Before relinquishing the chair in May, I wanted to bring forward some questions about the progress and future of the branch—some straightforward; others, difficult. This is why I held April’s membership meeting as a town hall.
I am worried about the eroding of branch membership, which has slipped gradually from 300 a decade ago to 200 or so the last few years to 173 as of this month’s report. However, size is only one indicator of the health of a branch: a less tangible one could be called ‘vitality’. Buying an EAC membership represents a basic level of commitment; coming out to meetings, taking part in discussions and volunteering are subsequent rungs on that ladder.
In late 1990s, we had 130 or 140 members, but 30 to 40 people came out for a meeting. In recent years, we have had 200 or more members, but lower attendance at meetings. The meeting programs year after year tend to cover similar subjects, and are of good quality and value to professional editors. Why is such a small portion of our membership coming out to meetings? What has changed?
I asked the town hall for suggestions about the meeting format. Some members said earlier meetings would be better. If meetings started at 6:00 or 6:30 pm, they could leave work, get together for dinner, then go to EAC. The executive meeting, now held before the membership meeting, would have to be held at another time.
As well, people like to socialize at meetings, and the current format leaves little time for that. Sometimes I have started meetings 5 or 10 minutes late, just to give people a bit of mingling time. In the 1990s, meetings typically started with a short segment of association business, then 15 minutes to socialize, then the program.
So, there’s more than one way to manage meetings. The executive is working on options for a different meeting format for next year: I hope a new format will inject some new vitality.