Status Quo Cannot Be a Pace Setter

June 23, 2021
By Julianne Simpson
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Addressing internal needs helps organizations manage change.


For the past 75 years, AFCEA has leveraged both traditional and contemporary approaches to adapt to evolving challenges, new technologies and an increasingly mobile membership. With a worldwide constituency, organized into a variety of regions and chapters, the association continues to evaluate itself and apply flexibility as well as innovation in its offerings and support.

Bill Robinson, chair of AFCEA’s Membership Committee, says the association cannot be the same one that was formed 75 years ago. “We have to build the foundation for the 80th or 100th anniversary, now,” he states.

Looking at the future, “that’s our Young AFCEANs, now called our Emerging Leaders. We need to look at the demographics of what AFCEANs go through during their career,” says Robinson.

“If I am 20, or 30, or 40 or 50, where am I in my career? What’s important to me, and how does a professional association map to that?” he asks. “I think we need to look more at the psychology,” Robinson explains.

Working with Cory Lindo, the committee co-chair, Robinson is helping to restructure the Membership Committee. “Women’s outreach has grown and taken on a life of itself. They are doing wonderful things and don’t need to be a subcommittee buried down underneath the Membership Committee. And the Emerging Leaders have a council anyway, so there was no reason to duplicate those efforts,” Robinson says. As Women in AFCEA and the Emerging Leaders continue to grow and flourish on their own, the Membership Committee pivoted to focus on other areas that needed attention, and so three new subcommittees were created: recruitment and benefits; engagement and retention; and international outreach.

The recruitment and benefits subcommittee focuses on growing membership. They ask questions such as, how do we gain new members? What are the benefits that this association needs to drive recruitment? What can we do better and more for members? What are ways to get folks engaged in joining the association?

Engaging and retaining existing members is the goal of another of the new subcommittees. One of the deliverables for them is developing a membership growth plan. The subcommittee is preparing a guidebook to help with the process when there’s a new membership chairman or chapter. This guidebook will help create programs at the chapter level to grow membership within the association, getting members engaged and retaining them as members. It will be a collective best-practices guide with input from all the different chapters. By sharing ideas with a new membership leader, or even an existing leader, Robinson believes that chapter volunteers may find suggestions they had not considered before, and that’s a deliverable that can help all of the chapters in the field. “We’re really excited about that,” states Robinson, who, as a member of the board of directors of the Alamo Chapter since 2009, believes he would have benefited from a guide when he moved into a leadership role.

Members of the third subcommittee will be thinking globally. AFCEA is an international organization, and Robinson sees a 60:40 split of stateside and international chapters.

“The chapters overseas don’t see themselves as a stateside chapter, and they don’t see themselves as an international chapter, they see themselves as a local chapter. The international outreach subcommittee is now engaging every one of our chapters overseas, talking to them, finding out what are the pain points,” says Robinson.

“Every country has host nation sensitivities, things that they do differently that you can’t do in another country. To understand that will help us to get some of those issues and concerns over to the engage and retain and recruitment [subcommittees] to look at things that we can do, not just for state-side chapters, but for every chapter around the globe,” he adds.

AFCEA is an international association, so the international outreach subcommittee will be looking at issues such as, “How do we truly become global?” The whole association is based on the ethical exchange of information, so we have to ensure that AFCEA members talk to each other. 

When you ask the right people to get involved, it’s just amazing what people can bring to the table, says Robinson. He’s seen that firsthand with the folks he’s asked to step up on these subcommittees. “I am so excited when we attend our subcommittee meetings to see how excited they are to be a part of the association, especially the international members,” he adds.

AFCEA is celebrating its 75th anniversary in the September issue of SIGNAL Magazine. Join AFCEA now to ensure you receive this commemorative issue. Contact Kcotter@afcea.org if you are interested in including your company in the Industry Solutions sponsored section of the magazine.

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