January 2013

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January 2013

News From David Grindle, USITT Executive Director

What's in a Number??


This is the range of total USITT members.  Like the Dow Jones Industrial Average, our membership numbers fluctuate daily.  People join, people lapse, and people renew.  It truly is a daily occurrence.   In fact, I have to tell myself not to look at this number every day or I’ll go crazy.  It’s like the balance in a retirement fund; you have to look at the long haul and try to ride out the day-to-day shifts in the market.

That all said, how is it that our membership numbers have been at a plateau for so many years?  There have been several theories: 

  • Some have suggested that this is stasis; there are only this many people willing to join. 
  • Others point to the “virtual” members, people whose employers are members, so they reap the benefits from the opportunities that come to the office. 
  • Others think that they are members, and surely they have paid their dues, but in fact, they’ve not. 
  •  Some people join only when they attend the Annual Conference. 

All of these various theories and scenarios don’t change the fact that, as with most membership organizations, member dues are a significant revenue that keeps the Institute operating.  Our last dues increase was July 1, 2010.  There is not a significant dues change planned in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget currently being constructed.  We are growing services through the realization of cost savings, strong contract negotiation, and smart investing.

As we look to grow, adding programs and services for the membership, we have to generate the revenue to do these things.  Programs such as Elite Training Las Vegas and the new USITT Presents are heavily underwritten by member companies that want to provide continuing education to people at all points in their careers.  The cost of most of our new IT services is balanced by a resulting savings in time and operations.  But all of these efficiencies have an end to their natural life spans.

As I write this, we all wait for our Congress to develop some plan to avoid the harsh effects of sequestration.  By the time this is read, hopefully that will have happened, or we will all be in dire positions.  While there is no immediate threat of harsh actions in the USITT world, the political debate raging has parallels in our organization.  We must grow our services given to the members while trying to control the cost of membership.  But just as the economy grows from people spending money on goods and services, our ability to grow those services is dependent on people joining.  How much could USITT grow its services in 2013 and beyond if that membership number increased to 4,000?

I spend my week preaching the good news of USITT and what it has to offer.  But that isn’t enough.  I need the choir, those who are reading this article (especially if you’ve made it this far), to do the same.

It’s not just about getting your friends to join, but that is a start.  You must also make sure the companies you do business with are aware of membership benefits.  Thank corporations for being members and patronize them because of that membership. 

Our corporate members give far more than their dues in training, discounts, and Stage Expo events.  Learn the full scope of your member benefits and share the advantages with others.  We are constantly trying to develop new benefits for our members.  If you have ideas, contact Monica Merritt in the National Office.  While we can’t make promises that the benefit will come through, we do make the effort to reach out and develop them.

As with any product, volume is key.  By growing our membership numbers, we can oddly enough provide more services without raising dues.  This is not some veiled threat of a dues increase.  In fact, from my first year as a member, our dues have increased at less than the rate of inflation while our ability to serve and provide benefits has grown. 

I still remember making that membership payment and always will.  It is my goal and that of everyone in the USITT leadership and staff to provide the most value for your dollar.  Those goods and services can grow when we all encourage others to be part of us.  USITT is and will always be an organization with the membership at its core.  Reach out and bring people in so that the Institute can grow and the value of your membership expand without the cost increasing.

David Grindle

We'd like to hear your comments on this story.
Please e-mail David at david@office.usitt.org.
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