JA No Longer Funding Affiliates

A Jewelers of America restructuring will make affiliates responsible for collecting their own dues and could have a serious impact on the state groups’ futures.

JA’s leaders say the changes (see box for details) will let state groups boost their memberships, independently manage money matters, and create better state and regional networking events through increased communications. But they realize that some affiliates are either unwilling or unable to be more active for reasons within or beyond their control, such as location. Groups from rural states, for example, have the additional logistical challenge of traveling long distances to attend local or regional networking events.

Barbara Hight, owner of Hight & Randall Personal Jeweler, thinks the new rules will be a challenge for less-active groups. “Some affiliates have been sustained step by step by JA national,” she says. “[For them] this change will be a real eye-opener.”

Nancy Fischer, head of the Minnesota and North Dakota affiliates as well as the Iowa group, suggests that small or less-active state groups “consider becoming multistate groups, a model that has worked well for many affiliates over the years.”

The changes had been in the works since the JA President and Executive’s Meeting in August 2006, when CEO Matt Runci informed the 39 state group heads the relationship between the national association and the state affiliates needed to change. This was followed by a strategic review of the organization, which determined that the current model was unsustainable. With over 80 percent of collected annual dues going back to the state affiliate, JA on average kept only about $12.21 per store.

“[As a national association], we wanted greater control over our resources and our members,” says JA’s chief operating officer Robert Headley.

The new JA, which recently merged with the Jewelry Information Center (see below), will support the industry with affiliate benefits, education, and lobbying.