by Cynthia Eastman, San Francisco Bay Region Chapter, Engineering and Environmental & Resource Mgmt Divisions
We as individuals need to be future ready but so does our support structure, in other words, SLA. We talk about attracting members from outside our traditional venues but if they don’t see any division or caucus activity that is in their line of work how can we ask them to join? If we want to attract members from non-traditional fields, we need to identify those potential fields and think about what SLA should have in place to attract those people. One approach would be to identify say three fields where we think we can attract new members and then set up a new forum for those fields. Obviously these forums won’t be like divisions but they could grow into divisions over time. Perhaps they are just a few existing members getting together for discussion sessions at the annual meeting. Yes, we already have caucuses that do this but I suggest we do away with the formal caucus formation process for these forums. Perhaps it’s as simple as asking for a few volunteers to lead a discussion and then setting up a web page where discussion notes and other information can be posted.
Switching to the opposite direction, is it time to look at de-structuring some of our current divisions to help us attract and retain active volunteers? At every conference I hear stories about the difficulties some divisions have filling Board positions and supporting conference sessions. On top of that are the burn-out stories where someone steps up to be Division chair and then disappears from volunteer roles after their term ends (or even sooner). Can we come up with a “small division” option with fewer positions to worry about and a lower number of sessions to plan? Yes, I know that divisions aren’t required to fill all positions or to do the maximum number of sessions allowed. But many people are intimidated away before we get them to a point where they understand the option to wrestle things down to a manageable level.
The keynote speaker at this year’s Leadership Summit showed that “Opportunities to Gain Leadership Experience” is not one of the aspects of association membership that is rated high by non-volunteers. If we want to turn those folks into volunteers, we need to think about new options for engagement. Less structure and fewer procedural requirements might be one way to go.
Cynthia is Corporate Librarian at Kennedy Jenks Consultants, an environmental engineering firm in San Francisco. Prior to Kennedy Jenks, Cynthia was Director of Information Services as Keyser Marston Associates, a real estate consulting firm. She is program planner for the Engineering Division for the Philly and Chicago annual conferences and has served as Chair of the Environment and Resource Management Division.