Monday, May 13, 2013

Every Member Needs a Champion

"I am somebody.  I was somebody when I came in, I'll be a better somebody when I leave.  I am powerful and I am strong. I deserve the education I get here.  I have things to do, people to impress and places to go."

"....because -18 sucks the life right out of you, but +2 says I'm not all bad...."  Rita Pierson 
Here is the link to the talk if you can't see the embed....

For those of you who got to see the PBS Special "TED Talks Education" a few days ago, it was seriously inspiring.  In fine TED fashion all of the talks are now available to be streamed free of charge at  The first quote above is something that Rita Pierson teaches each of her students to say.  What if we taught our members to say the same thing?

This talk resonates with me because I can't help but think that not only does every kid need a champion, every member needs a champion too.  Every one of her kids is a potential member.  Associations have potential members coming from all four corners of the earth who are being ignored and dismissed on a daily basis. As if it's someone else's job to educate them or solve the skills gap.  Where are these kids going to go if they get locked out of the traditional education system?  They better be able to come to us.

Every member of EVERY trade and professional association needs job skills, career advice. education, certification and all of the other things we do.  But we aren't doing them fast enough or well enough to meet the need.  Private industry is eating our lunch with firms like Udemy and TechCrunch working together to produce quality programming to help fill the technology skills gap -

In associations, we have been conducting this whine-a-palooza for the last 20 years.  Members don't understand us.  We aren't in a position to capitalize on these new trends.  We don't know what our value proposition is.  Young people aren't joiners. Baloney.  Any one of us could get on Udemy today, set up a class and get moving.  We could be looking at companies like or Blue Sky Broadcast.  At the very least, we could be having a robust conversation about where associations fit in today's educational landscape.

More importantly (and I will thank Wendy Kavanagh for this forever) we have to eliminate the Willy Wonka aspect of membership.  Membership should not be beneficial for those few who figure out how the system works. Every member needs a champion.  Every member needs outreach, to be taught how to access the system, to be shown a pathway to a better life.  And not with a membership packet and a website address.  We need to develop a culture within our organizations that decides that NO MEMBER WILL BE LEFT BEHIND.

What would happen the next time your board got together and you talked about how to fill those empty pipelines. To ask them if they are having trouble finding people to work for them and if so, then how can our training expand to ensure they have access to quality employees with the right skills to do the jobs and make their industries and professions better?

What would happen if we put the words "every member needs a champion" on the top of our letterhead, in our vision and our strategic plans?  How and what could we change for the better when we decide we aren't providing services for the lucky few who can figure it out?  But that we are here to make sure every member knows they have value and worth and a community around them who can help them keep a job, keep a house, and have a better life?

Can we do that?  Of course we can.  Rita Pierson is working with the kids we are getting ready to inherit.  It's time for us to step up. She believes in them, and we should too.


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