How Many Members Does The Mars Society Have?

Mars Enthusiasts Gather at the University of Maryland

"Patricia Czarnik, director of membership for the society, said that about one-third of the group's 7,000 members are engineers or scientists, another third are students and the remaining third are "just everyday people who have a common interest in the exploration of Mars."

Keith's note: Someone from the Mars Society will make a presentation at the Augustine Committee's meeting here in Washington, DC on 5 August. No doubt they will claim that the Society has 7,000 members. If you look at the Society's 2008 filing (form 990 for 4-1-07 to 3-3-08) with the IRS they state that they received $25,200 from "Membership dues and assessments" and $175,259 from "Direct public support".

If the Society does indeed have 7,000 members who pay dues totalling $25,200 then they each seem to be paying $3.60 a year in dues. Yet the Mars Society states that its annual membership rates are $50/year ($25/year for students). As such, if they had 7,000 dues paying members paying the listed dues then they'd be reporting somewhere between $175,000 to $350,000 a year in "Membership dues and assessments"to the IRS.

The $25,200 stated to the IRS divided by $50 you get 504 members. If you assume that they all pay the student rate then you have as many as 1,008 members. Membership fees reported to the IRS for 2006: $23,067; 2005: $25,299; 2004: $11,706; 2003: $42,712 - so it does not seem as if they have had revenue to justify the 7,000 figure for quite some time - assuming that you need to pay dues in order to be a "member" that is.

According to the Society's bylaws . "II. Membership A. Requirements: Anyone can be a member of the Mars Society who supports its principles and projects and who pays the required annual dues." So, it would seem that you can only be a member if you pay "required annual dies."

As best I understand this, if you ever attended a Mars Society convention you are automatically a member - even if you never renew. If you were a past member (as I once was) you are still counted even if you no longer pay dues. Indeed, for a number of years I had two ID numbers and got double mailings until I made note of this on NASA Watch.

To be certain, how many members the Mars Society does or does not have means nothing in terms of the inherent logic of the policies they advocate - policies that many people support. Yet claims by the Mars Society that they are of a specific membership size, when made in public fora, do need to be accurate or at least clarified.

So, how many (dues paying) members does the Mars Society actually have at the present time?

Keith's update: Dave R (a tax attorney) explains why my math is right but that the numbers I use are not what the IRS is asking for. That said, $175,259 (from line 1e) divided by 7,000 = $25. So, are all members of the Mars Society student members? If all members paid full dues of $50 then $175,259 would only represent a membership of 3,505. So, either all members are students or the number of members is less than 7,000. Another explanation is that they count people who do not pay dues as being "members" which is in disagreement with the definition of "member" as set by their bylaws. The numbers still do not add up to match the claims made.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on August 2, 2009 3:39 PM.

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