[NAFEX] NNGA membership declines - organizational declines in general
bmn at iglou.com
Sun Jul 1 18:52:12 EDT 2007
I still do not have property. I'm 5 years from being able to lock in a
modest retirement. Other than native plantings all over my state, and
in particular my county, I haven't planted nut trees...or an orchard.
However, I am a life member of NNGA, INGA, KNGA and a member of NAFEX
(in addition to a good number of other organizations).v I say this in
order to color what I'm about to say off the top of my head.
Organizations across all interests are struggling with this same
issue...membership dropoff. A common factor in many organizations is
the greying of the membership. I'm 45 and it is funny to be referred to
as one of the "younger members". I will say this, organizations usually
first suffer from a lack of participation. Organizations often dwindle
to a handful of folks doing the bulk of the work. Luckily, there
doesn't seem to be as much of an issue with KNGA, INGA, and INGA. That
may be my ignorance and inexperience speaking however! I think a
variety of problems plague groups that are greying...not just with
ag-related groups but everything from hobby groups to professional
1) First and foremost...TIME. Everyone has very little time these days
and any free time is spent resting or playing catch-up. I suffer from
very little free time as I work an hour from my house, and may be out
days at a time for work. I can't even get to many meetings for the near
future. Right now, I do what I have to. This too shall pass. However,
MOST folks I speak to when proselytizing to bring in new members for one
group or another use this very issue as the reason they don't belong to
groups or participate in the groups to which they already belong.
2) Organizational websites are typically lacking much in the way of
content. One of the best marketing tools for little money is an
organization's website. They are often not used effectively...or may be
lacking completely. Younger people often hit the web as their first
source of information. Organizations need to market themselves... A
LOT. They need to drive folks to their websites, and once they get them
there, give them reasons to stay. I consider myself a hack skill-wise,
but have been studying website effectiveness and response for a few
years. Doing any and everything to push content onto organizational
websites pays off. I'd recommend all the old newsletter an
organizational pubs no longer available for purchase, be pushed up
online. That helps index a site, and provides many extra pathways for
people to get there. Once there, you'll eventually get converts...or at
least more informed folks.
3) organizational publications are often written in such a manner as to
speak to insiders. It's ok to write that way, but you can also appeal
to novices by explaining terms, etc, and maybe providing a little extra
text for context.
4) NAFEX, INGA, KNGA, NNGA, etc seem like groups which could benefit
immensely from workshops, apprenticeships or other similar learning
pathways. I'd attend...and I'm sure after getting the word out, it
would attract others. You'd have to do this over a number of regions in
order to really make it pay off in attendance/interest/etc.
5) Organizations age, lifelong works get lost, etc. This is a true
tragedy. It seems to happen with greater frequency. While I and others
may be able to offer a parking lot online for your information, it is
nothing like taking folks on teaching them and having your lifelong
experience transferred to others. I've only just started in the last
few years with my interest. I'm nowhere near being able to have
intelligent conversations with many of you.
6) Appeal to people's curiousity. Those of you searching for old
orchards, trees, homesteads, etc...let us know how to help you.
Additionally, let us know how you do it. These hunts for growing
treasures would appeal to many a backyard gardener (if not other
growers, hobbyists, etc.). We don't even list most cultivars on the
website. You can't get people interested in stuff they don't see.
I guess what I'm saying is that most people don't even know many such
organizations even exist. Organizations get to the point where they
play for the choir. They need to not only market heavily (and most of
us HATE to do this), but also find ways to become relevant to folks.
The organizations have the hooks, they just need to figure out how to
find the folks to hook.
One other thing, growers would seem to be allies for these
organizations. Many of you would also like to get consumers to think
about where their food comes from, what real apples actually taste like,
taste forgotten fruits and nuts of past generations, participate in
their foodsheds, etc. But you usually don't see much online connecting
non-corporate growers (heirloom, organic, niche, small farm, etc) with
the general public. Additionally, some of these folks have websites
they could use to also drive interested parties back to the orgaization.
Finally, as the greenhorn, newbie-type, I get to say things like this.
I haven't put in the years of work that many (most) of you have. I've
met a handful of you. I wish I could say I've met you all. I am
already hooked. I'm just working on getting property. Y'all are the
knowledge base. But organizations need to find new blood and figure out
ways to transfer your knowledge. It is the most foul of tragedies to
read about when a member dies and his life's work gets cut down or
developed by the new property owner. If *I* feel it is a tragedy, I
shudder to think of what it means to others who are sitting on a large
legacy and no way to transfer it.
BTW, in another thread, the one on funding reasearch, I'm about to post
my opinions. Basically, I always argue first for long-term financial
stability ...above all. It may not mean a thing that a few hundred
dollars went towards research if the entire organization isn't on firm
footing for surviving the generations. Sound financials mean the
ability to have an impact for the long-term.
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