February 2018

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February 2018

Thoughts from David Grindle

USITT Executive Director

Benefits versus Features

In a recent continuing education class, we were posed with the question “What are the benefits of your association?” People started to think and raised their hands to answer:

  • Our Conference
  • Discounts on items
  • Magazines

Those were some of the most common answers. And after a list like that had developed, the instructor replied, “Sorry, no. None of these are benefits.”

These were all features of our organizations. They were items or events we offered to members of a community, but to be a benefit you have to get something from it that is tangible.

“But people learn at our conference,” said one person “And get to network with their peers,” said another. To which the instructor replied “And there are your benefits, education and community.”

It struck me like a stone. So obvious an answer hidden in plain sight. Benefits come from features. They are the things that draw us to organizations, but often they are wrapped in features.

Our cornerstone event, the Annual Conference & Stage Expo, is right around the corner. People ask, “Where is USITT this year?” and I often want to answer, “The same place it always is, working for you every day from the National Office and the homes and offices of our volunteers.” But I know that’s not the question being asked. I also have embraced the idea that the Conference is, for many, the time of their life when they reap the real benefits. They recharge, reconnect, and refuel. The Conference has so many benefits rolled in to a MASSIVE feature that it has become synonymous with the organization.

Those benefits, networking, learning, and sharing are consistently rated as the top benefits of membership. The manner in which we offer them is where we try to focus our energies. Our membership committee is beginning to evaluate our membership types and benefits to insure we have the proper structure for the people we serve. But now I strongly believe that the conversation on benefits can focus on the more abstract things like learning and connections because those are the core of what we want to offer. How we offer or convey those benefits, those are the features such as Conference, Theatre Design & Technology, or one of our non-conference educational opportunities.

I hope that the new light this course shined on benefits for me will help me help the committee see their charge in a new perspective. We know the benefits of USITT, they’ve honestly not changed in 58 years. The features by which we convey those benefits, that’s what we want to focus on. Because learning, networking, and collaborating have been at the heart of this organization since its founding. So as we move forward we are all committed to focusing on the benefits while we work to insure the features are meeting the needs of people in our world today. Features can be updated, but thanks to our founders and predecessors for developing benefits at that are ever relevant.