Memo on Costs of Proposals


Strategy is About Resources!

We have big goals but limited resources. This memo is intended to help you understand the costs of each convention proposal.

Together, the proposed resolutions and constitutional changes would cost the organization $6.5 million per year. This is far more than we have available to spend. It would thus be impossible to enact all of the proposals at once! 

Furthermore, it takes a lot of resources to run the organization already. Our annual budget currently has a projected deficit of $7,000 for 2021. This means we have -$7,000 to spend on new work. It would thus be impossible to enact any new proposals without cutting other work!

We must choose which work to prioritize.

Delegates can help the NPC follow the will of the membership by being disciplined and clear about what does and does not get passed at convention. Even though the structure of the convention requires delegates to consider each resolution on its own, these decisions must be considered holistically.

After the convention, the new NPC will need to decide in consultation with staff which resolutions can realistically be enacted first, or in some cases which we can begin work on at a small scale. This is a practical reality and role that the NPC takes on as one of its most difficult duties.

Strategy is as much about what we choose to do, as it is about what we choose not to do.

In effect, the more the convention body can focus on passing only a few priorities that involve resources, the more powerful that body will be.

Understanding Headquarters Staffing

In the last three years we have created some new permanent staff positions to ensure a solid administrative foundation to support our structure and organizing. 

Taking this comprehensive approach ensured we could remain fiscally solvent and stable. Some members may recall that when DSA began regularly doubling our size starting five years ago, the rapid growth meant our existing small staff and organizational structure was completely inadequate. Members and chapters struggled to get the support they needed.

Today, while the work has not gone away (in fact, in our experience every time our membership grows, the back end work grows proportionally) we are better situated to manage the growth and the needs of our 90,000+ member organization. 

Here are some examples of staff labor:

  • answering hundreds of questions and member requests a day that come in to [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected] for events, membership updates, and questions on general engagement
  • tracking all income so that every single payment from our 90,000 members has a record and we can accurately report it to the IRS if audited
  • providing advice on complicated electoral, tax and incorporation regulations at both the national and state level to chapters and to the NPC as we grew our work
  • improving the website and membership tech infrastructure (working on a membership portal!) 
  • supporting our national committees and campaigns in ways such as verifying memberships, assisting with elections, and fielding questions
  • providing tech tools for organizing to chapters for mass emails, textbanking, phonebanking and voter outreach tracking
  • keeping membership information for 90,000 people secure, up to date, and segmented appropriately for emails 
  • coordinating and producing images for print and social media and coordinating printing and mailing of the Democratic Left
  • supporting new organizing committees as they become chapters
  • pitching reporters stories to cover our work in the media & training chapters to do so locally
  • providing the infrastructure for a huge expansion of national training and educational calls under COVID as well as, prior to that, a higher frequency of in-person regional and national gatherings 
  • supporting chapters and organizing committees in developing strategic campaigns and strong organizing practices on the ground, in a period in which we grew from 148 to 240 DSA chapters and 130 YDSA chapters 
  • continually improving our membership processes to recruit and retain members so we can fund our work and they can move into the struggle

After the 2019 convention, the NPC had to make hard decisions between cutting existing staff work and reallocating that time, or not carrying out some resolutions even though they passed in 2019. While some resolutions have been implemented, they also chose to focus on strengthening our foundation.

Staff expansions since 2019 convention:

  1. 4th Field Organizer, Alec
  2. 5th Field Organizer, Garrick
  3. Compliance Manager, Brandon
  4. Communications Program Associate for External Comms and Digital Assets, Priscilla
  5. Communications Director, Chris
  6. Full Stack Developer, Ty (part time; we are also in the hiring process for a full time position)
  7. Finance Coordinator, Christina
  8. Revenue Bookkeeper, Tom
  9. 2nd YDSA National Organizer, Kaleb
  10. Chapter Pipeline Coordinator, Dana
  11. Program Associate for Retention and Events, Zachariah
  12. Organizing Tools Coordinator, Rafael
  13. 6th Field Organizer, in hiring process
  14. Program Associate for Creative Assets, in hiring process
  15. 2 YDSA interns each semester

Our staffing once these positions are all filled will stand at 29 full time, 2 part time and 2 student interns. Yet, we still struggle to meet the labor needs to support all of your amazing work, so we have to think long and hard before every new position we create.

Our staff is proudly unionized with the Washington Baltimore News Guild which means they play a direct role in negotiating their employment contracts. As socialists, we know the importance of workers being properly compensated for their work and our budget reflects these increases. Because we want to ensure staff can count on working for DSA longer than a year at a time, this also means understanding the longer term costs of providing that security for staff

Staff Chart By Department

As a related note, just as staff time to carry out new resolutions is finite, so is the time of NPC members. When there are too many mandates, the NPC must choose which ones they spend time to carry out. 

One of the most important lessons of the last few years is that it takes all of us to make DSA run. Our power comes from being member-led, member-driven, and member-funded so the more labor that members carry out, both locally and nationally, and the more funds we are able to raise, the lighter the work.

Understanding Cost Implications of Resolutions

We developed this chart with estimates of typical costs. But keep in mind that this and the specific resolution estimates give only a one year estimate.

For direct costs, for example if a gathering were to happen every other year, we would include only 50% of the cost because the full cost is averaged over two years for the purpose of this estimate.

For staff, if the resolution calls for one staffer, we would include only the cost of one year. But, we don’t hire staff for just one year! We prefer to create permanent staff positions to create stability both for our workers and also for the organization. This means that new staff costs in a given year are baselined into the subsequent years – in other words, the budget is permanently increased. We need to have a fiscally responsible rate of staff growth so we don’t overshoot what we can sustain – unless we choose up front to have an end date to a temporary staff surge for a specific time-limited goal.



Categorizing the Resolutions

Senior staff spent significant time carefully reviewing each resolution to be thoughtful about estimating staff time based on our experience so far. What would it truly take to carry out each resolution?

To make it easier to compare resolutions, we grouped the organizing or campaign oriented resolutions into three categories, depending on the level of investment and activity that the language suggested. 

The primary distinction between them is in the level of staff time. For reference, one full time staffer works 2080 hours in a year. And of course, this is a simple estimate. Often resolutions are expressed as needing 1 or 2 staff, but this calculation is a more holistic look at the full array of staff support levels we currently provide to committees.

Please note that if we do not have space in the budget to hire new staff, we would look at which staff functions are essential and which could be ended and that staff time reallocated to meet the requirements of resolutions.

The practical fact is that all resolutions should be evaluated based on whether it would stay within our existing budget, raise significant new resources such that the resolution is budget neutral or reallocate staff time away from existing work to instead carrying out the resolutions’ projects. 

And as always – we can make the choice to come together and build our capacity! Every member has a responsibility to give what we can – both our time and our money – so we can grow into an ever larger organized multi-racial working class movement with the power to save our planet from the owning class.

In solidarity,

Maria Svart – National Director, Heidi Chua – Fiscal Officer & All DSA Directors
Jen McKinney – Chair of the NPC Steering Committee 
Kristian Hernandez – Secretary Treasurer 
Theresa A – Budget and Finance Committee co-chair with Jen 
Abdullah Younus & Justin Charles – NPC members of Budget and Finance Committee
Carolyn C and Dave L – subject matter experts on the Budget and Finance Committee