Friday, June 15, 2012

If the membership fee is will you offset the money lost?

Cesar Arrendono asked:
While we all members could benefit from it, what impact will lowering membership cost ultimately have on NAHJ's programs, activites, functions and staff? NAHJ needs a budget to operate. What other sources of revenue do you think NAHJ could/should explore and will they be enough to offset the difference? Fundraising is a enormous challenge, especially during the current tough times we live in.

My answer:
Hi Cesar.
Fair question.
I have to first begin by answering a question with a question: Is $75 a fair price for what members get in return? Whether it’s $75, $55 or $105 – whatever we ask members to pay…it better be worth it.
Cuts were necessary to help NAHJ keep its head above water (in the financial crisis), but the cuts are deep – they’ve hit the bone.

I know many people don't want to hear it, but NAHJ is not providing enough to justify a $75 membership fee.

Services – NAHJ has a part time staff and as much as they do the best they can…that’s not enough, they need help. Members and sponsors alike have complained about not being able to reach anyone at the national office (figuratively speaking). I’ve heard horror stories of calls and emails being answered weeks later (if at all). You can’t conduct business that way.

Website – that’s every organizations’ calling card...virtual town hall for members to interact with NAHJ's staff, Board and each other. It should be a portal to provide members with job opportunities, for members to provide each other with leads and to showcase their work (similar to what the Latino Multimedia Communicators FB page does well). The website has been reduced to a virtual billboard. NAHJ does a better job of making announcements via social media than on its own website. The website is poorly updated….NAHJ just doesn’t have the resources.

Conferences – There are 8 regional directors. How many conferences have been organized for members (and sponsors)? It’s expensive to go to the annual convention (especially in this economy)…alternatives need to be provided for members year round.

So, I go back to my question: is the $75 membership fee worth it? For many members – the answer is “no”.

Here’s what we need to consider doing – let’s get back to basics.
Members understand that NAHJ needs their financial help, but let’s be fair about it. If we lower the price, I believe more members will come back and renew their membership (that would offset some of the cost in lowering the price). NAHJ needs to expand to include professionals in the communications field (many who were journalists, but were forced out because of the poor economy). By welcoming them, we will increase the number of NAHJ's members (again offsetting the reduction of membership fees).

Cutting is a short term solution to getting in the black (and in this case – necessary), but we need to invest again (specifically in staff and website). If we improve services and produce a website that is of value to members (recruiters and sponsors) – we’ll be able to grow revenue by driving traffic, placing ads and providing virtual training opportunities. Members would consider paying more for valuable training.

We have to rethink the annual convention….for the next several years – we’re going to need to consider partnering with other Latino journalism and communication associations in providing members engaging conventions that NAHJ can afford and that sponsors see a benefit in investing.

 I think we’re going to have to consider mega conferences  in the West, Midwest and East to generate revenue and draw more members (to a convention/conference).  As a former regional director and chapter founder, I can tell you conferences (when done right) work in generating revenue.

You’re asking the right question and it is my intention to spend a great part of my campaign proposing ideas that will continue to assist NAHJ in rising from the financial crisis. But I can’t do it alone….NAHJ is our association. I want to hear other ideas out there (from members, sponsors, associations). We need to draw from the well of experience to come up with strategies that will assist NAHJ now and well into the future.

Thank you for your question - Hugo

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