Have your say in our membership consultation

The SOA Board have concluded that, to continue building the sport of orienteering in Scotland, we need to increase income to support the costs of running quality orienteering and we will be tabling a proposal to do this at the AGM. We realise this is a contentious subject and would like to get feedback from you beforehand.

Here is an explanation, from Richard Oxlade & Ben Hartman, SOA President & SOA Finance Director:

The consultation is in the form of an online questionnaire which essentially asks 3 questions:

  1. How important is the work that we (the SOA) do, in different areas, using your financial contributions?
  2. Should we pay for this work, (when the alternatives are either trying to do it with volunteers, or not doing it at all)?
  3. How much more would you be prepared to contribute financially, and what is the best way to do this?

The SOA has employed professional staff for more than 30 years. We have increasingly used them to help us with our increasing legal and governance responsibilities as an incorporated Sport’s Governing Body in Scotland and to handle work that volunteers are reluctant to do such as invoicing, data protection and child protection. In 2016 the staff team was restructured to meet these increasing demands and we appointed a part time Chief Operating Officer and an Admin Assistant. This time last year we asked members about the support provided by the SOA and heard that you would like to see some improvements, for example in promoting orienteering. This year we are using surplus reserves to do this by employing a Communications and Marketing Manager.

Inevitably this has financial implications as 90% of our costs are for professional staff. We get great financial support from sportscotland but it is restricted to development of clubs at the grassroots. Funds for other work has to come from elsewhere – mainly SOA membership fees, event levies and from the Scottish 6 Days. In 2020 we will have used our surplus reserves and to keep working at the current level we will need to increase our income by about £60,000 pa. We aim to do this as follows:

  • Funds raised directly from SOA members and events
  • Seeking sponsorship and fundraising
  • Securing grant-funding for some of our “core” activities

We feel it is reasonable to ask members/ participants to contribute about a third of this. This is equivalent to about 10% of all entry fees (which would probably have to rise for smaller events) plus an increase in SOA membership of £2/head.

We are very aware that there are a wide range of opinions about costs in the orienteering community. Some of you feel that the sport is too expensive already, while some of you point to other sports and argue that orienteering is too cheap. Ultimately the choice will be yours by voting at the AGM (or by proxy). Please help us beforehand by giving us feedback to help us tailor the AGM proposal and in doing so please consider the full picture i.e. if you think we shouldn’t be raising any more money for the sport we will either need more time from volunteers (are you one of them?) or we may be unable meet your expectations.

Ben Hartman and I have put together more detailed information below, should you need it. Thank you for reading this far and please give us feedback and vote at the AGM.

Please complete the survey here, and read below if you’d like more detail:


Consultation on a proposal to increase SOA funding from members – the detail

What do we do with your money?

The SOA is the Sport’s Governing Body (SGB) in Scotland for orienteering, a registered incorporated Scottish charity and has a board of directors with legal responsibilities. As a SGB we are responsible for the governance, development and promotion of the sport in Scotland, mainly through the network of clubs, support of junior and elite squads, the staging of events, the training of coaches, the SOA website and publication of our quarterly magazine Score. In most of these respects we are different from other orienteering associations in the UK.

Over the years Scottish Orienteering has chosen to employ a small staff team to do some of its work. We have a long history of this which started with the engagement of a Professional Officer over 30 years ago to help with the 6 Days. The current organisation was created after a strategy review in 2016 and recognises the difficulty of running a sport in Scotland with just volunteers.

The team underpin delivery of our strategic plan which has 5 aims:

  1. Promoting orienteering
  2. Club development
  3. Volunteer development
  4. Supporting talented athletes
  5. Improved governance

Last year we consulted the members to see if you thought we were meeting your expectations. You told us that you would like to see:

  1. More support for volunteers
  2. More support for clubs
  3. A more balanced event calendar
  4. More consistent event standards
  5. Better support for non-elite juniors
  6. Better promotion of the sport

We have strengthened the development team, and employed a dedicated Communications and Marketing Manager to do this. The development team is financed by sportscotland, the national agency for sport in Scotland, who give us a grant in excess of £80,000 pa to cover staff costs, some coaching costs and the club development fund. Team members include:

  • Sarah Dunn – Development Manager and Regional Development Officer (North). Sarah works 3.5 days a week supporting the northern clubs and leading the development team
  • Denise Main – Coaching and Volunteering Officer. Denise works 3 days a week and replaced Hilary Quick in 2018. Her key role is coordinating the coach education programme.
  • Judy Bell – Regional Development Officer (East). Judy works 2 days a week and supports clubs in the east of the central belt and southern Scotland
  • Fran Loots – Regional Development Officer (West). Fran also works 2 days a week and supports clubs in the west of the central belt and southern Scotland

Judy and Fran replaced Rona Lindsay who was RDO (south) until she resigned in 2018.

The remainder of the team covers a number of areas that are important for the efficient and legal administration of the sport. They are largely financed by income from membership fees, levies and the 6 day company. Team members include:

  • Fiona Keir – COO and Child Protection Officer. Fiona works 3 days a week supporting the board, managing the staff team, and acting as Child Protection Officer and Data Protection Officer. Her post was established in 2016 when the board recognised the increasing demands of administering the sport
  • Colin Matheson – Events Manager. Colin splits his time between the 6 days, WOC2022 and the SOA. He works for the SOA for 2 days per week on issues such as access and event advice.
  • Fran Britain – Admin Assistant. Fran replaced Sarah Hobbs in 2018 and works 2 days per week on the day to day accounting (especially raising and paying invoices on time), administration of Scottish orienteering membership scheme and other duties in the office at Glenmore Lodge. Most of your phone calls are likely to be dealt with by Fran.
  • Paul Rayner – Communications and Marketing Manager. Paul works 3 days a week and was initially employed in 2018 to get the new website up and running. His focus is on improving communications and profile of the sport.
  • Peter Hodkinson – Performance Manager. Peter works 0.5 day a week and is focused on supporting elite development.

The staff costs and other necessary costs (e.g. insurance, Glenmore Lodge) amount to approximately £90,000 pa. This is mainly funded by income from membership fees, event levies and from the Scottish 6 Days. This income currently amounts to about £30,000. In 2019 we are able to support this work from surplus reserves but from 2020 we will need to break even as we will have largely used these funds.

The challenge

We have set ourselves the challenge of raising an extra £60,000 equally from:

  • Funds raised directly from SOA members and events
  • Seeking sponsorship and fundraising
  • Securing grant-funding for some of our “core” activities

We believe that we should ask members/ participants to contribute about 1/3 of this, i.e. £20,000. We think this is important as we cannot expect support from other parties if we do not demonstrate that we are also prepared to support the sport ourselves. This is especially important this year as we have to review our strategy with sportscotland in order to secure funding for the next 4 years. They are very supportive of orienteering but we need to demonstrate that we are willing to help ourselves.

Options for increasing income from membership fees and/or levies – what could it mean for you?

Membership fees

The following table provides a summary of our current membership numbers and income. Around 75% of our members are also British Orienteering members and BO manages membership on our behalf free of charge.  The remaining 25% of our members are “SOA only” members.  We have appointed SiEntries to administer “SOA only” membership for which a fee is charged per application.  This includes a charge of £1 per junior membership.

Membership type Number Current fee Income
Senior 1,208 £8.00 £9,664
Junior 712 nil
Charges for “SOA only”
Current income, net of charges £8,914

We have estimated the impact of raising membership fees over the next two years as follows:

Membership type 2020 2021
Senior £10.00 £12.00
Junior £2.00 £4.00
Additional income compared with current rates £3,800 £7,600

Event levies

The SOA currently charges a levy of £1 for seniors and £0.40 for juniors where the entry fee for an SOA member is over £10.  Currently charges apply to around 10 events and raise around £3,000 per year.  Averaged over all events in Scotland this equates to about 30p per adult and 10p per junior. Separate arrangements are in place for the Scottish 6 Day events.

British Orienteering also charges an event levy of £1.50 for seniors and £0.50 for juniors.  The BO levy applies to all events.

We have modelled a range of different event levy options:

  • Maintaining the status quo
  • Current rate, but applying to regional and national events only
  • Current rates, applying to all events
  • British Orienteering rates applied to all events
  • A percentage of entry fees (modelled on 10% but could be more or less)

Based on an analysis of 80 events in Scotland (with 8200 entrants) from 1 January to 14 April 2019 we estimate the amounts raised per annum would be:

Option Amount raised
A – Status quo £4,000
B – Current rate – regional and national events £11,000
C – 10% of entry fees – regional and national events £14,000
D – 10% of entry fees – all events £18,000
E – Current rate – all events £18,000
F – British Orienteering rates £28,000

SOA Board recommendation

The SOA Board supports a rise in membership fees and the third levy option – a levy based on a percentage of all entry fees for regional and national events.  We believe the current system is divisive. It encourages clubs to price their events at a level where they avoid contributing to the costs of running Scottish Orienteering.  We also believe that a fixed rate levy applied to all events places a disproportionate burden on smaller events where there are good reasons to keep entry fees low in order to attract newcomers and grow our membership.

We estimate that a levy based on 10% of entry fees on regional and national events would raise an additional £10,000 per year, although we do recognise that event finances are often finely balanced and this would inevitably lead to an increase in entry fees for many events.


The SOA has evolved to be a highly professional organisation effectively supporting our network of clubs. This has recognised increasing expectations of our members and supporters, and the legal responsibilities of an incorporated SGB in Scotland. However, this comes at a price and we have some difficult decisions to make. Put simply we have to either increase our income or reduce our costs. If we do the latter we will have to rely on more volunteer support or cut back in some areas.

The SOA Board has recommended raising income but ultimately  this is your choice. It depends on:

  1. how important our work is to you
  2. how much extra you are prepared to contribute

Please consider this carefully and let us know so that we can table an effective proposal at the AGM.

The survey has 8 questions which will allow us to compile the views and opinions of our members.

Please use the link below to answer the questions and submit your opinions.