View Full Version : Affiliate Brainstorming

02-19-2009, 06:32 PM
One of the biggest reason for my election to the PPA Board of Directors is my interest in strengthening PPA in this manner: To strengthen the various affiliate levels throughout the country.

We hear, very often of the different affiliates, Local, State and Regional going into either bankruptcy, or near bankruptcy. My interest in creating new ideas to cope with the new era in trade organizations is, I would guess, the thing that tipped the scales with the PPA nominating committee. However, ever since Jack Reznicki called me to say that there was an opening on the board, I first thought I was the highest bidder :D sorry, my bad...

So, let's see how large this gets. If it gets too large, I will try to break up each of the discussions into individual thread (just thinking about how the Masters threads and the Cafe Guerbois thread become unwieldy).

All ideas are welcome, and we will also discuss about "Sacred Cows" which are usually the culprits of a failing organization. So, lets start with this:

Do you see any "Sacred Cows" in your associations?

A Sacred Cow is anything that your association just can't let go of because of "tradition". Usually, board members are afraid to let go of certain aspects of the association for fear of reprisals from the older, established members. Very often, Sacred Cows are the very thing that keeps an association from moving forward.

So, let's open this up and see what we get out of this. This information will be important as you all now have the eyes and ears of the PPA board of directors!

02-19-2009, 07:34 PM
Hi Michael;

I sent this to our 2009 PPAofPa prez, Bob Demmler. I don't know how the rest of the year will go but we got a bigger turnout for the meeting we just had, on Sunday and Monday, than anticipated. And, I expect a big turnout for the April convention with Keith & Holly Howe speaking. It will remain to be seen how the June & October meetings go.

02-19-2009, 07:37 PM
David Trust and Al Hopper were at the PPANE convention a couple years ago talking about this issue. After hearing their talk, I had our NH Board do several brain storming sessions on SWOT. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Weaknesses) We also talked about the SC's in our organization. It was definitely worth the time investment.

02-21-2009, 05:24 PM
Yes, yes, the argument can go on and on about this: Should our associations be truly a professional organization, in-between, or a "camera club"?

In many associations, aspiring members are the financial "life's blood". But with the high number of aspiring members in an association, at what cost would this be to the Masters and the more advanced members of the association? Certainly, if you have renewals of your older, more experienced members, how many are showing up to the meetings to offer guidance to those aspiring members?

Idea #1: Make the core vision of your associations focused on "Photographic Excellence". That is, surround your key programming around your Master Photographers so that they have a place to come and learn something. Fund these programs (it will take a big chunk of your budget) with "Night Schools" where your beginners can participate in various themed weekly "classes" of the basics. The night schools are generally taught by the active members who receive a small $100 fee for their time (most donate it back to the association).

A few of the associations in California do this with much success. The Northern California group raised enough money to have the following speakers come in one year: Lizbeth Guerina, Fuzzy Duenkle, Kevin Kubota and Jim Gardner. Not bad for an association of 90 members. Programming like these attracts the Master Photographers (as well as a large audience) and also helps the judging pool for print competition at the end of the meeting! What this does is help foster photographic excellence to the newer members by having the presence of the Masters!

Idea #2: Make it harder to get into the association for aspiring members. This is not an exclusivity issue, but rather, a controlled issue for the active members to be able to enjoy their membership. Let me clarify this. If you have too many aspiring members, the Masters get inundated with requests. the Masters are charged with teaching others, but there has to be a limit, otherwise the Masters start to burn out and stop attending the meetings, thus the ball starts to roll for scaricity of experienced members.

Do accept aspiring members with open arms, it is good for our profession as a whole, but limit the numbers that you will allow each year. I would recommend that your aspiring members be no more than 20% of your total membership (so 100 members, 20 would be aspiring). Make your aspiring member for a period of one year (two years at the most) and have their transference to active membership based on their fiscal year that they joined. This way, you can have a shorter waiting list of aspirings to get in at various times of the year.

Idea #3: Make your aspirings work for their active status. Whenever I mention this, it's almost like a light bulb turns on for most board of directors I speak to! Aspiring members have much more to gain with membership than active members. Since their learning curve is so steep, they are usually a sponge (not deroggatory). Make them pay for the priviledge of learning from the pros. Citing Northern California as an example, again, they increased the dues for aspirings. While the actives are paying $125 a year, the aspirings pay $200.

With that comes a comprehensive program that they must complete in which their sponsor must make sure they follow: Must attend the "Business 101" night school, must be involved in at least three committees in the association, must submit images for review at the end of their year for qualification as an active member, must attend 2 month's night schools (at their cost), must produce copies of State and federal business/sales tax license (and local if applicable).

I can't tell you how involved the active members who went through this program as aspirings are. Those who don't make the grade will at least have the understanding of what it takes to be working pro, so the association knows that "at least they've tried" to steer photographers in the right direction.

Starting professional excellence and photographic excellence is the way to go in the modern association. In the "old days", most pros had at least basic fundamentals taught to them in JC's, but with the advent of the auto everything, that has gone by the wayside. Now, it has been the increasing pressure of the associations to educate the masses, but at what expense to your core membership? Consider these ideas to strengthen your association. Not dilute it.

Next up: Now that your have your aspiring membership under contorl, how about certification?

02-21-2009, 07:07 PM
Hi Michael;

Here in Pa. we do have an aspiring category. They do not qualify for all perks as firm members. When I joined the PPAofPa in 1978 there was only firm membership. When I served on the Board of Governors, past PPA President Ann Monteith & I pushed and got the aspiring category instituted. It was set up to allow those part time to make a transition to full time over several years.

I want to add a thought. I am seeing a number of our state members working part time somewhere else to make ends meet. A friend is an excellent photo retoucher and now works at Kohls department store and does retouching part time. I think this will keep happening more and more. At our annual members meeting, at the April convention, I plan on making a motion to allow aspiring members to enter print competition which they can't do now.

02-23-2009, 02:05 AM
I can shed some light on this...

Too many organizations try to go all out on their conventions and seminars. Too many speakers to pay for - I hate dual track programming. Expensive banquets and meals to pay for. Too expensive a resort to host the convention. Too many at the top getting free lodging and registrations. Publications that cost too much to produce. An expensive website to better serve its members. Computers, projectors and sound systems that always need updating. Unnecessary monthly meetings.

Here in SD, we run a very frugal organization. We have very few board meetings, but we have lots of phone calls going back and forth to make it all work. We've managed to accumulate a few dollars in reserve. We make our events happen without any infighting between our board members. We are here to serve.

The biggest reason for financial failure in affiliates is egos that are too big.

02-24-2009, 02:05 PM
Our Wisconsin Affiliate Convention is being held this weekend. Our membership numbers are down as well as our convention registrations. We are attributing this mainly to the economy. Also, many national conventions are now being held in Jan & Feb, which squeezes the Education budget of many studios. With this being said, We are looking for ideas to grow our association despite these obstacles. I understand that atleast one affiliate, I think it is Texas, includes convention registration into their membership dues with great success. I would appreciate anyone out there with first hand knowledge about this idea, or other suggestions to post a rely.

Thank you,
Judy Strukel

02-24-2009, 02:23 PM
Hi Judy;

The PPAofPa annual studio dues are $210.00. For that we get to attend a 2 day meeting in February, a 3 day convention in April, a 2 day meeting in June, and a 2 day meeting in October. All speakers are included in the dues.

02-24-2009, 11:01 PM
California is testing out the convention as a member benefit this year, so we'll see what the increase in attendance (and increase of membership) will be. There are two conferences this year. Western States in Pasadena in March, and the ProPhoto Expo (a new feature) in South San Francisco in August.

We've been trying to get more people to attend the convention side of the conference. The trade show attracts about 3500 people each year, but the turnout for the programming has been on the low side. There are around 500 PP California members, so we hope most of them will show up this year!

02-25-2009, 03:24 AM
Ok, my thought is that we should encourage as many aspiring members as possible and certainly make them work for an active membership. I'm even wondering if you could implement yet another membership level just for those who wish to invest in education. I mean, not every aspiring member is willing to pay for their education. Having another membership level could help separate the hobbyist from those who truly wish to become professionals.

Sooooo, let's say there is an "aspiring professional" level that guarantees you invitations to participate in various educational events throughout the year while a more general "aspiring" level would only include you in general events such as conventions and not the night classes that Michael suggested. I would also think that the "aspiring professional" level might get you an opportunity to assist with print competitions and volunteer behind the scenes for other events which could help you earn an active membership. Of course this new membership level would have an additional cost.

I'm sure you can tell I don't have this all worked out in my head, but you see the direction I'm headed in... or at least I hope you do...

I was also wondering if we could create one of two OPEN events per year where non-members could participate for a set fee... We could use such an event as an open call of sorts to help build membership while creating additional revenue at the same time. It would be pretty easy to advertise through local camera dealers.

02-25-2009, 03:47 AM
At my local affiliate -- non-members can attend any monthly meeting for $45 I think. (now, I don't remember if it's as a guest to consider joining... I do think I recall if they join, that $45 was credited towards annual dues).

One thing, in my own experience with the local PPA affiliate -- was that the programs alone were not enough to get me active my first year as a member. I attended an event here or there -- but nothing more. Maybe it was because I didn't feel "a part of the group" (I was certainly welcomed when I was there), but after that first year a few of the veteran members started pushing me to attend. If I hadn't gotten that little nudge, I might not have made the effort to get involved. Feeling welcomed is important, but following up with new members to make sure they keep coming is important too!


02-25-2009, 04:35 AM

I am watching this thread very closely. Can I volunteer up my own state if you decide to take one under your own wing and revamp?

02-25-2009, 05:13 AM
Consider me there!

02-25-2009, 12:57 PM
Hi Michael;

If you would like somewhere to go ... Keith & Holly Howe are speaking at the PPAofPa convention in April. (and Don Chick is a print judge)

02-28-2009, 06:06 PM
Consider me there!

Ok, Michael! For the record, I was being serious. PMing you soon! :)

02-28-2009, 09:12 PM
I know, so am I;) PMing you back when you pm me :)

03-28-2009, 03:46 AM
OK, preliminary reports are in from the PP California Western States Conference (for those of you going "eh?", We have made the conference, and the Northern one, a member benefit included with the dues of $125 per year)

Trade show still had about 3000 in attendance, Convention program attendance rose from 225 to about 350, and there was an increase of 150 new members!

We are waiting for the survey results, but I have a feeling they will be pretty favorable, based on the energy level of the attendees!

03-28-2009, 04:37 AM
One of the biggest challenges that are facing our professional affiliates - especially the smaller local affiliates - throughout the country is the "camera club" mentality. As I've roamed through the various 20 or so affiliates, just in California alone, I've been noticing more and more "pretty pictures" and less professional work such as portraits, weddings and commercial.

Ostensibly, there's starting to be an erosion of good professional work out there and many of the newer members have no clue as to what a good professional images is supposed to look like. Thus the quality of the association's membership in many of the associations are starting to decay.

I feel it is important that all associations go back to a fundamental, and quite simple vision for their associations: Make professional photographic excellence a top priority.

With the proliferation of automatic cameras (notice I didn't say digital) Many "pro" photographers have less photographic skills because many of the newer photographers do not take even a basic Community College photography course. We joke of this many times of the "P"ro mode of the camera, but for many, this is exactly what they are doing.

The problem is, when an association does not envision photographic excellence, many of their top photographers stay away from the meetings, so newer photographers have no reference of how good pro work should actually be. So, here are some steps you must take as a leader of your association:

You have to start from somewhere, so encourage Certification. Start a study group of 10-12 members to meet for 8-12 weeks at each others studio/homes. Each member would be responsible for each of the chapters in London/Upton's "Photography". This helps each of the members understand all the basic knowledge necessary for all practicing professional photographers. Have all of the members work together in getting each others images ready for the submissions. Get your state liaison to schedule a "special day" for your group to take the exam together.

Using Northern California again as an example, they started with a study group of 12, three years ago. To date, they have 29 certified members out of a membership of about 90. This years group is near completion and I will be proctoring their exam in June. This group has about 13. These 13, in addition to another 15 in the association who have passed the written, but have not submitted their images yet, means that over 70% of the membership is either Certified, or are in the process of certifying! It has been said from many of the members that they're going for certification because "they don't want to be left out"!

Give your Masters a reason to come to the meetings. Many associations try to get new members by creating programming simple enough for new members to learn. The problem is, many of the Masters want to come and learn as well! But when they show up, they end up "giving, giving, giving" and eventually, they will not show up anymore. The answer? Start a "night school" program where members can learn from other pros, members and non-members, who are willing to host a night class at their studios. Have this program for 3 nights each month and charge the attendees about $95 to attend all three. Make each month's worth of night school a "theme" such as "Studio Lighting", or "Outdoor Portraiture" as a couple of examples. The Themes are endless. Pay each speaker $100 and use the profits to fund some outstanding, advanced, speakers for the monthly meetings. You will find that the Masters will start to show up at the meetings!

Another thing that Northern California does is hold a "Night with the Masters". In January, they have a special meeting where they invite all of the Masters all over Northern California to be honored. Generally, about 25 Masters show up each year. Each are introduced to the membership and each receive a special gift for attending. Then a very special program is presented. This year, they had Bambi Cantrell speak. Afterward (and here's the icing on the cake), the print competition is Masters Only. This gives the general membership a taste of what Masters quality work should look like! Every year, this is attended by a packed house.

But wait! There's more! Northern California has set up a scholarship for the Masters! They set aside a Maximum of $1000 per year to send up to two Master Photographers to go to the PPA Judges Workshop! The stipulation is the the recipients must contribute to judging a certain number of times each year, plus help in any print mentoring, as well as participate in "Print Critique" night.

Typically, many of the Masters now come to the general meetings which makes for one heck of a judging pool at print comp after the program speaker.

So, get on the photographic excellence train and see how the quality of membership can soar.

Speaking of train....next stop, Governance.

03-28-2009, 03:23 PM
I really glad to see this discussion and will be following it. I'm currently treasurer of a small local affiliate that is dealing with many of these issues. If we don't make some changes soon, we are in danger of becoming extinct. I'm going to bring this to the attention of our board members and some of our past presidents.

I think we need to schedule a meeting to discuss the future of our organization. We never have enough time at our regular board meetings before our meeting to do more than give our reports. We really need to spend a day hashing things out.

03-28-2009, 03:53 PM
Ann, How old is your affiliate?

03-28-2009, 04:45 PM
It was started in the 1930s. We've been members for 19 years.

03-28-2009, 09:50 PM
OK, keep an eye out on the next installment.

04-01-2009, 08:25 PM
Hi Michael;

When will you be visiting a meeting of PPAofPA ? Keith & Holly Howe will be our kick off first day speakers at our upcoming convention on Sunday April 19th. (hint, hint ;) ) And, Don Chick is one of the print competition judges too.

04-01-2009, 09:12 PM
Hi Michael;

When will you be visiting a meeting of PPAofPA ? Keith & Holly Howe will be our kick off first day speakers at our upcoming convention on Sunday April 19th. (hint, hint ;) ) And, Don Chick is one of the print competition judges too. I'll be in Atlanta during that time for my inaugural board meeting. The "visit" would be a rather tough commute ;)

04-01-2009, 09:40 PM
For what it's worth from a part timer. I've already talked about a problem I had which was the straw that made me leave the Illinois association. http://www.ppa.com/community/forums/showthread.php?p=199253#post199253

So here is my 2 cents. I have been doing this part time for better than 5 years and in 53 months, I will being doing it full time :D. We are nearing completion of our 3200 sq. ft. studio :D and while I have never had any "Official" training, I am a sponge. I read every day and I am studying to take the test. I attended the State Conventions, the PPA Make More Money convention and have my hotel reservations for Imaging next January. So....

When we (my wife and I) joined the Illinois association, the first morning we had the membership chairman all over the new people welcoming us to the association. Really made all the new members feel good. By lunch, we were on our own and it quickly turned into a good old buddies event and I and the other new people were left in the corner with no one to dance with. It is very obvious that our convention is a party time for those who have been friends for a long time and "are" the officers, etc. I do not find that they are friendly to anyone outside of their group (but ask a question and they will give you an answer). None of them, from my point of view, take a new member under their wing and just make them welcome. The only two functions they do are the two conferences each year and a magazine that highlights all the "In" people. Kudos to those that have monthly meetings, study groups, etc.

I was an aspiring member and through the conventions I learned to price my work like it should be. I learned a lot of things that helped me grow and get to the place where I felt confident enough to invest $100,000 in building a studio. The membership is a lot of the life blood of the associations I would think, and as such, a lot of time should be directed at finding new members and keeping them. I would not limit what aspiring members could do, charge them more, etc. They are just like the digital Debbies, those that are serious about the profession will grow and stay and those that are hobbiest will leave after injecting some money into the association.

04-02-2009, 02:55 AM
Roger, you are not alone. In fact, without getting into my soon to be Governance" message, many state associations have been exhibiting just the things you mentioned. Many associations (not just states) fail to see that this is a new era, and the experience is what drives members to love their associations, and retain their loyalty. Unfortunately, what makes the associations wake up, as California did, was to go to near catastrophic levels before those loyal to the association realized that their association that they love is going to BK (bankruptcy).

Right now, I am in a process of creating "Modern Models" of how associations should look like. California would be a perfect model because I sat through a meeting three years ago that announced that we were $60,000 in debt with no money in the bank, and we had some other nasty encumbrances that I can't mention. At that meeting we did a two day brain-storming with a commitment that California was worth saving. At our convention this year, we had our first General meeting of the members to get an update on the state of the state. The great news is that California, in three years (saying "short" would be a lie) a balance sheet of nearly $300,000 in the positive was reported! Add to this, we grew the membership by 150 new members so far this year.

It took a lot of dedicated work and hardship from the last three executive boards and to say we're proud of them is a huge understatement. The key thing is that people are buzzing about PP California. And that's what is needed in the affiliates of PPA.

04-02-2009, 03:17 PM
...we were $60,000 in debt with no money in the bank,...The great news is that California, in three years (saying "short" would be a lie) a balance sheet of nearly $300,000 in the positive was reported! Add to this, we grew the membership by 150 new members so far this year.

That's pretty impressive turnaround. I'd love to see that happen here in MI. Did you develop a plan of action for getting the younger generation (20's + 30's) to apply for membership as well? That's something we are lacking... I obviously fit in that age range, but I'm more of an exception than the rule. Some of my friends who are the same age don't really see any benefits of local PPA membership -- I would love to get that preconception changed :D

04-02-2009, 06:46 PM

I was sitting at lunch just now reading my new copy of Professional Photographer, the article on page 22, Bright Beginnings. As I read it I finally figured out what it was that disappointed me so by our affiliate. After attending a LOT of seminars on how we need to separate ourselves from everyone else by providing the very best customer service and connecting with our clients on a personal level (I agree with this 100%), that is what is missing at the affiliate level. When my wife and I attended the PPA Make More Money conference in Memphis, Al Hopper started up a conversation with us. We talked for about 20 minutes about my family, the business, PPA and a lot of other things. I left the conference feeling really good. Imagine, someone that important taking that much time just to talk to us, someone he did not even know. Now jump back to the affiliate. Like I said previously, if I asked a question, the officers, speakers and or judges were glad to answer my question but that was it. At one of the conferences I volunteered to help with the print judging crew, unpacking, et. al. While I helped a little bit I always felt on the outside and not a single person on the print crew even introduced themself to me.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that maybe the affiliates need to start practicing what they are preaching and provide superior customer service to their members. Bring the members into the family and connect with them on a personal level. Have the Masters and the officers talk to the members one on one.

OK, time for me to shut up now.

04-02-2009, 07:48 PM
Good points Roger. I've been trying to go out of my way to at least say hi to the new people I see at our state conventions. And at our local regional, I've been trying to make an effort to get to know our new members. We could be doing a better job at our local though and I'm sure it is one of the reasons we haven't been retaining new members like we should be. We do have a group that consists mostly of members who have been part of it for a long time and I notice that most of them don't really go out of their way to talk to the new people like I've been trying to do.

I think our next board meeting is going to be really interesting. As treasurer, I've been warning them for the last year that our funds are dwindling and we need to work to turn that trend around or we are going to be in the same place PPC was. Attracting and retaining new members is probably our best option to do that. We have a large percentage of life members who pay no dues, just meeting fees, so we need to offset that by increasing the number of dues paying members, especially since many of those life members don't come to the meetings anymore.

04-02-2009, 08:43 PM
We've found that food attracts people to the meetings. We have meatballs and chicken wings along with a veggie tray and some punch.

People congregate there and naturally just start talking to each other. A water cooler area of sorts.

Roger, instead of this "please come talk to me" approach, why not go out and reach out to them?

Sounds like your association has created the venue and the leadership is welcoming and available to answer your questions. It's just the extra step of hanging out with the cool kids that your not getting yet. I don't think it's a big deal, now if people are being rude and or shunning you then it's a different story.

Often, it's really what you can do for the association/community that matters.

04-02-2009, 09:24 PM
Our local meetings we always have lunch, plus coffee and pastries in the morning and soda and cookies in the afternoon. Unfortunately, that gets expensive when you are having meetings at hotels. I've been pushing to have more meetings at studios again, with lunch at a near by restaurant or catered in. We used to do that quite a bit and those meetings always had the highest turn out. We're always nosy when it comes to someone else's studio! :D

04-02-2009, 09:30 PM
...... Roger, instead of this "please come talk to me" approach, why not go out and reach out to them?

Sounds like your association has created the venue and the leadership is welcoming and available to answer your questions. It's just the extra step of hanging out with the cool kids that your not getting yet. I don't think it's a big deal, now if people are being rude and or shunning you then it's a different story.

Often, it's really what you can do for the association/community that matters.

I hear what you are saying and I tried when I volunteered for the print crew. If I had been more welcomed, I would have gladly done whatever I could for the association. In fact, I really think that is what motivates me to provide my thoughts. If I did not care about them, I would not have said anything.

Having said that, I guess it is more of an atmosphere of making people feel welcome which is lacking for me. When my clients come in, I reach out to them and really try to connect. I am interested in them and what they have to say and what they need/want.

All I'm saying is that if affiliates are in trouble then maybe they need to take a look at how they do or do not embrace (newer/all) members. You have to feel welcome or you stay home. Maybe if they look at their retention % they will have a better idea about how the members feel.

I really feel that Illinois, and I'm sure a lot of other affiliates, put on a great convention twice a year. They put a tremendous amount of work in into it and it shows. I was just offering my personal thoughts on problems I have just to get other people thinking about their situation.

04-29-2009, 10:09 PM
That's pretty impressive turnaround. I'd love to see that happen here in MI. Did you develop a plan of action for getting the younger generation (20's + 30's) to apply for membership as well? That's something we are lacking... I obviously fit in that age range, but I'm more of an exception than the rule. Some of my friends who are the same age don't really see any benefits of local PPA membership -- I would love to get that preconception changed :D
I'm just echoing Betsy's question. Michigan has tried every trick we can think of to get more bodies thru the doors. Any ideas would be appreciated.

04-30-2009, 01:23 AM
Sorry Betsy for the delayed reply. Seems I'm all over the place these days ;)

Here's what I've learned in California's case:

1. Always monitor what your executive director is doing. If you have not had any reports of any kind, financial or otherwise, that is a red flag. What happens is that if the executive director goes unmonitored, they have a tendency to wield "supreme power" and by the time you wrestle control back, your association is bankrupt.

2. Sit down with your executive board and your board of directors. Get a feel for just how much they believe in your association. I California's case, they had a serious sit down with the directors and asked themselves "are we worth saving?" Once the decision was made as a "Yes", then they sheltered in for 3 days and did a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. This is important because this is where California realized where they went wrong.

3. Find leader volunteers not on the board to help carry out the mission. The California Executive board spent many hours revamping the association. But, they did not get involved in carrying out the tasks they set forth. They found a person to run the convention and create a whole different experience for the participants. They found a person to revamp the look of West Coast School. Then they developed teams to revamp the rest of the member benefits.

4. They realized that the budgeting process was more important than they realized. What was done in the budgeting process was creating "pie in the sky" income like, "Oh I think we can make $100000. from convention". They learned to be extremely conservative with the income, and over estimate their expenses.

5. They found that having a good cross section of board members from all over the state helped to reshape the association. In this instance, an effort to get the local affiliates to represent themselves in the state was important. The Affiliate presidents make up the board of directors. The idea, here is to strengthen the local associations by providing leadership training, which, in turn, strengthen the position of the state association in the eyes of the affiliates.

This was just some of the major things. A lot of other things were done to raise funds to pay off the debts was among the key projects during reconstruction.

04-30-2009, 10:52 AM
Thanks for your response Michael. Could you talk a little more about how you made point #3 work? .... and could you share some of the "little things" that were done to raise funds?

04-30-2009, 02:40 PM
Keep an eye out on two things at any of your conventions or group meetings: Past members who've been involved, and new members.

The moment you hear of a new member joining, sign them up right away for volunteer work. You will find that you will have a higher chance of "members for life".

For older members, I can use myself as an example. In 1986, I ran the state convention which ran successfully. Somehow, after that, the state switched directions and I laid forgotten for a long long time. What happened was that when the state went into crisis, someone who had a sense of history with the state remembered what I did and recommended me to the board. I got the call for a two year commitment to run the convention. My last duty as the convention chair was to try to get the board to go with the idea of making convention (and a new second convention in Northern California) to be a member benefit. The theory was to increase membership and hold on to them, instead of constantly trying to find new members through marketing means. I'm happy to report that this is working so far as we have gone from just under 500 members to over 600 members. I'm hoping the Northern California convention will bring in at least 100 more as I figured that our association needs at least 700 members to keep ourselves strong.

The biggest problem is that, in general, photographers are not the greatest business people in the world (as witness to the survey). Unfortunately, those same people are running the associations. The moment your associations start running like a business, and not like a "camera club" or a "good ol' boys club", your association will start to soar. Retaining members is far cheaper than trying to attract new ones.

04-30-2009, 03:56 PM
Deb, I'll also say that at PPM's convention earlier this year, it was intially *hard* for me to be put to work. I was ready and willing to volunteer, but only after standing around for a while and forcing people to let me help... did I actually get put to work. I'm sure there are other PPM members who would've been happy to volunteer as well.

04-30-2009, 08:06 PM
I just read thru this whole thread, and find it very interesting. I signed up for PPM membership last year, knowing I wouldn't be able to go to the conference, but hoping that i might be able to get involved in other ways. After signing up, I receive 2 emails from board members welcoming me, and an email each time there is a major event happening in Michigan. Other than that, nothing. I've never even received emails regarding when member meetings would be held and where. Needless to say, at this point, I'd rather focus my efforts on helping PPA, then working with our local affiliates. So, hopefully all the work you are putting in, Michael, will help make some changes everywhere, and not leave others feeling as I do.


05-02-2009, 02:56 AM
How approachable are your board members? Do they seem like untouchables, or do they separate themselves from the membership?

Does your board understand that their primary focus is to create a vision/future for your association, or are they micromanaging how the association should be run?

06-02-2009, 09:34 PM
The biggest misconception that members of almost all associations have is that the executive committee (President, VP, Treasurer, etc) rules the roost. Absolute power is a major problem and is probably the biggest problem in the life of an association. Whether it is by default because the membership does not want to deal with the business of the organization, or meaningful members who “always think what’s best for the association”, or the assumption that the executive committee must be the “do all” of the association, even having an “executive director” with no accountability is a fatality waiting to happen. The reasons are endless.

Let’s start with this one important basic in a good organization structure. This will almost solve many of the aforementioned problems. The power of the organization actually resides in either the Board of Directors, or in PPA’s case, the councilors! For simplicity sake I will mention “directors” as “both”. Your board of directors are the visionaries of your associations. They are the pulse of the will the membership. The executive committee is charged with conducting the business of the association based on the visions of the Board. When David Trust, Executive Director of PPA, spoke of this to our state association, this became an huge “A ha” moment that opened a lot of eyes. We were much like all other associations: You vote for a President, and you assume that he/she will run the show.

This is why it is so vitally important that your board of directors are not your “new members” of the association. They have no idea what the vision of your association is, nor do they have any idea about the culture of your membership. If any, it is best that your board of directors consist of your more seasoned members who have the heart and soul of your association in mind. Perhaps make all of your Past-Presidents members of the Board of Directors! Even better still, is to have your President, VP, etc. all be members of the Board of Directors and make your officers an “Executive Committee”. Have the board meet only a few times a year to make sure the Executive committee is in line with their vision. Have your executive committee meet on the regular monthly basis to conduct the business of the association. Think of the possibilities! You would actually have your Executive committee consist of the “newer members”, and they will, after their Presidency become the Chairman of the Board, and then become the Board of Director. In theory, if your organization does this, you would be perpetuating the correct vision of your association because each new board of director will then know what it takes to properly run an association.

Although PPA does not run the board exactly this way (the Past Presidents all go out to pasture after their Chairmanship), there are a few fundamentals that are being utilized. The combined age and experience of the PPA board is about 25 years of leadership involvement on the local, state and national level. All have served on council, and all have many years of experience in understanding the pulse of the membership. The PPA board is well aware of who really runs the association, and likewise, the Executive committee is well aware of where their directions come from. This is not to say that the Executive Committee, nor the Board of Directors, cannot make any decisions. Just that they must make the decisions based on the guidelines of the memberships Council (the people PPA members vote to represent them). If the Board is incorrect in their decision making process, believe me, Council will let the Board know. The toughest thing is that, because Council elections are held every 3 years, it is really hard to teach newer council members the issues of governance. Come to think of it some of the older members probably could use a refresher course...

OK, rather long-winded, but here are some ideas:

Make your association Committee, or Action Team, driven. Do not make your executive committee the “do alls” of the association. Just like in business, the key to leadership is, well, lead. The Executive Committee needs to have others run committees so that your association can identify future leaders of the association. As mentioned, absolute power is the worst thing in the world for an association. It is important that the “do alls” are stopped from doing it all. It alienates the rest of the membership, especially the new members. It gives other members a sense that there are “cliques” forming, and lets face it, most of us creative types probably remember what it was like to be on the other side of a clique in High School. Whenever new members are complaining they volunteer, but feel left out, that’s a good indication that they are being ignored in the volunteer process. This is why it is important to get new members involved right away in the organization process. A great committee to have is a new member committee - friendly types who can help assimilate new members into the fold faster. Ok, so without making it too much like the “Borg” in Star Trek...

Strong Aspiring/Apprentice program. Make them work for their membership. Get them involved in at least 2 committees. Have a sponsor for each Apprentice who will make sure that they follow through with their volunteer efforts. A great by-product of this is that the sponsors learn to be leaders as well! For more information on ideas for aspirings, read the previous long-winded threads.

Whenever possible, use Action Teams, rather than Committees. PPA has converted most of the so-called committees into action team. Why? Action Teams have better mobility, and are more cost effective for associations. Committees tend to be ongoing, even when there’s nothing to do. When members on a committee are waiting with nothing to do, they tend to lose interest in that committee, and thus lose focus on the common objectives. Action Teams give the participants a sense of accomplishment. When you have an Action Team, you set a completion date and the Action Team puts a great amount of energy in getting the task done. When the task is done, the Action Team is dissolved with the task accomplished. Keep committees that require year round commitments. For example, the OurPPA committee is almost around the clock all year. Same with the Certification Committee.

Do not hire an Executive Director until your association understands accountability. If you do have an Exec, and you haven’t seen any financial reports from them in a long while, consider this a red flag. An Exec works for the board of directors. They do not have any power in the running of the association other than carrying out the business as prescribed by the Executive Committee. This is really important. I can’t tell you how many associations have gone bankrupt, or near bankruptcy because the officers of the association failed to keep tabs on their exec! Your Exec should not embody the culture of your association. Your Board of Directors should be that culture (now, do you understand why your BOD should not consist of new members?)

Say no to internal politics. Boy, this is a hard one. I’ve witnessed this twice in two local associations I was involved in. This has really changed the culture, and the morale of both associations. Typically, it happens when all of the above suggestions are not followed. That’s because it leaves the few to be in absolute power. Whenever it becomes “what we say, goes”, then you have a problem. Just remember, that the members have more power than they think, and those with absolute power are very good at making you feel that you do not have any of it. Just remember one thing, in any corporation (which your association should be), it is vital that your membership take control of the association, should this scenario happen. How do you know when your BOD is wielding too much power? The membership needs to keep tabs on the decisions the board makes. “Are they making changes that seem detrimental to the association?”, “Are we, as members, kept in the dark with matters of the association?” (Such as unreported financial records), “Have the BODs become inaccessible and untouchable?”. These are all indications that when the members are not keeping tabs of their board, the board is moving at will.

The purpose of a single vision. Governance in non-government organizations (non-gov) is understood by very few. Unlike our American democracy, where, the constituents can be dissenting even after the will of the people (all the way up to the presidency), it is really important that the leadership of any association exhibit solidarity in their decisions, regardless of the constituent’s dissenting vote. If you really want to sink an association ship in a hurry, complaining to the members at large that even though “the board voted this way, but I don’t agree with it” will break morale in an association very quickly. The reason is simple. Non-govs are not designed to handle political matters and politics are the biggest enemy in small group settings. It gives an association a feeling of disorganization and dissension. To a new member this makes an association look like there’s in-fighting, and makes them ask themselves “why am I paying all this money for?”.

OK, this is surprisingly just a start. This will expand as we discuss this (if you’ve got this far down this thread...