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Part refund of membership fees on resignation

(moderator: I've put this in legal because I'm not sure where else it fits)
Those of you whose choirs charge an annual fee (as opposed to quarterly/monthly/etc)
If a singer resigns midyear, do you refund any part of their fees for the remainder of the year?
- always?
- only in certain circumstances? (which?)
- never?
And why?
on September 17, 2014 12:22pm
At the SF Gay Men's Chorus, our policies are geared toward having too few slots for auditionees, avoiding a "pick and choose" level of concert participation, and transitioning to a culture of greater responsibility. Other policies might be geared toward member retention or revenue maximization.
Best practices regardless of your needs:
1. Have the dues policy clearly stated in a member handbook. Ideally, your handbook is reviewed by legal counsel and your insurer.
2. Ask each member to sign a season committment also acknowledging receipt of the member handbook, or if you're a symphonic chorus requiring different forces per program, ask the member to sign a committment indicating which programs that singer will sing.
If your singer has signed a season-long committment then resigns early, you are justified not to refund dues because that singer has broken his/her committment. I have seen this in other choruses.
We offer the option of a full year payment up front for an 8% discount or monthly payments requiring a credit card on file. We have three major programs per season. If a singer paid for the full year in advance but resigns mid-year with adequate notice (ie, before mid-year auditions), then we will refund that member dues for the appropriate future trimesters less the prepaid discount. Most members resign on good terms and donate their prepaid dues to the organization. If your singer is demanding a refund, it is a sign that you are better off without him/her.
We offer a leave of absence policy where the member will continue to pay dues during his absence but will not be required to re-audition. In practice, most members who resign choose this option because readmission is not guaranteed; as a result, we very rarely refund dues. Our singers on monthly plans continue paying dues through their leave of absence. Of our 300-registered members, 20-30 singers will be doing this at any given time.
If we have to expel or put a member on forced leave mid-season, we will refund prepaid dues for the future trimesters. We will refund the current trimester based on the circumstances (we did not refund for disruptive members undergoing an acrimonious divorce, but we did refund for a member with bedbugs in his tuxedo).
We offer a sliding scale program at the rate of one volunteer hour of service for $20 dues remission for those who can show financial need. If a member resigns and has not completed his volunteer obligation, he will not be allowed back in unless he either pays or works off the difference. We also have a scholarship program for tuxedos whereby members can earn them through volunteer service at the rate of $20 for one hours. If a member receives a scholarship tuxedo then resigns we require a credit card on file. Unfortunately, these members are the least likely to have valid credit cards, and there are a few times we have to "eat" the cost. The funds for an "eaten" tuxedo get transferred to the general fund from the scholarship fund.
There are always exceptional circumstances. The issue of who decides should be a staff or committee function but not a full board function. Also, it is advisable to isolate the Artistic Director from these issues.
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