Memberships -- Getting Your Money's Worth
Recently, there was a question proposed by AOA to increase/change the levels of membership. Some examples floated around were fleece memberships, youth membership, and a vendor membership. Below is a Facebook group post by two of our current AOA Directors, Shauna Brummet and Laurel Shouvlin (April 17, 2016).
"Alpaca Peeps, we have been having some good discussion on the alpaca industry development and the role of AOA. I've been asked to serve on an ad hoc group for AOA, headed by Laurel Shouvlin, current AOA director. The committee's purpose is to support the AOA Board's work on the goals created from the Strategic Plan. I will be paying attention (as will Laurel Shouvlin) to comments and suggestions made by people here on FB. As you make your suggestions and comments, please take a look at the current membership levels and what they cost. Here is the AOA page to copy and paste into your browser:
Prior to the ARI/AOBA merger, the membership told the organizations that they wanted to be able to pick and choose which things they wanted to purchase. Some were not interested in showing, so that was broken out; some did not care to vote, and so that was made an option. The current AOA membership levels were developed in response to member input. Now, AOA is seeking more member and NON-MEMBER input to refine and alter the activities and services that people would like to have.
Our committee will be convening in a week or two so please post your ideas here. Some of the ideas being considered include a fleece membership, a youth membership, and a vendor membership. Current membership levels and benefits will be reviewed and input here is requested, too.
AOA currently is operating at near breakeven. While AOA is a not-for-profit, that does not mean that it can lose money - it must generate sufficient revenue for services and products to support the members needs and it needs to generate some surplus so that it can be a sustainable organization.
So Laurel and I are both monitoring posts and want your feedback! Please keep it coming. What do you think about fleece and youth memberships and what would be the benefits? What other ideas do you have? "
The following was my posted response (April 18, 2016).
"Thank you Shauna and Laurel for taking the time and effort to come to the members and non-members and ask for their input. I know you’ve both spent a tremendous amount of volunteer time and it speaks volumes as to your dedication.
When I see an organization moving to different membership levels to satisfy or appease different groups, I think of “disconnect,” “divide,” “detach,” “dissociate,” “disunite,” and so on. As opposed to a united front with many parts that come together so that the sum of the parts is greater than any of the single parts. I would rather see membership ideas that focus on “inclusion,” “collaboration,” “cooperation,” “corroboration,” “amalgamation.”
I would prefer to see AOA directing it’s energy into moving our organization forward into an alpaca industry, rather than looking at increasing membership. If you have a sound organization that serves it’s members, the membership will increase with less effort and more enthusiasm. An organization cannot move forward if it focuses on putting out fires. It makes more sense to look at the big picture, because we need everyone to be involved in order to make this work. And once you start breaking an organization down into different membership levels, then you have the potential to start the downward spiral of one group playing off the other. I believe we already see this happening in that the suri and huacaya worlds are becoming farther and farther apart. At this time in our industry we do not need to separate, but rather join together on what makes us the same and of course that is a natural fiber from incredible animals.
Setting a desirable, fair, or popular membership fee is a moving target and is relevant to what a member feels they get for their money. A membership that is almost completely built out of necessity (registration and show fees) will almost always cause unrest from it's members because of the coercion created by the necessity to join as opposed to a person's desire to join.
Ask the membership what they really want, and I believe you will see a common thread of an organization that supports us as a livestock business and not an entertainment business. People will pay if they feel that they are getting their money’s worth, not because of special interests such as a fleece membership. The one caveat is I suggest that “youth” have a full membership that is free."
This Facebook post coupled with our recent PAOBA BOD meeting has me thinking about memberships and membership benefits and taking it a step further, customers and services. All companies have customers/consumers. I cannot name one company, be it service or product oriented, that doesn't have a customer/consumer. However, when we speak about Not For Profit (NFP) Organizations, we sometimes don't acknowledge that NFP Organizations also have customers/consumers. For PAOBA, our customers/consumers are our members and it is up to the PAOBA BOD to ensure that we are providing a service to our members that is desired and that our members feel they are "getting their moneys' worth." That's not to mean that all member's request can nor should be fulfilled as the PAOBA BOD has a Mission Statement by which we must guide our decisions. However, if we, the PAOBA BOD are not asking, listening, responding, communicating, and evaluating our services, then we are not doing the job for our customers/consumers, the PAOBA membership.
It is my belief, that if we do our job and provide our members with what is perceived to be worthwhile and that which is guided by PAOBA's Mission Statement, then our membership will be of value and we will maintain and hopefully increase our membership. "Increasing the membership" is not a goal or objective, but rather it is a means by which we measure how well we have done our job.
Over the next month or so, you can anticipate phone calls from several of our PAOBA Directors. Please think about the PAOBA organization and how the organization fits with your business and ways we can together help the alpaca industry move forward. PAOBA has long been the state affiliate leader in the alpaca industry and we would like to continue this distinction but also work with other state affiliates and national organizations to move the US industry. There is power in numbers, and in a small world such as our alpaca community, every person and farm counts!