Phil Cox is APPA's Secretary-Treasurer and director of facilities management at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For APPA to fulfill its mission of supporting educational excellence with quality leadership and professional facilities management through education, research and recognition, it must be able to function from a strong operational base. The strength of that base and the organizational health of APPA are almost entirely dependent on broad membership participation.
When APPA members are asked what they value most about their association of choice, almost invariably the conversation turns up the word, "networking." I think most of us truly appreciate the benefits we enjoy as a result of knowing a broad circle of friends and colleagues from throughout higher education. I certainly cherish the many friends and acquaintances I have made as a result of my APPA involvement. But more importantly, I believe my employer, Cornell University, has derived many benefits as a result of the lessons learned through such networking.
Another benefit of APPA membership comes from the outstanding professional development opportunities the association offers. Who provides the leadership and training associated with these diverse offerings that help us hone our professionals skills? The members. The old adage that there is strength in numbers certainly applies to APPA membership.
Consider our finances. APPA's income is derived chiefly from its dues, its educational programs, and its publications. Who pays the dues or attends the educational sessions or purchases the publications? Members. I think you get the picture. Our membership numbers really matter.
So, who are our members you might wonder? Approximately 50 percent of the four-year institutions of higher education across North America belong to APPA. Among community colleges, however, only about 20 percent are APPA members. Why don't more schools take advantage of APPA membership? The reasons are varied. Some schools do not even have a "facilities" department; some say that the dues keep them away; others have out-sourced their facilities operations. However, for the most part, the reason most schools have not joined APPA is that their facilities professionals have not been invited to participate in APPA activities in a way that they feel a true sense of meaningful belonging. It is about collegiality. First, prospective members need to be asked to attend functions (maybe even pick them up and bring them to a chapter meeting for example) and then they need to be involved so that they feel like they really belong to an association of facilities professionals.
Think back to when you first became involved in APPA. For those of you who have fond memories about your early involvement, I am guessing there were one or two individuals who helped make you feel welcome and encouraged your participation. I would suggest that that sort of personal touch is key to expanding our membership.
Because they recognize how vital it is to retain and grow APPA's membership, the Board of Directors, at their Cincinnati meeting in June, expanded the role of the Membership Committee to include a mid-year committee meeting. At the November mid-year meeting in Alexandria, the Membership Committee developed some strategies to retain our existing membership and to expand our membership over the next two years. To help facilitate those strategies, a network, parts of which already exist in some regions, will be established of members who are willing to lend some of their energies to this vital effort. Each regional representative on the Membership Committee has pledged to establish (or strengthen) such a network within their region so there will be a logical point of contact for prospective members or for membership retention contacts. Further, such a network, which can easily function via e-mail, will be useful in broadcasting messages about membership issues while also functioning as an effective tool for sharing lessons learned about membership recruitment.
The Membership Committee set some lofty (yet attainable) goals for membership growth over the next two years.
With the help of all APPA members, these goals can be attained and APPA will be an even better association. But the Membership Committee can not recruit this many new members on their own. Thus, we are asking each member to consider recruiting one new member. Think about other schools in your area and check to see if they belong to APPA. If not, make a personal contact and ask the facilities professional to join you at a chapter or region function. Tell them about our association and the benefits they will derive from participating in our organization.
If you need information about APPA to help recruit that neighboring school, let us know and we will send a prospective member information package to you. Or, if you have an idea about some school that we might recruit and you do not feel comfortable about approaching anyone yourself, let one of the Membership Committee know and we will handle it. If you have any questions about APPA membership, let one of us know.
My hope is that each APPA member derives maximum value from their association with other higher education facilities professionals. And if you believe, as I do, that APPA's worth is made up of its members' talents, just imagine how much better our association would be if it included nearly all facilities professionals from higher education. Getting all higher education institutions to eventually belong to APPA may seem like a lofty goal, but it is possible with your help.