The ASA will celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2014. In preparation, column “175”—written by members of the ASA’s 175th Anniversary Steering Committee and other ASA members—will chronicle the theme chosen for the celebration, status of preparations, activities to take place, and, best yet, how you can get involved in propelling the ASA toward its bicentennial.
Monica Johnston is chair of the ASA Committee on Membership Retention and Recruitment and cofounder of the Section for Statistical Programmers and Analysts. She is an independent consultant and serves as director at Mostly Math, an education services center in Walnut Creek, California.
The American Statistical Association is a strong, vibrant organization with approximately 18,000 members and the largest community of statisticians in the world. In the April issue, the ASA was described as a “big tent” organization with room for growth. The goal of the Committee on Membership Retention and Recruitment (CMRR) is to help the ASA reach 20,000 members by its 175th anniversary in Boston in 2014. To meet this goal, we are working diligently to identify viable ways to increase the number of student members who renew as regular members after they graduate and increase recruiting in areas where statisticians have a growing professional presence.
The ASA has about 4,800 student members. About 59% of students renew their annual membership compared to 86% of nonstudents. Furthermore, we estimate that only 25% of students convert to regular membership after graduation. Since the ASA offers reduced membership fees for students and recent graduates, and the full regular membership fee is less than 0.5% of a typical first-year salary, CMRR is satisfied that fees—for most—are not a barrier for renewal. Instead, there are other factors affecting conversion.
Members of CMRR believe students determine what a membership benefit is. ASA members who are established professionals may itemize and exalt benefits of membership, but if a student doesn’t value a particular benefit, then it isn’t genuinely considered a benefit. An important aspect of communicating membership benefits is listening to prospective members describe benefits that they value or expect. Therefore, in addition to showing a slide show about benefits of membership during the JSM Student Mixer, CMRR is exploring how student focus groups can improve our understanding of factors that promote or hinder conversion from student to regular membership.
Additionally, members of CMRR think creating opportunities for students to be active members promotes conversion. For example, if you are an officer or active member of a chapter or section, you can help increase retention of transitioning student-professionals by encouraging greater student involvement in chapter and section activities. Officers can use online membership reports (along with help from the ASA) to identify current (or lapsed) student members. When students serve as elected or appointed officers, event organizers, session chairs, etc., they may encourage other students to get involved. Additionally, students who hold office or have other responsibilities may be more likely to renew as regular members after graduation, especially if their term of service does not coincide with their graduation date.
We encourage chapters and sections with resources to consider offering grants to transitioning student-professionals for continuing education and conference travel not specifically hinged on submitting a paper to a conference. Grants help transitioning student-professionals experience the benefit of quality continuing education, while leadership opportunities help them experience professional development; both can have a positive effect on retention.
CMRR is working with the ASA marketing department staff to develop exit packages for graduating statistics students. Exit packages will contain benefit information and incentives for keeping membership profiles updated and new professionals connected to the ASA.
A second focus of the CMRR is to increase membership from growing groups of statisticians or areas of application. The CMRR is exploring how the ASA can attract distance learners of graduate programs in statistics. In the last 12 months, the department of statistics at Texas A&M University received 1,133 applicants, of which 718 applied for a master’s degree and 415 applied for a four-course certificate. Currently, the department has 17 traditional learners and 240 distance learners. Other universities are developing similar programs. Distance learners may represent a good source for recruiting. Other sources include statisticians who are working in business analytics and data mining.
CMRR is exploring whether professional groups within social media networks are good sources of new members. For example, Meetup.com has a data mining group that attracts nearly 1,000 members from the San Francisco Bay Area. Members of CMRR will be working with the ASA’s marketing staff to increase the ASA’s visibility within such groups. We also encourage you to help grow membership through the ASA’s Member-Get-A-Member Drive.
As members of chapters, sections, and committees, it is important to remember the difference between describing a benefit to students and early-career professionals and having them experience that benefit through active membership in the ASA. Help us reach our goal of 20,000 members with timely creation of opportunities for transitioning student-professionals.
If you have ideas for increasing membership, please convey them to your chapter, sections, and committees, or contact Monica Johnston at email@example.com.