It’s October, which means it’s time to think about renewing your 107IST membership for the coming year (and it’s always a good time to sign up for the first time!). Normally we open up renewals November 1st, but we’re opening them up a little earlier this year.
In past renewal campaigns, I’ve written about the benefits of 107IST membership, with everything from supporting game day operations (tifo, flags, smoke, drums, trumpets) to community outreach (donation baskets, donation drives, direct financial donations to community organizations, both soccer-specific like StreetSoccerUSA, and others like IRCO and StreetRoots), as well as initial travel outlays allowing for direct access to away day tickets, and discounts with amazing local partner businesses. All of these reasons to renew still exist — but we’re also at a critical moment as an organization, and every single membership counts now more than ever.
We need you. And we need each other.
The mission of the 107IST continues to be to “support soccer in and around Portland, from the grassroots to the highest professional level.” This is who we have been since before MLS came to Portland and before the NWSL came to exist. As a nonprofit, independent entity, it is who we will always be, regardless of leagues or owners.
At this moment, leadership at both the Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns has been weighed in the balance and found wanting. As independent supporters of the game we love, our advocacy and our investment is an essential component of working to ensure that everyone who works for PTFC — both the players and the laborers on the business side of the organization — can expect transparency and accountability, and can be assured of a safe and welcoming work environment. Your voice matters.
At the same time, as an organization, the 107 Independent Supporters Trust faces challenges of our own. Just as we advocate for soccer for all, with access to reasonably priced tickets for supporters, we advocate for keeping membership costs affordable. Our dues have remained constant at $25 since 2011. Unfortunately, like most other things in life, the prices we pay as an organization have increased. Everything, from the cost of smoke and fabric to the monthly leases on the warehouse and the Fanladen, costs us much more than it did in 2011. And, following a record number of 107IST members the year after the 2018 MLS Cup, membership understandably waned in the last couple of years in the wake of both a pandemic and the scandals surrounding Timbers and Thorns leadership.
By choice, the board operated the organization in the red during the last couple of years because we felt that there were mission-critical things we still needed to undertake, even as we understood the many reasons that individual membership in a sports-loving organization might not be part of people’s plans in the midst of a pandemic. We continued to pay rent for a warehouse and the Fanladen, even when we had no games to attend, using these spaces instead to do things like distribute masks to those in need. We donated money in the form of microgrants to those hardest hit by the pandemic in the community, focusing on BIPOC community members as well as organizations who might not have access to federal or state grants.
While these practices align with our core values, it is obviously not a viable long-term strategy for a nonprofit organization, so we need to address our revenue issue head on. We have both short-term costs to consider (such as rent and utilities on two work spaces, day-to-day administrative expenses, and tifo and other game day expenses) and long-term bigger costs that will require something more substantial (e.g. a capital campaign targeted at securing permanent work space).
The membership team debated long and hard about whether to raise the cost of membership this year; most things that cost $25 in 2011 certainly cost a lot more now. At the same time, we want to make sure that we keep membership accessible for those for whom a cost increase would present a hardship. We also know that there are members who regularly donate extra membership dollars of their own volition, because they can.
We’d like to encourage additional donations as long as you can afford them.
This year, we are offering you a chance to direct your additional dollars to your organizational priorities. In addition to your $25 membership dues, you may opt to pay $25 additional dollars (and get an inexpensive, but very cool enamel pin) for any/each of the following “pay what you can afford” memberships:
Community Outreach: additional $25 directed toward outreach projects
The Rent Is Too Damn High: additional $25 directed toward administrative costs, like rent, software and utilities
Bring The Noise: additional $25 directed toward drums, trumpets, flags and smoke
Expose Yourself to Art: additional $25 directed toward the cost of tifo
If you select all four, you also get an Everything Bagel pin.
We’re piloting this model in the hopes that it keeps membership affordable for everyone, while at the same time giving those who can afford it a way to have some input into budgeting decisions. If it doesn’t hit the revenue targets we’re projecting, we will absolutely raise the base price of membership dues for everyone next year, because it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do.
Will you still get that sweet Nike pass for early renewal? We certainly expect so. Will you still get happy hour prices at some of your favorite places around town? Sure. Will you get a cool lapel pin (or three or five) with your additional donation dollars? Absolutely. But more importantly you’ll be showing your support for Team, Town, Timbers Army and Riveters, while still keeping membership affordable for all. Sign up or renew now. And if you can afford it, now is the time to dig deeper.
And as always, thank you for all that you do for each other, and for soccer in and around Portland and beyond, from the grassroots to the highest professional level. Spread the love.