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Where’s my motivation?

Posted by lpearle on 25 June 2013

It’s June, a time when most of us are pondering summer professional development, renewals to professional memberships and how much you’ll give to all those educational institutions asking for your money before the end of their fiscal years.  When I ponder those things, my big question is “what’s my motivation?” – or, in other terms, “what’s my gift with purchase?”  Do they provide a professional journal?  E-lists?  Exclusive learning opportunities?  Are the things they cover issues that matter to me?  Is this the only organization that will give me that information/learning/networking?  Am I encouraged to participate or lurk?

Over the years, my motivation (and the GWP) has changed.  When I was starting out, I joined everything… now, I join those organizations that I’ll actually get something from that will help my professional life.  I’ve become pickier in terms of that that “something” is, just as I’ve become pickier in terms of which professional development opportunities will most help me.  For example, far too many are labelled for people who are not at the start of their career, but when I’m sitting there it’s clear that they really are (solution?  walk out.).  There are many ways to choose, as this SLJ article on attending ISTE v ALA Annual shows.

The GWP part is also important.  I’m not suggesting that professional organizations go the way of PBS or Kickstarter, with different gifts per level of participation.  But there are questions that I ask, like “is the publication giving me information I can use?” and “how good is the elist?”.  One organization used to have a wonderful newsletter that came out bimonthly.  Today?  It’s supposed to be an enewsletter, but what it’s really morphed into is occasional bad blog posts.  So where are my membership dollars going?  In this case, to gatherings at bars after the meetings.  Which isn’t bad but what about those who don’t make the meetings?  Yes, there’s an elist, but is that really worth $x?  I’d love to see the budget before renewing so I could decide whether or not to renew.

Recently I chose not to renew a membership.  The cost-to-benefit ratio didn’t make sense to me any more.  Actually, it was several memberships and the reactions were interesting.  Most ignored my desertion – didn’t surprise me, as I was a lurking cog in the organization.  A few sent reminders of the “you may have forgotten…” type.  Again, as a lurking cog, I know it’s more about their bottom line than my membership.  One gave me a robocall that, quite frankly, was a little insulting.  I wasn’t a lurking cog there, I was a Dobee. The call was essentially “Hello [insert name], we noticed that you didn’t renew your membership in [insert association] and we wondered about the oversight.  As you know, [insert association] is your source for [blah blah blah] and we hope you renew soon.  Please call me if I can help [insert pay center number].”

Now, that might work if I were renewing my “membership” in my local NPR or PBS station.  But an organization I worked with? volunteered for?  Some mention of years of service would be nice.  Something about the work I’ve done for them?  Something that doesn’t sound as though people were given a list of names and told to call.

What matters to me may not matter to you.  You may not care that years of service aren’t recognized.  You may not need some evidence that your dollars are giving you something you can’t get elsewhere.  We’re all different, and we all approach membership in different organizations differently.  But organizations need to also recognize that we’re different, and that if someone has been a volunteer and given “time/treasure/talent” to them, more than a robocall is needed.

They need to make sure we know what our GWP will be, and to occasionally ask if that’s enough for members at different stages in their careers.  For some, an elist is ok.  For others, more personal contact is necessary.   Professional development opportunities need to cover the range, too, from the technonewbie to the “digital native” and from the just-starting to the near-retirement (and to do that honestly, not just provide things that claim to do that).

With the economy still in disarray and employers pruning professional development dollars, more of us have to choose what we’ll pay for out-of-pocket.  Make it worth my while.  Motivate me.

 

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