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Workgroup Offers Ideas for Growing Membership

1 October 2010 No Comment
Jeri Metzger Mulrow

Membership Growth Workgroup Members

    Jeri Mulrow, chair and board member

      Pam Arroway and Tim Keys, Membership Surveys Committee

        Ron Fecso and Ming-Xiu Hu, Membership Retention and Recruitment Committee

          Norou Diawara, Committee on Meetings

            Amarjot Kaur, Committee on Applied Statisticians

              Simon Sheather, Caucus of Academic Representatives

                Amy Farris, ex-officio member

                  Steve Porzio, ex-officio member

                    Do you remember when you joined the American Statistical Association and why? Maybe you joined because of the excellent journals or conferences sponsored by the ASA. Maybe you joined to network with statisticians around the world and to connect with others working in your area of statistics. Maybe you were asked to join by an adviser, colleague, or employer. Maybe you needed a continuing education course. No matter the reason, the ASA continues to be a vibrant organization due to its many diverse members.

                    After 170 years of existence, what should the ASA do or offer to serve the world’s largest community of statisticians? To help answer this question, ASA President Sastry Pantula formed a workgroup at JSM 2009 to look into membership growth issues. He wanted to know about both members and nonmembers in terms of their level of awareness of and interest in the various benefits the ASA provides. He also wanted to identify any unmet needs. Pantula asked members of the workgroup to develop an action plan for recruiting and retaining members based on a comprehensive survey of current members, lapsed members, and potential members.

                    The workgroup began by reviewing trends in ASA membership data—including those on lapsed members and student members—current benefits offered, and marketing and membership materials.

                    From 1998 to 2009, the ASA experienced a decline in full memberships. Fortunately, the latest reports show a slight uptick in this trend. During the same period, student memberships rose from just more than 1,550 to nearly 4,300. It appeared the ASA was reaching students, but not converting them to full members once they made the transition from school to young professionals.

                    Over the same period, lapsed member reports showed that almost half (49%) of those whose membership had lapsed rejoined when the ASA contacted them. Of those not renewing, the top two explanations were no interest and cost. Other reasons for not renewing included a shift in job function, no longer in statistics, not using the membership, were retired, the ASA did not meet their needs, and they only joined to attend JSM.

                    The ASA offers a number of member benefits and has a series of targeted marketing materials aimed at various groups. Additionally, the ASA engages in membership campaigns such as win a free membership, Member-Get-a-Member, and Chapter-Get-a-Member.

                    To prepare for surveying members and nonmembers about unmet needs the ASA could meet, workgroup members contacted several academic department chairs to learn more about where students go when they graduate, if the students stay involved in statistics, if the students are members, what types of benefits students might want from a professional organization such as the ASA, and overall impressions of the ASA. Several major themes, along with questions from the Public Awareness Workgroup, were included in a spring 2010 survey given to members, students, and lapsed members. The results helped shape the workgroup’s recommendations.

                    The Membership Growth Workgroup advocates a multi-pronged approach to connecting with specific groups within the statistical community, as one size is not likely to fit all. The first set of recommendations and endorsements are aimed at young statisticians, including both students and those who have recently graduated. The other sets are aimed at lapsed members, industry statisticians, and government statisticians.

                    Young Statisticians

                    The ASA should explore establishing a young statisticians’ group. Young statisticians have much to bring to the ASA, and the ASA should reach out to them specifically. Areas to explore include their interests and needs, who might be interested in joining, and why this might be appealing.

                    The ASA, either in conjunction ativan no prescription cheap with a young statisticians’ group or as a separate initiative, should facilitate mentoring. Current ASA members work in all areas of statistics and in all employment sectors. Statisticians in the early phases of their careers could more easily seek knowledge and advice on a variety of topics through such a program.

                    The ASA should create a dedicated, one-stop web page featuring current employment opportunities, scholarship awards, travel awards, career development opportunities, mentoring activities, continuing education opportunities (including webinars), and other items of interest to young statisticians. Currently, the information exists on the ASA site, but it is scattered and sometimes difficult to find.

                    The ASA should support activities that bring greater diversity to the association. This may include hosting diversity workshops aimed at minority students and statisticians, engaging minority-serving institutions in a dialog about what the ASA has or could offer, or organizing specific contests or awards.

                    ASA sections, chapters, and committees should actively engage young statisticians in their activities. This may include helping to develop a webinar, hosting a social event or seminar series, running data analyses from a survey, or taking photos and writing articles for Amstat News.

                    The ASA should develop an “exit” letter to be distributed by statistics/biostatistics department chairs to graduating students that encourages them to stay in touch with the department and remain (or join as) ASA members. Academic department heads play a key role in involving students in the ASA, and they can play a role with those graduating, too. The ASA should continue to engage in and expand various social networking activities such as Facebook and Twitter.

                    Lapsed Members

                    Gaining a better understanding about why members leave the ASA could provide the ASA with valuable information about new services or benefits that could be offered, ways to improve existing services or benefits, and what may be a disappointment or “turn-off” about the organization.

                    The ASA should develop more probing questions for the lapsed member telephone follow-up to gather information and develop procedures for systematically reviewing and using this information to develop new or improve existing services or benefits.

                    Industry Statisticians

                    There are many opportunities for statisticians to work in industry. ASA sections exist to bring statisticians working in a particular area together. Members of two of the largest sections, Biometrics and Biopharmaceutical, successfully tapped into industry leadership to recruit and retain members by reaching out and offering specific services. A new, but swiftly growing, section is Statistical Programmers and Analysts.

                    The ASA should explore creating a network of industry leaders and find ways to engage them in efforts to reach statisticians in different industry groups. The goal is to create a dialog, so both the ASA and statisticians in industry better understand each other’s needs and offerings.

                    The ASA should continue to develop a greater variety of continuing education opportunities, especially those aimed at practical applications. This might include webinars, traveling courses, JSM courses, and section- or chapter-developed courses.

                    Government Statisticians

                    Members of the ASA Executive Committee recently began encouraging the heads of federal statistical agencies and the chief statistician at the Office of Management and Budget to support and promote ASA membership. The ASA is encouraged to continue these efforts.

                    Regarding both industry and government statisticians, the ASA Board noted that their participation in seminars at academic institutions where they promote their involvement in the ASA makes a big impact on students and their future involvement in the association. This should be encouraged more.

                    Other Opportunities

                    Members of the workgroup acknowledged that there were many other opportunities for growth that could be covered. Board members noted that the workgroup focused mainly on outreach and services, rather than products, and it would be good to have a better understanding of what motivates and entices people to join.

                    Anyone interested in working on any of these recommendations should contact Jeri Mulrow at jmm4784@yahoo.com or (703) 292-4784.

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