Financial Tips

From U3A Conference

MANY U3A committees face extra financial challenges this year. The global downturn threatens retirement incomes while operating costs, specially venue hire, are rising.

In recent months a number of U3As have been forced to move classes from low cost – sometimes free – premises to new, more expensive venues.

For example, U3A Twin Towns at Coolangatta in Queensland had to move last year (2008) after being at the same premises for 17 years.

The reason given was that the building’s owners wanted to renovate and construct as many offices as possible. These were to be leased at commercial rates far more than U3A Twin Towns could afford.

It is forced changes like this which are making executive committees ask themselves: “How do we raise more money to pay higher rentals and other running costs?
“Many of our members are finding their retirement income under strain as a result of the world financial crisis.”

One U3A President recently said he was concerned that U3As are in danger of becoming exclusive clubs because membership fees were becoming unaffordable for some people.

Ideas to consider
Following are just some of the ways in which individual U3As are meeting the financial challenge. Not all these ideas will fit your U3A’s philosophy but may be adapted to suit your needs.

Fee structure 

Is it time your U3A reconsidered its basic financing? Some U3As charge annual membership fees of $30 or more per person a year. The one sub covers overheads and
virtually all other expenses.
The only extra fee a member may have to pay is for, say, their share of consumables in a woodworking class or the cost of hiring a school computer lab to learn basic computing skills.
Other U3As charge significantly less for membership but charge a fee of $1, $2, even $3 for every class a member attends.
This Pay As You Go policy means that a member attending say two activities a week for 35 weeks pays at least $70 on top of their annual sub.
In past years U3As that kept membership subs low but charged weekly fees tended to build up their financial reserves much more quickly than others.
But then some committee people argue that a Pay As You Go policy is unfair.
It tends to discriminate against the most popular classes, viz those that need the large, expensive venues.
Commented one senior Queensland executive: “It is amazing how easily members can be talked into paying each week for venue cost at a level they would totally jack-up on if they had to pay it annually.
“For example, my class pays $2 and sometimes $3 per person each week and nobody complains.
“On the other hand, another class on a different subject pays nothing as the class is held in my house — here the unfairness is demonstrated.”
His thoughts are backed up by the President of U3A Northern Rivers (NSW), Jennifer Somerville.
“As far as I can see, there has to be a good reason for any U3A to want to build up its financial reserves quickly, and so charge fees for individual classes,” Jennifer said. “U3A is NOT in the business of accumulating money, unless an individual group needs to fund an admin HQ or something similar. . .
“The secret to success is working out what amount of annual fee will give the group a solid financial base, without empire-building. Whether members choose to attend one class a week or 10 should be immaterial.”

Share accommodation
A number of U3As control venue costs by sharing facilities with other community groups such as sporting clubs , senior citizen organisations, youth and church groups.
For example, Moncrieff U3A on Queensland’s North Gold Coast is now sharing space with a number of groups at the Labrador Youth and Community Centre.
Moncrieff had to move when they were unable to continue
their lease of their previous home.
Commented Moncrieff President Joyce Barlow: “We have become used to operating like this already … On the positive side, we no longer have to clean our premises each week, except for the office/computer area, which is exclusively ours.”

Permanent badges 
Providing new membership badges and holders each year is a continuing expense.
Alternatives are available. Belmont U3A (NSW) members can buy permanent magnetic or pin-based U3A name badges from a local supplier for about $8 each.
U3A Forster-Tuncurry (NSW) members can pay $6 for a U3A name tag from a local engraver.

Work with supermarkets 
Your U3A may qualify for donations through the community benefits programme offered by Ritchies, Australia’s largest independent supermarket and liquor chain.
It has stores in Victoria, NSW and Queensland. A number of U3As are already benefiting.
To start, individual U3A members register with Ritchies, nominating their U3A as the beneficiary. They are issued with a shopper’s card.
Then every time the card is scanned at a Ritchies’ checkout one per cent of the money spent is automatically allocated to U3A.
You need at least five to 10 U3A members spending a total of $1,000 between them in the month to qualify for the minimum donation of $10.
For more information visit

Get officials to join 
Why not target local councillors or MPs to join your U3A? Then they can really appreciate how U3A serves their community and, possibly, how they can assist your U3A with venues, printing etc.
Gold Coast City Council, for example, helps Moncrieff U3A with a grant towards operational costs.
Another tack is to invite your Mayor or local MP to address your group. The chat that follows over afternoon or morning tea can be rewarding to both sides.
If possible, get them to join. U3A Northern Rivers (NSW), has two councillor members, including Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell.

Update membership forms 
Save money by printing your usual form but without the date.
The enrolment officer can hand stamp it as required. Result – no wastage and you can buy in bulk.

Earn money for U3A 
U3A Sunraysia (Vic) has just one major fundraiser in its programme.
Each year a number of members offer their time to assist in supervising university examinations. The money earned goes direct to U3A Sunraysia.
Sunraysia expected to raise up to $8000 for last year’s efforts.
The men’s shed run by Grafton U3A (NSW) has been a big commercial and social success, with members turning out many useful items which are then sold to cover costs.
In its three years of operation, the Grafton Men’s Shed has given more than $6000 towards helping disadvantaged children.
Produce a calendar Produce a calendar Produce a calendar Produce a calendar
Does your U3A have a photography group?
Southern Highlands and Clarence Valley select their best photos and produce a local U3A calendar.

Ask for donations in kind
Bathurst U3A was able to arrange a donation of $300 of air time for advertising on local radio station, 2BS/B-Rock FM 99.3.
The station gave the time free as a community service to support U3A lectures at Charles Sturt University.

Seek help with printing 

Councils, MPs and service clubs are involved assisting various U3As meet print and newsletter distribution costs.
Ask your own local bodies. For example, the U3A Werribee Region (Vic) newsletter is printed by the office of the local MP.

Bill casual visitors 
Many U3As welcome casual visitors to their classes, provided they don’t overstay their welcome.
U3A Sunraysia (Vic), for example says a casual visitor may attend twice before being charged a fee of $40 a year.

Gift vouchers 
Mudgee District U3A offers “The ultimate gift voucher.”
To quote its last newsletter of 2008: “Have you thought of giving a year’s U3A membership for just $25?
“Membership gift vouchers are now available. All the recipient has to do is to present it as their membership payment at the registration and enrolment morning …”

Run raffles, garage sales
U3A Hawkesbury (NSW) runs raffles at their luncheons and these have become an enjoyable part of the gathering.
Members who donate raffle items have the option to wrap them but “please use clear cellophane wrap so that members can easily choose from the many prizes on display.”
Milton-Ulladulla U3A (NSW) has an annual garage sale.