THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LEADERSHIP STYLE AND VOLUNTEER INTENTION TO STAY by Mark E. Smith ia a Dissertation that studied and established positive correlations between volunteer retention and the seven characteristics of Servant Leadership Factors:
- Conceptual Skills
- Helping Subordinates Grow and Succeed
- Putting Subordinates First
- Behaving Ethically
- Emotional Healing
- Creating Value for the Community
A second article displays the respective traits and distinctions between Servant Leadership and Command Leadership
A Conceptual Framework for Measuring Servant-Leadership was prepared by Don Page and Paul Wong of Trent University.
Their description of Servant Leadership is that it incorporates Total Quality, Empowerment, Team Building, and Participatory Management. I will summarize and paraphrase their distinctions between the desired Servant Leadership, to the less appealing traits of Command Leadership.
|Leadership is served||Leadership serves others|
|Leader's image is advanced||Subordinates are profiled|
|Creates dependence using power to influence||Encourages potential and develops others|
|Takes credit for accomplishments and rejects constructive criticism||Shares credit for results and encourages input and feedback|
|Decisions made in secret with expediency||Decisions are open and aligned with core principles|
|Authority based on external controls and maintained by rules, regulations, and punitive force||Authority based on influence achieved through encouragement and inspiration|
|Gains support through deception, manipulation, and sustained through fear||Wins support through logic and persuasion, and sustains through respect and acknowledgement of correct approach|
|Wants others first to listen to leadership||Listens and gains consensus and support before making decisions|
|Entitlements of the positions are more important than the responsibilities||Responsibilities are more important than perks of positional entitlement|
If Leadership and Soft Skills represent the future of ASQ, then those of us within ASQ should be proficient and conversant on the various styles and approaches. If a particular leadership style is statistically proven to generate superior results and desired outcomes, it would be rational to apply that style within the organization at all levels. Agree? Disagree? I am curious and seek your insights.
I see Servant Leadership as having a wider range of configurations than Command Leadership. Command Leadership uses a military model which tends to be more rigid due to the nature of crisis management. When anxiety or insecurity pervade the environment, Command Leadership seems to be more prevalent. When economic conditions are better and the populace feels more secure both economically and personally, leadership relaxes a bit and becomes more receptive to a broader range of options. There is more time to plan, more time to listen, more time to discuss and jointly problem solve. The pendulum swings from directive to consultative.
It is interesting that ISO 9001 - 2015 has highlighted risk management, since recognizing that risk is acceptable indicates that our global economy is willing to accept a broader range of management and control approaches. That is consistent with the rise of the Servant Leadership model again.
As in many things, the pendulum can swing so far from one approach to the other that boundaries are threatened. Change management issues arise, where standard processes no longer work and must either be redesigned, or controls strengthened to regain stability. Those on the ends of the continuum disagree on which path to take. We may be observing this phenomenon in the recent dialogues among member leaders as the Society centralizes in the face of membership decline.
I am happy to read that our member retention activities are showing positive results. Another observation I can make is that our current ASQ Volunteer Chair is an executive with IBM, which has a strong history of leadership with military background. Recent organizational changes in IBM have reduced the significance of that background somewhat, but the culture still remains. Our ASQ CEO comes to us as a 3 star General in the United States military. His ability to walk in both the Command and Servant Leadership worlds is impressive.
As ASQ membership continues to expand beyond our initial statistical and engineering base, I suspect we will continue to feel these growing pains. Not only do we have the challenge of generational change, but we are openly embracing the diversity of human development, software, management, healthcare and other softer skilled applications of quality.
Growth can be painful. We have certainly experienced some of the pain over this past several years. I sense we are coming out of the downside onto the positive slope. I am delighted to help with this uphill climb.
It is clear to me that the future path of ASQ is an exercise in Command Leadership.
Just read the new Member Unit Operating Agreement that Divisions and Sections are being compelled to sign, especially the following clauses as they would apply to the ASQ Reliability & Risk Division as an example...
Divisions are now compelled to serve ASQ HQ through a reporting in structure to the ASQ Technical Communities Council and our ASQ HQ Segment Manager…
“Recognition of Member Unit. The Society recognizes Member Unit as an official member community of the Society and authorizes Member Unit to use the designation “ASQ Reliability & Risk Division” in connection with the programs, services, activities, and events of the Member Unit subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement. Member Unit will serve the joint membership of the Society and Member Unit in the technical function 0f Reliability & Risk. Member Unit will report into the Technical Communities Council through the Design, Control, & Improvement Segment.
Divisions are now unable to conduct any of the activities that we previously were able to perform without the written approval of our ASQ HQ Segment Manager.
“Scope of Activities. Member Unit will not conduct, market, or promote its programs, training, conferences, services, or other activities outside the functional scope described in this Agreement without the written approval of its Segment.”
The authority that ASQ and ASQ HQ now holds is based on threat of punitive force and fear up to and including legal action against Divisions and Division member leaders…
"Violation of Operating Agreement. Violation of any term or condition of this Agreement by Member Unit will be reported to the Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”), who will document the violation. The CEO, or an authorized designee, will work in conjunction with chair of the Technical Communities Council to investigate and resolve the violation. If, upon instruction from the CEO and the chair of the Technical Communities Council, Member Unit fails to or cannot remedy the violation within an acceptable amount of time based on the nature and circumstances of the particular situation, then it shall lose good standing and be subject to corrective action, which could lead to member leader removal or Member Unit dissolution in accordance with Society and Technical Communities Council policy and procedure, review by the Professional Ethics and Qualifications Committee, termination of this Agreement by the Board of Directors, and/or legal action. In the event a violation of this Agreement presents substantial and eminent risk to the Society, the CEO is responsible for immediately reporting the violation to the Chair of the Board of Directors, who may schedule a vote of the Board of Directors on termination of this Agreement.”
The new agreement is a one-way demand by the ASQ Board of Directors since they have sole authority to amend it and it is enforceable even after it expires or is terminated, apparently until the end of time…
“Term and Termination. The initial term of this Agreement shall be three years from the effective date. Provided Member Unit complies with the terms and conditions herein, the Agreement will automatically renew for successive three-year terms unless otherwise terminated by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors has the complete and sole authority to amend or terminate this Agreement at any time by a majority vote. In the event Member Unit is dissolved, then the Agreement will automatically terminate on the date of such dissolution. All of the agreements, representations, warranties, and indemnities made by Member Unit in this Agreement shall survive the expiration or termination of this Agreement, subject only to the applicable statutes of limitation.”
Lastly, even though ASQ TCC and ASQ HQ now hold complete and total power under threat of legal action against me and my Division, the responsibility to enforce this agreement and report violations of this, an agreement that I do not actually agree with, falls on me.
“Annual Review. The chair of Member Unit is responsible for reviewing this Agreement on an annual basis and maintaining compliance with, and reporting any violations of, the terms and conditions contained herein.
These are my opinions based on the text of the new ASQ Member Unit Operating Agreement as I understand it, submitted in good faith.
1) Success= talent+ luck
2) great success= more talent+ a lot more luck
To me, the evaluation of leadership is a moral question. a Leader has an obligation to her followers. She also has an obligation to mission. An officer in the U.S. Army as obligations to the troops under her command, and responsibility for mission. It does not always come down on the side of mission..
In his book about the transformation of the army after Vietnam, James Kitfield (1995)tells[CJ1] a story about Lt. Colonel Jack Galvin (eventually a Four Star General). Toward the end of the Vietnam War, Galvin was ordered by his commander to launch an attack on well-fortified enemy position. Galvin knew that his men would take heavy losses for an objective of little value. Consequently, he refused the order knowing that it was a court-martial offence. His commander did not press for court-martial, but he did insert the following paragraph into Galvin’s fitness report: “Lt. Colonel Galvin puts consideration for his men before that of the mission,” which was intended to be a rebuke. According to Kitfield, Galvin was more proud of that fitness report than of the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, or any of the other medals and campaign ribbons he brought back from Vietnam. The fact that Galvin ended up with four stars indicates that the the value of taking care of the troops is still there.
Is the mission of ASQ more important than the well-being of members?
Servant leadership may not be superior to all other forms, but it does acknowledge responsibility to followers, so I see it as positive. And finally speaking of servant leadership I am reminded of a letter that George Washington commissioned to go to the captains at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary war.
A Captain cannot be too careful of the company the state has committed to his charge. He must pay the greatest attention to the health of his men, their discipline, arms, accouterments, ammunition, clothes and necessaries. His first object should be, to gain the love of his men, by treating them with every possible kindness and humanity, inquiring into their complaints, and when well founded, seeing them redressed. He should know every man of his company by name and character. He should often visit those who are sick, speak tenderly to them, see that the public provision, whether of medicine or diet, is duly administered, and procure them besides such comforts and conveniences as are in his power. The attachment that arises from this kind of attention to the sick and wounded, is almost inconceivable; it will moreover be the means of preserving the lives of many valuable men. (Bergencountyhistory.org, 2017)
George Washington was likely the greatest leader in the history of our nation.
Let me start saying that the beauty of every person is that we are all different, otherwise life would be so boring.
Building a community, commitment to the growth of people, and communication is a two way process. These are just some important aspects.
In my opinion we as quality professionals are all leaders, and each one of us believes in or follows a different leadership style: Autocratic, Democratic, Strategic, Transformational, Visionary, etc.
There are times that we change our own style too. Sometimes we use different styles to reach different goals. No LEADERSHIP style will work 24/7 for decades, that’s the beauty of change.
Retaining members and getting new members is crucial, but this is also a responsibility of the members and not only ASQ HQ. The way we act, talk, and discuss misunderstandings has a direct influence on people surrounding us.
If there is miscommunication it has to be fixed. If members are attacking ASQ HQ openly, new members, and maybe prospect members will think twice before becoming a member or renewing their membership. IT WILL for sure have a negative impact.
If we want to help the organization, we have to be open, cooperative, and committed. Committed to helping the community, the organization.
This does not mean that we have to agree with every decision. If someone disagrees, he or she has to SPEAK UP and DISCUSS the problem, but when we leave the room, we as members, we cannot break our community, and or ASQ HQ. And every time there is a possibility we have to try harder to fix the issue: ELIMINATE the roadblock.
Conflicts are sometimes positive; they are input for change and improvement.
So applying that style within the organization at all levels, I disagree with that.
But committing to the organization is our priority, and we should try to make it better….. TOGETHER.
What you characterize as attacking ASQ HQ openly, I characterize as loyally opposing what I and many others see as the ASQ BoD and ASQ HQ leading ASQ in the wrong direction. And it is my right and my responsibility to voice my concerns as a member and member leader of ASQ.
I again encourage you and every member to read the past several years of ASQ BoD meeting minutes and ASQ Financial Statements and you will likely come away with the same concerns that I have.
Grace Duffy is an inspirational figure for me in ASQ. It was in Seattle in 2005 when I expressed an aspiration to become an ASQ Fellow, and Grace's response was to put me on a track of certainty and confidence. If I accomplish nothing else this year, I hope that I am able to shine a light on her influence within the profession, and aspire to replicate the same to others.
Brooks Carder your mention of Daniel Kahneman is especially relevant as I am re-reading the Michael Lewis book, The Undoing Project, which profiles the life and work of Kahneman and Tversky and their groundbreaking work in psychology and economics, most particularly Prospect Theory. I welcome your insights on psychology and leadership, deferring to your considerable experience and expertise in this portion of the Quality Body of Knowledge.
There are examples of both Command Leadership and Servant Leadership within ASQ. Whichever approach is taken, the decisions must align with the existing bylaws and policies in place. Dan Burrows is simply asserting the existing agreements of the mutually endorsed Division Management Agreements which were signed in Good Faith by both the ASQ Chair and the Division Leadership. I would not characterize his communications as attacking or provocative, but simply reinforcing the commitments already in place.
A careful review of Article 1.3 of ASQ's Bylaws suggests that a Servant Leadership model would be most compatible with the aspirations of ASQ as an altruistic, member-led, membership organization. Servant Leadership has been statistically proven to retain member engagement within volunteer organizations, so the promotion of this approach would benefit ASQ, should it continue to operate for the benefit of its members.
I should also include my peers and ASQ Fellows including James Miller , James Spichiger , Donald Brecken , John Vandenbemden , Edwin Garro Christianna Hayes and others who are leaders and thought-leaders in ASQ. Does Servant Leadership have a future in ASQ? Is ASQ's future aligned with Servant Leadership?
As a volunteer organization of members, we at ASQ are both customers and stakeholders. Even if our involvement is limited to virtual enjoyment of a digital Quality Progress, that is still a connection to the professional community. Consequently, since ASQ receives its tax-exempt status as a membership organization, the members' interests should be prioritized over those of potential customers or corporate clients. Servant leadership is consistent with that ethic and dynamic.
Leadership consists of having a vision of direction, communicating that vision, then providing the tools and training to achieve that vision.
I do not see how any of the document changes done to ASQ with no membership votes resemble that at all.
I appreciate being asked to comment, but I certainly do not consider myself an expert on leadership. I can only hope to provide some references and some food for thought.
First, I think that the statement attributed to George Box that "All models are wrong; some are useful." applies to conceptual models as well as statistical models. We need to be careful any time we set up a conceptual dichotomy. There are rarely only two categories or approaches.
I tend to believe that as Paul Hersey described in "The Situational Leader", the appropriate leadership style is situational. It depends on the capability and maturity of those being led, as well as the organization and the situation it faces. One dimension across which the appropriate style varies is the degree of direction and control versus empowerment or autonomy given to subordinates. The greater the capability of the individuals to deal with the situation confronted, the greater the degree of autonomy they should be given.
The "command leadership" style that is described seems to have two elements. One is that it is directive - top down. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The other is that it is manipulative and self-serving. These things are not necessarily always found together. Directive leadership is appropriate under some circumstances. I don't think manipulation and self-serving behavior are ever appropriate.
Here I will cite "The Empowered Manager" by Peter Block and "The Authentic Leader" by Robert P. Crosby. Both these advocate "authenticity" in a leader. I will characterize this as openness, honesty, being true to moral principles, and having empathy and respect for those being led. "Stewardship" is another word that is used. Service is to the organization and its goals, and to the people who make it up.
Another useful reference is to the process of "catchball" as practiced in "Hoshin Kanri", variously translated as "policy deployment" or "management by policy". This Japanese technique starts with a declaration of a direction and "stretch goals" by the Chief Executive, but is followed with a series of discussions up and down the organization where each subordinate level contributes its knowledge about how the goals might be accomplished, what resources would be required, and what can reasonably be accomplished during the planning period.
Another is "Zapp! The Lightning of Empowerment" by Byham and Cox.
I personally believe one should strive for highly participative leadership: clarity of goals and constraints and maximum appropriate delegation or autonomy of subordinates.
But there will always be some conflicts. There may not be time for discussion and consensus building. Some "direction" may be non-negotiable. A classic example is standard operating procedures. We want people to be empowered to innovate, but customers and processes must be protected.
Finally a couple of mottos I try to keep in mind:
The shepherd's job is to herd the sheep, not to follow them to see where they go.
A leader must be to an organization as a sculptor to a block of marble: Having the vision to see what it can become and the skill to transform it.
(Copyright Harry B. Rowe, All rights reserved.)
Thanks for asking.
I’m not really into buzzwords and fads but I think leadership styles are situational in almost all organizations. Every organization has a mix of what you have described as command vs servant leadership. It really comes down to where they fall on the continuum. It is not a binary thing. When thought of this way a servant leadership environment becomes more of an aspirational thing that can never be fully achieved in every situation. Leaders must still make decisions to take advantage of an opportunity or eliminate a threat. A good leader understands the environment and what is required at that moment.
Like most anything, I suppose how successful an organization is at demonstrating “servant leadership” depends on its structure, size, mission, and culture. For instance, it is almost impossible to be high on the continuum if you are a large publicly traded corporation with many layers of management. I would go so far as to say that if an organization is truly transforming itself there are some decisions that must be made regardless of the fear and skepticism of some of the people in the organization. It is leadership’s responsibility to make those decisions.
Whether or not you call it servant leadership or just good leadership, you need to have the same stuff. To answer your question… good leadership is still applicable in 2018. No organization is going to nail it 100%. If anyone has a case study of an organization that has done “servant leadership” perfectly, I would love to see it. I could certainly use a model for how it’s done.
Thanks again Dan
The other example was a review of a book profiling US Navy Seals, showing the compatibility and successful application of Servant Leadership within a military environment. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/lessens-servant-leadership-from-military-alan-parsley-sphr-scp/
I included Jerry Rice as a leader of ASQ' Quality Management Divisions efforts to populate myASQ with valuable and relevant content. The application of leadership knowledge has been recognized by William Troy as a valuable component of ASQ's future, to be manifested as a Leadership Academy program. According to the article at this link: https://www.jsonline.com/story/money/columnists/steve-jagler/2018/10/19/jagler-asqs-ceo-applies-military-might-corporate-setting/1681590002/ . the current description of ASQ is coupled with leadership.
Troy was appointed in 2014 to be the CEO of the American Society for Quality, a Milwaukee-based global nonprofit organization that advocates for and trains companies and their leaders to measure and improve quality.
The Catchball element is valuable because it supplements and substantiates the vision and goals with tangible and relevant measures and approaches. Catchball and frequent dialogue across all levels are useful to add the HOW and WHEN to strategies. Consider the 2019 strategies as expressed by Elmer Corbin in his summary of the November 2018 BoD meeting:
The plan has four strategic goals accompanied by quantifiable, time-driven objectives and initiatives:
In all of these, a Catchball process would help to understand the existing baseline of our current state, the desired future state, and the capability to achieve our desired state through modified actions, investments, and improvements. There might be insights that an experienced ASQ resource like Trish Borzon could offer based on her frequent interactions and helpful assistance with respect to ASQ's individual membership solutions. This could be complemented by the successful practices of recent Division Chairs who will soon join the BoD including Susan Peiffer , Jane Keathley , Christianna Hayes , and Wanda Sturm .who could offer a wealth of perspectives and success stories pertaining to improvements and innovations affective ASQ's individual members.
i also question certain changes as an individual member which simply do not make sense. As a Canadian, I am curious why ASQ HQ in its wisdom combined Canada with Greenland. Greenland is Danish territory and not considered part of North America. English is not a primary language, and there is very little interaction between Greenland and Canada. When ASQ HQ decreed that Greenland was to be appended to Canada, this decision was not made with a clear understanding of the affected stakeholders.
Examples like this contribute to the disconnect and disengagement between ASQ and its membership. Such disconnects are dangerous in a competitive environment, as there is an emerging Canadian Society for Quality which offers programs in French and operates with more regard for its Canadian members. There is also an organization, the American Quality Institute, which offers conferences specializing in the themes of ISO 9000 and Lean Six Sigma topics. A servant leadership model that actively engages its membership offers some resistance against these and other emerging competitors.
I posed the question asking which of ASQ's Technical Communities is adopting this emerging Quality 4.0 community as a constituency: none claimed ownership. Consequently ASQ will have to determine a way to integrate thought-leaders like Benjamin and other Quality 4.0 speakers into its QBoK portfolio. Again, this is an example which would be best facilitated by Servant Leadership, as opposed to Command Leadership. ASQ needs the Quality 4.0 content to remain relevant and timely with its offerings. In contrast, the Quality 4.0 movement could emerge and grow independently of ASQ. Even EQLP participants like John Chivers are more inclined to identify with the Quality 4.0 practices of automation and artificial intelligence than with "old-stock" practices of Industrial Quality Control like control charts and manual statistical calculations.
Thank you for including me in your panel of potential contributors. I have some pressing issues at the moment that will keep me from immediately contributing, but let me see if in the next 3-5 days or so....I can make some time. Leadership is a very heavy carrot for me, and I do have a perspective on it. I will be honest in reporting that these are currently the most frustrating and tormenting years of my life, and devoting the immense time that I have this year...to the actions of our HQ and BoD...has come at the expense of my personal Corrective Actions.
I will leave you with this thought, as it kind of lays the groundwork for my thoughts on Leadership: Unless you are in the throes of physically conquering and rendering submissive, a population or culture, there is only one kind of Leadership - Servant Leadership. Maybe that wouldn't make me a very good Fortune 500 CEO, but now more than ever, do I believe that the best Leaders understand that their role is not about what name they can make for themselves - rather it is about what gracious and admirable traits...make (or speak to) their name.
Again, thank you Dan for your collegial influence, thank you for your friendship, and for thinking so highly of me -sometimes such simple gestures mean more than one can know. Hope to bring you something of substance in the coming week.
I believe a lot of what goes into effective leadership is an awareness of context. My thoughts align with Harry Rowe's comments about situational leadership. Your ethics and moral principles don't change, but your perspectives and techniques will. In times of danger, ambiguity, and urgency, leadership often has to be more directive. When there is time, data, and room for experimentation, your approach should reflect that and will often be more collaborative.
Beyond that, here's one of the fundamental things I learned a long time ago at West Point, but I keep going back to it. James Miller also learned it, I am sure.
“The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and to give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or the other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself, while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward others, especially his inferiors, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.”
Major General John M. Schofield, 1879
Best wishes to all for the coming holiday season. May it be a time of peace and reflection for all of us.
One thing about ASQ that personally breaks my heart is to see members let their renewable ASQ certifications expire. Between the member discounts from synchronization and the early renewal promo codes, an ASQ member in good standing can renew their certifications for $20 every three years, subject to an approved journal. How do we get more of our certified members to renew? We can't order or instruct them to continue their professional commitment. Members have to be inspired and induced to do this on their own. The December edition of Quality Progress, masterfully published and edited by Seiche Sanders and her team, provides ample evidence of the incremental benefits of ASQ certification on salaries and career opportunities.
ASQ as a Society has extended its offers to the membership to provide a convenient arrangement and interfaces for renewal. However there is still a disconnect and disengagement between ASQ and a portion of its members, resulting in the expiration of certifications and the attrition of its members. In the pre-Transformation era, the sections were the primary conduit and interface to connect the certified ASQ member to the Society. Dedicated volunteers with a passion for Quality would lead by example and support others through guidance, mentorship, and coaching. In turn, Certified members would receive public recognition through the section newsletters and local publications.
This is the situation in ASQ: ASQ as a Society needs its membership to be retained and actively engaged. Members affiliate with ASQ voluntarily, in pursuit of career and professional growth through networking and knowledge. Benefits and member value have to be accessible and realized in a manner that is convenient and within the member's locale or proximity. There are no "exit costs" to leaving ASQ, only the decision to not renew upon expiry of the current term. Even if the membership is paid for, if the member is disengaged and disconnected, they will simply and politely withdraw, citing conflicts with personal commitments or family obligations.
These ongoing feedback loops fit the Agile concepts of Inspection, Transparency, and Adaptation, and they will result in the right solutions to engage members and help the Society grow.
Thank you for this insight and demonstration of Servant Leadership in action. Agile sprints are indeed very interactive and everyone who participates is essentially given the same stature to present their perspectives and contributions. Agile is very important to ensure that regulatory requirements and user stories are incorporated into the solution during the early stages of design and development, so that they are not overlooked.
With respect to myASQ Finance, there are additional considerations for ASQ transactions and activities in Canada. I should probably add Mark Moyer , Brian Savoie and Catherine Jordan to this particular discussion because it involves taxation and compliance, with potential penalties for reported infractions.
Having reviewed the criteria for Non-Profits in Canada, I wanted to propose that, if not already designed into the application, a myASQ Finance version used for Canadian ASQ member units and members incorporates data fields and accounts to incorporate the necessary sales taxes (i.e. GST, PST, HST). The criteria and explanations are available at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/forms-publications/publications/rc4081/gst-hst-information-non-profit-organizations.html
The annual individual ASQ member fees themselves may be taxable with respect to government sales taxes as well, based on the guidance statement from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). I don't know whether or not your myASQ Finance application has adapted its configuration or design to incorporate these and other international tax requirements that may be encountered as part of the normal course of business for ASQ members outside of the USA. I have excerpted the relevant summaries below for your consideration.
Memberships sold by non-profit organizations can be exempt or taxable depending on the type of benefits the members are entitled to. If the memberships sold by non-profit organizations allow for the following benefits but nothing more, the memberships are exempt:
- an indirect benefit that is intended to accrue to all members collectively;
- the right to receive services in the nature of investigating, conciliating, or settling complaints or disputes involving members;
- the right to vote or participate in meetings;
- the right to receive or acquire property and services for an additional fee equal to the fair market value;
- the right to receive a discount for property or services sold by the organization when the total value of all the discounts is insignificant (less than 30%) in relation to the membership fee. For example, a $100 membership fee provides members with a $5 discount for each of 10 admissions to the theatre ($50 discount). This membership would be taxable since the total value of the discounts is significant (30% or more) in relation to the membership fee whether or not the discounts are used; or
- the right to receive periodic newsletters, reports, or other publications if:
- the value of the newsletters, reports, and publications is insignificant (less than 30%) in relation to the membership fee or
- the newsletters, reports, and publications provide information on the organization's activities or financial status except if their value is significant in relation to the membership fee and a fee is ordinarily charged to non-members.
Memberships in a club are taxable if the main purpose of the club is to provide dining, recreational, or sporting facilities to its members such as a membership in a golf club.
If your membership fees are exempt, you can choose to have them treated as taxable. This choice may allow you to claim ITCs for tax paid or payable on expenses related to the memberships. If your members are registered for the GST/HST and are using their memberships in their commercial activities, they also may be eligible to claim ITCs for the GST/HST they pay on their memberships.
Memberships in a professional organization
Memberships sold by a professional organization are exempt if any membership in the organization is required by law to maintain a professional status, such as a provincial law society membership. However, you can choose to have your memberships treated as taxable by completing Form GST24, Election and Revocation of the Election to Tax Professional Memberships. You do not have to return this form to us. Instead, keep the completed form with your records in case we ask to see it.