plays a critical role in funding those “great activities” listed above. Now, AGU has over 60,000 members, and close to 40,000 in the USA. Dividing the giving total by the US membership yields a value of about $12/person. To me, this is a sadly small number and shows that there is a lot of room for growth.

Therefore, I am making a pitch to the well-off out there (specifically: pretty much any regular member in the US that itemizes their tax deductions) to help out our non-profit society with a voluntary contribution (i.e., a gift beyond your dues). There are dozens of specific funds to which you can designate your gift. Take a look at the list here:

Or, more specifically, here:

That is, you can direct exactly how your donation will be used by AGU, and AGU will expand those programs to which people donate. Please consider it. For a $100 gift, you join the Support’s Circle. In addition to the stylish little ribbon on your Fall AGU Meeting badge, you become one of those that make our scientific society what it is. I, for one, think AGU does many good things in the name of scientific promotion and advancement around the country and the world. I think AGU is worth it.




One thought on “Giving To AGU

  1. Pingback: Giving Tuesday 2017 | Notes from the JGR-Space Physics Editor-in-Chief

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