The British Society for Immunology has been promoting immunology and supporting immunologists throughout their careers for over 60 years. Our aim is to continue expanding our activities to benefit both members and the wider immunology community. Here, our Finance Director, Otto Balsiger, discusses how the Society is funded focusing on our spending and corresponding income to examine how we can expand in the next five years.
Looking at costs first, the annual cost of providing all our activities is just under £2m. Figure 1 shows the split of costs, first in a Congress year (filled) and second, in a non-Congress year (striped).
Our flagship event, the BSI Congress, and our annual programme of Regional & Affinity Group meetings are by far our biggest cost, accounting for just under half of our annual spend. This is followed by services for our members (22%), which includes membership, awards and grants and work to support education and careers. Therefore 70% of our annual costs in a Congress year is focused on delivering benefits to our members (including reduced registration rates for Congress). Other main areas of cost are external affairs, which incorporates our outwardly looking activities to engage with the public and policymakers to increase understanding of the importance of immunology, and the publishing of our journals.
The cost split changes in a non-Congress year; however it is reassuring to note that providing services to our members and running our programme of group meetings still accounts for most of our annual spend (52%) with an increased proportion spent on external affairs and producing our journals. We have achieved a huge amount in the last five years significantly increasing both our support of members and the discipline as a whole; however, building upon this work, we are aiming to achieve even more in the next five years. This will put pressure on our costs as we expand what we provide.
How are we funded?
Figure 2 shows that approximately 85% of our income comes from our journals and Congress/ group meetings.
The largest portion of our income by far comes from our two well-established journals, Immunology and Clinical & Experimental Immunology , which provide 61% of our total income in a Congress year and 70% in a non-Congress year. This is followed by Congress and meetings income at 25% in Congress years, falling to 16% in years without a Congress.
The remaining 15% of our income is split between membership, investments and our partnership work. Even though we now have over 4,100 members, income from membership fees provides less than one-tenth of our income and does not cover the cost of the services we provide to members, such as grants, reduced fees to meetings and careers activities.
Reducing reliance on journal revenue
These figures clearly show that our journals have been subsidising activities across the Society for many years, including:
- maintaining low BSI Congress registration fees
- freezing membership fees
- maintaining the levels of our grants and awards for members
- external affairs
- international collaboration
- working with our partners
Journal income has been consistent for several years, but the move towards open access – at some point in the next few years – is likely to considerably lower journal income impacting our ability to continue subsidising activities. For the BSI to be financially sustainable, we are now working towards reducing our reliance upon journal income. We plan to do this by both increasing income from our current activities and create new income streams.
Rude financial health
The Society is currently in excellent financial health, with a good level of reserves, and work has already begun on this diversification of our income; many BSI group events now cover their own costs, Congress exhibition and sponsorship income has risen, and we have received our first large grant to fund vaccine external affairs work. By being proactive and taking these significant steps forward at an early stage, we will secure the future financial stability of the BSI. We are now in the process of developing further plans as part of our work to finalise our 2021–2025 strategy.
Otto Balsiger, BSI Finance Director
More financial details can be found in our 2018-19 annual report.