Thursday, September 10, 2015

Survey Says!

The AIA-Southwestern Oregon board of directors conducted a survey earlier this summer, inviting all chapter members, associate members, and affiliates to comment upon issues ranging from volunteer role expectations to perceptions of the key benefits of AIA membership. The outstanding response from the membership provides the board with invaluable input as it strategizes how best to navigate the profession’s rapidly shifting playing field. 
AIA-SWO president Jenna Fribley, AIA provided a terrific summary of the survey results; you can find a complete version of her report by clicking on the link below: 
In my opinion, the results of the survey point to the value of maintaining a strong AIA chapter with a local presence: the chapter is of greater value because of its ability to address the unique needs of its membership. This value would be jeopardized if AIA-SWO relinquished its administrative functions and surrendered its leadership to an overarching AIA Oregon, as is being discussed currently as a possibility. 
For your convenience, I’m reprinting Jenna’s narrative here: 
This is Your AIA-SWO
In an effort to improve the efficacy and relevancy of the AIA-SWO chapter, the Board is taking a 30,000 ft view of how the chapter operates and what initiatives provide the most value to our members. In July we distributed an online survey so that we could collect direct feedback from members to better inform our conversation and strategic direction. We were ecstatic to receive 55 responses to the survey, a 27% percent response rate! (For reference, 10-15% is the generally accepted average.) Of course, collecting the data is only the first step. Review of the responses revealed mixed results, reinforcing the fact that we have a broad demographic of members spanning a wide range of experience, practice, geography, and perspectives. 
Is it possible to be TOO special? We are the only chapter in the ENTIRE WORLD who has a formal Volunteer Rate dues program, and AIA-National has asked us to reconsider this procedure because it is arduous to process the paperwork and it costs additional administrative and postage fees at both ends. Thus, the first half of the survey asked questions about the existing volunteer rate program and members’ expectations of volunteer roles. 
The survey responses varied greatly, ranging from members who really appreciate the discount to others who feel strongly that it should be dissolved entirely. This is actually quite representative of the Board’s internal struggle with the issue as well. On the one hand, we want to reward members for participating on committees and in leadership roles, and we appreciate that the volunteer discount can also help lessen the financial burden of renewal. On the other hand, the discount costs the chapter roughly $4000 in dues revenue and fees, which then perpetuates the need for us to task volunteers with fundraising (which is typically the biggest complaint). Furthermore, there is concern that the discount program undermines the value of member engagement by disincentivizing participation by members who don’t take the discount. 
For 2016 the chapter will implement a revised Volunteer Incentive program. To appease AIA-National, we will simplify the renewal process; there will be no dues reduction on the renewal form and there will be no special mailings/forms/envelopes. Although there will not be a lower rate available, all members are eligible to pay incrementally via the online installment plan. 
Independent of dues renewal, our chapter will send a survey where members can indicate their preferences for volunteer roles. As a token of appreciation, volunteers will receive 3 vouchers for regular chapter programs that they can use for themselves or for guests. (This represents up to a $75 value for 3 non-member tickets). It is our hope that this revised program will continue to reward volunteers, alleviate the logistical and financial burden of our current system, and encourage attendance at chapter programs. 
The second half of the survey inquired about what AIA benefits members value the most, and then specifically what types of support and programs members are seeking at the local AIA-SWO level. Most of the high-ranking items are initiatives/programs that we are currently implementing or are in the process of launching (for example, the new E/S CoLA - Eugene/ Springfield Committee on Local Affairs). However, the one item that was specifically requested by multiple respondents, and that we are NOT currently providing, is a bi-directional mentoring program. 
Understanding the hierarchy of members’ priorities will serve as a great road map for allocating our efforts moving forward. There is certainly room for improvement and refinement in all areas of our chapter’s scope. Furthermore, the needs of the chapter will perpetually change as the profession evolves, and we will continue to adapt the chapter’s scope accordingly. 
We need to be effective and relevant....individually as professionals and collectively as the AIA-SWO. The Chapter is only as effective and relevant as the group of individuals who propel it forward. Is there something you wish the chapter was more engaged in? Reach out to other members, take action, make it happen! 
I personally want, and am striving for, an AIA-SWO where members are excited to contribute some energy because they are passionate about all of the great things we are doing! We are a group of creative thinkers trained to transform visions into reality, let’s rally together as a cohesive and energized tribe, empowered to make a positive difference in the world. 
This is YOUR AIA-SWO, what do you want it to be?

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