Sent this to our 2009 prez ...
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.
Sacred Cows Number 1: Aspiring/apprentice memberships
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?