November Roundup: Engaging Members and Volunteers

Are you part of a professional association? If not, this in itself might be telling. Fewer people are joining professional trade groups these days because information is more available than ever through other sources, including, of course, the internet. The face of professional associations also is changing. In October, our topic of the month was how to recruit members and volunteers to professional communities such as ASQ.

Why join? John Hunter discusses the value of professional associations, finding that career opportunities and open-access information are two of the most valuable aspects to joining. Rajan Thiyagarajan says that networking is still the major benefit offered by associations. And Anshuman Tiwari writes about how ASQ can become more influential and relevant to India’s quality professionals. Edwin Garro blogs about how ASQ can become more relevant globally.

Lessons learned: Bob Mitchell looks on his own experience in volunteer and member recruitment as part of ASQ’s statistics division and the Minnesota section. Lotto Lai writes about how the Hong Kong Society for Quality successfully increased its membership and engaged members. Scott Rutherford looks to how religious organizations make themselves relevant in today’s society and provide value to believers.  Aimee Siegler writes about the importance of training, and finds a good example of this in the Girl Scouts, an American youth organization for girls. And Dan Zrymiak looks to Toastmasters, a public speaking and leadership organization, for inspiration.

Tips for associations: Jennifer Stepniowski offers a variety of ideas for recruiting and retaining members, including organizing an appreciation event or placing an ad in the local business paper. Babette Ten Haken also shares tips for associations, including the basics, such as making members feel welcome. Manu Vora discusses member and volunteer recruitment from the HR perspective. And Jimena Calfa writes that professional groups must now exceed, instead of just meet, the expectations of their members.

There are lots of options these days. Associations, like other businesses, must be the best in the market to succeed.

Recruiting Members and Volunteers Amid a Changing Landscape

In recent months I have been traveling to ASQ sections and divisions to meet with our members. Our members are very passionate about ASQ, and they don’t hesitate to bring up challenges that we must address as an organization. One of those challenges is our membership model. Simply put, members tell me that we must make it easier for quality professionals to be a part of ASQ. For some, the traditional section and/or division membership works great, but for others, it does not.

While we will certainly analyze this issue, I think we’re not the only association in this boat.  Most associations must generate new and creative ways to attract and retain members. This comes as no surprise. If you’re really interested, you could read this report from the Center for Association Leadership on changing demographic trends and how they affect associations.

From the report:

“The dependency on membership and participation for traditional third-sector organizations will likely continue, but the sustaining sources for such organizations — namely the ‘traditional’ members — will certainly evolve and could even disappear, forcing organizations to look for new sources of members, donors, volunteers, and revenue. Organizations may have to change their missions to meet the needs and demands of a whole new membership and service sector. The transformation is a result of dramatic demographic change in the U.S. population, a force that is altering the profile of U.S. membership associations like never before. The pool of ‘traditional’ members (i.e., members derived from historic rather than current demographic data) is diminishing quickly as demographics continue to shift.”

This isn’t just an American phenomenon. It appears that professional associations worldwide are also affected by demographic trends. Even without such trends, we intuitively know that there are many ways for people to get professional information these days—certainly on the internet and on social media, for a start.

At ASQ headquarters we are sometimes asked for advice on best practices on attracting members to their section or division. I am by no means an expert on this topic, but I do want to share some tips developed by ASQ’s Community Development team, which works closely with our members and volunteer leaders.

  • Asking people to attend an association event is an authentic, effective, and simple way to engage potential members.  The Community Development team tells me that people of all ages are three times as likely to help if asked directly. In this age of electronic communication, do we ask people to help, face to face, as frequently as we could?
  • In addition, current association members can refer members and colleagues. They can invite them to association meetings and events, and they can follow up with members who’ve lapsed. A simple call or email can do the trick.
  • To encourage committed members to step up and become association leaders—such as volunteers or chapter officers– explain what’s in it for them. Think leadership experience, practice and application of skills, and personal achievement. You should be ready to provide enough information about specific requirements and expectations. Finally, of course, asking them is the most effective technique of all.

Now let’s hear from you. If you’re part of a professional association, how do you encourage people to join or volunteer? How do local trends impact your association?

*Not to trumpet ASQ, but in November we will resume our annual Adding New Voices campaign, in which ASQ members can give a free, six-month membership to a colleague or friend. Members, watch your email for details.

The Future of Quality: Evolutionary or Revolutionary?

In 1835, Alexis De Tocqueville, a French political writer, wrote his classic work, Democracy in America.  His observations about America were a fascinating window into the times and issues of the day.  Part of the power of his observations was his detached perspective.  He could stay above the intense political currents, prejudices, and passions of the times and report on what he saw and heard.  His writings still resonate today and tell us about the American character and culture.

I am a little bit like Mr. De Tocqueville, abroad in a foreign land, albeit not as articulate, learned, or astute.  In this case, the land is the quality community. As a newcomer to the quality field, I don’t have an insider’s grasp of the culture, language, or heritage, but I have a great admiration for your passion for quality.

While being a visitor can be frustrating and confusing, I hope you will see it also gives me the advantage of a certain amount of objectivity.  The quality community has many different constituencies, each with its own perspective.  There is broad agreement on some things and sharp disagreements about others.

One of the things I bring to this post is my respect for what you know and what you do.  I came from a military background where you quickly learn that standards and certifications are serious business.  Being in a field such as yours, where we also value learning, standards and certifications, feels noble and right to me, and I bring the advantage of a certain detachment from one particular quality perspective, which I hope will serve the community and ASQ well.

One of my early observations is that I believe there are two very distinct views about the future of quality we need to at least acknowledge, if not actually reconcile.

Evolutionary change: I would describe one view as the ascribing to evolutionary change.  The quality movement has been immensely important and successful in many fields and will continue to grow and evolve, but will do so in recognizable and well-defined ways.  We will move down traditional paths but reach new destinations and make new inroads into fields that are underserved today. We will keep doing what we do well and find ways to do it even better.

Revolutionary change: I would call the second view as seeing revolutionary change in the future of quality.  Some of the ways we brought value to our businesses, industries, and communities will have to fundamentally change.  We will have to bring value to the C-suite as much as to the production line. We must have tools that will facilitate a meaningful contribution at ever more senior levels to make the impact our customers and colleagues want.  Knowledge, which we value so highly and have worked so hard to gather, organize, and refine, must be shared much more freely in the age of new media.  Even what we describe as quality may be subsumed by different umbrella terms such as “organizational excellence or “risk management.”

I predict a lively debate in the days ahead and I look forward to reporting what I see and hear among you who hold the keys to our future in your hands.

In the meantime, what do you think? How will the future of quality unfold?

10 Ways To Get the Most From Your ASQ Membership

Dan Zrymiak

Daniel Zrymiak is an Influential Voices blogger and longtime ASQ member. He has worked in quality for two decades, and is active in ASQ as a Quality Press author and reviewer, member leader, Technical Committee chair, and Fellow, the highest level of membership. He lives in Canada and blogs at A QualitEvolution.

In this guest post, I hope to advise ASQ members and the wider quality community on how to optimize an ASQ membership.  By actively participating in ASQ programs and benefits and by keeping current personal records, ASQ can be experienced as a professional loyalty program.

Just as an airline or hotel loyalty program would require you to be a passenger or hotel guest, any association or society places certain expectations. With progressive levels of achievement and advancement, more privileges and opportunities are available within ASQ (and within most associations that you may wish to join).

For a professional association like ASQ, some effective ways to build loyalty are summarized below:

1. Attend and present at ASQ meetings. From the most humble local section

Connecting at ASQ's World Conference on Quality and Improvement

gathering to the grandest palatial ballroom of the ASQ World Conference, the opportunity to interact and be a visible presence reinforces that ASQ extends beyond your local location, region, or industry specialization. The breadth and scope of ASQ can be most appreciated through direct interactions with other quality professionals.

2. Pursue certification and professional experience.  Certification allows the time spent within ASQ to be effectively leveraged to the benefit of your career. As a personal example, I applied an ASQ Certified Software Quality Engineer certification and professional experience to teach software QA at local universities and colleges.

3. Volunteer to serve as a member leader. Whether in an elected office or appointed position with a section or division, joining the growing community of member leaders within ASQ extends the involvement and creates the satisfaction that comes from addressing and fulfilling challenges.

4. Contribute your knowledge. Those ASQ members who devote their time as reviewers, authors, presenters, moderators, curriculum developers, or intellectual property contributors may be eligible for additional rewards which can include gifts, discounts on ASQ merchandise, honoraria, subsidized or complimentary conference registration, and recognition events.

5. Track your achievements and remain in good standing. By paying and renewing membership fees in a timely manner, interruptions are avoided.  A disrupted or intermittent record may create restrictions or lost opportunities for certain benefits. Also be sure to keep your personal records with accuracy and thoroughness.  Delaying the tracking may result in having your work not properly credited toward future member benefits.

6 .Complete your recertification. The steps to recertification permit you to retain your professional standing by submitting your validated records of professional involvement, in a most convenient and accessible manner.

7. Access an unlimited knowledge base. This benefit includes intellectual property retained through collections of publications, as well as the exposure to global expertise from experienced and successful practitioners, academics, and authors.  In addition, you can take advantage of multiple opportunities to conveniently acquire mentors and to mentor others within the profession, providing a cost-effective advantage over the expensive alternative of career consultants or executive coaches.

8. Upgrade to senior membership. This member level is available after ASQ members have attained or achieved levels of experience and fulfillment in particular areas (i.e. certification, career level, duration of membership).  The immediate financial benefit can be realized from the free journal, the benefit of which exceeds the incremental membership cost.  ASQ Senior Members also may take on additional levels of responsibility and influence within ASQ.

9. Pursue senior leadership and governance. ASQ provides members with opportunities for election into roles of authority and influence, such as section, division, or board leadership. This enables exceptional opportunities to demonstrate leadership and interact with corporate and government leaders.

10. Position for higher honors. Outstanding ASQ members and quality practitioners can be recognized by ASQ (i.e. Fellow memberships, ASQ awards).  For the competitive awards process, a personal portfolio of professional and personal accomplishments must be submitted for evaluation and selection.  However, falling short does not mean rejection or failure, only the added inspiration to improve and attain greater achievements.

To get the most from the loyalty capital you have cultivated over time, it is imperative that you strive for the promise of your full potential, all that awaits you within ASQ, and wherever your passionate pursuits may lead.

To learn more about ASQ membership, please see the ASQ membership page, call the ASQ Customer Care group, or email help@asq.org. If you’re an ASQ member seeking more information on leadership and volunteering opportunities or awards, please contact communitydevelopment@asq.org or your ASQ Community Development administrator.