There Are No Non-Members…
By Brian Pitman, March 2009
Back in December, I was at a meeting for association executives (yep, I actually help run other associations for a living. Crazy that I do this for both work and pleasure, eh?) Anyway, during the meeting we were listening to a seminar on membership recruitment for associations in this “day and age.” Basically, the guy presenting was saying what many of us have known for the past decade: membership in associations, regardless of the type of association, is going down around the globe. It doesn’t matter if the association is a group of carnival glass collectors or a bunch of large international manufacturing corporations: our social nature in real life is declining as swiftly as our new social nature in the digital world is on the increase.
In human speak, people are choosing less face-to-face with others and going with more of an E-mail/online/computerized interaction with each other. Why have a conversation at a convention or an association meeting when you can have a virtual conversation with that person from the comfort of your own home? You don’t have to look at that person, you don’t have to hear his voice or his accent, you don’t have to smell them. (Yeah, the guy actually said that.) You can have some music or a television on in the background; you could be sitting in your massaging recliner with the built-in heater; you could be eating bonbons (out of a carnival glass bonbon). And even more importantly, most of the online interaction tools and technologies today are FREE. Why pay money to belong to an association if you can choose the form and amount of interaction you have with others, and it costs you absolutely nothing (well, except a computer, an internet connection, and of course those bonbons).
But then, in the middle of this presenter’s heresy (to me, at least), he said something amazing, something so astounding I actually wrote it down (and with a pen and paper, nonetheless!). He said this: “There are no nonmembers of your association. There are only future members.” Heck, I was so awestruck by his magical phrase that I E-mailed it out to some people I know (including Carl and Eunice Booker).
His point was this: in a time when people want absolutely everything (including the kitchen sink, and in the color they want that kitchen sink to be), and even more so, they want it to be free, it is the association’s obligation not only to try and provide its members with as much valuable information and leadership as possible, but also to realize that in this set of circumstances, the association needs to pull out all the stops to get new members. Our entire perspective has to be that we don’t have non-members, we have a ton of people (carnival glass collectors in our case) who don’t know that they are members yet. And we need to show those people exactly why they should be members of ICGA.
Now don’t get me wrong: this revelation doesn’t mean that we haven’t been trying to get more members to ICGA. There is a great team of people working constantly to try and add more members to our organization. And they have been doing a good job (considering the fact that, as I said above, most carnival glass associations are seeing dropping memberships in the past five years). But, we need to do more. A lot more. And that is where we need your help, your leadership, and your ideas.
Let’s have a little sidebar conversation here before we begin. In the past five years of being President of this organization, we have asked for your help before. Carl Booker and I asked in this front page article for people to consider becoming presenters at conventions. We offered to teach you, help you put together and do the seminar, to make you look as good as you can look (while offering education to our members at our conventions).
Exactly none of you took us up on that offer.
Then we asked for articles on carnival glass, again offering Carl’s editing genius abilities to make your articles outstanding, nearly as good as even the great Don Moore could do. Yeah, nada on that one too. Then there was the Great Carnival Glass Storybook. You guessed it, it pretty much died on the vine (although we did get a story or two, so maybe this one was more successful than the previous ones). The point here is that you need to make a commitment to make ICGA better for everyone. If you leave it to others (which many are doing), then it is going to slip forever away in the middle of a cold night.
Okay, we are on the same page. You want to help? Let’s do this. Here’s what we need in the first steps: Why are you a member of ICGA? What does this club do for you? Do you go to the conventions? Why or why not? What are we not doing that we should? What can we do better? How can we do a better job of recruiting new members? If you were to ask someone to join, what would you give as the reasons to join?
Yep, a lot of questions, and we want your answers. Send me your answers. You can do this via E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can mail them to me at: Brian Pitman, 10750 NW 13th St., Topeka, KS 66615. They will be shared with our Board of Directors, who will discuss all of these things at our next convention. We WILL develop a plan. We ARE going to increase our membership. We WILL become an even better club for all of you. But YOU have to tell us how.
You can be a part of this discussion live and in person (if you aren’t one of those people who prefer recliners, bonbons and a computer screen). You can come to the ICGA annual convention. It is not only going to be a blast, but it will be host to a forum in which we can discuss all of these ideas, all of the issues, and a place we will use to develop our plan to prove to all those future members why they should join. Carl has included a registration form for the convention. Fill it out and send it in today. Call the hotel and make your reservations. Bring your ideas, your gripes, the things we do that make you smile.
Let’s prove the new digital world wrong. Let’s show them that face-to-face is FAR SUPERIOR to virtual discussions. C’mon people, we can do it!