Who are we as a section?
June 25, 2014 at 10:14 PM
We just had our first membership meeting and I am pleased to announce that the audience was 25% female and 20% non-Caucasian. The only problem is that the sample was too small to be representative of who we are as a section.
In general, the membership of our section is over 90% white and male, and we are also graying out faster than the other sections. I have enclosed a chart showing that most of our members are between 60-70 years of age. You can see that many of our current members are edging towards retirement. Further, we only have two AIA members seeking licensure in our section. In short, we are not replenishing the membership at this time and this is something that we have to overcome if we are going to prosper.
We are also one of the four sections of the state that are around 100 members. This is a map of the state showing membership numbers.
Two sections: Charlotte and Triangle represent about 2/3’s of the membership in the state. You can see on both the map and the bar chart below that their membership is younger than our section; the urban setting seems to be creating a younger profile. Asheville has about twice our membership. Where they are similar in terms of their geographic area most of their members are concentrated in one urban area; Asheville, our members are not concentrated in any single city comparable to the other sections.
So in summary, our section is one of four smaller sections called Peer 1, which are defined as volunteer-led or part time staff, by the National AIA. There are 104 sections like ours across the U.S. out of a total of 260 sections. So while we are unique in our state, we are not “abnormal” nationally. There are many small, rural AIA sections like us throughout the U.S. and we can learn from them.
The geography of our section (the region east of I-95)
There are only four areas in the section that have membership numbers in the double digits. If you look at the enclosed map you will see that Greenville, New Bern, Fayetteville, and the Southern Pines / Pinehurst area are the locations with the most architects currently. Unfortunately, some towns and even counties have no AIA members at all. Goldsboro, Edenton and Elizabeth City are three examples important towns regionally with no AIA members at all.
We need to do a better job of attracting members and serving the members we have if we demonstrate relevance to registered architects.
One of the topics discussed at an AIANC meeting two weeks ago is what the membership wants from the AIA in returns for dues paid. The board in the Charlotte section has made a major point of asking what they are getting in return for their $327 in state dues and $149 in local dues. While our state and national dues are the same, our local dues are a third of the dues paid by members of the Charlotte chapter. So what is being given in return? The two things that I think can be offered in “member services” are connection of the firm website to the Eastern section website and most importantly: fellowship.
It is not clear that members would drive to Raleigh or Wilmington to meetings if the Eastern section did not exist. In fact, three weeks ago, members did not drive to Greenville in great numbers for the membership meeting even when it was combined with Continuing Education. We need to do a better job of attracting members and serving the members we have if we demonstrate relevance to registered architects.
What can be done in the next six months ?
1) We need to continue to ask what we are providing our membership if we expect to be around in the future
2) The board of directors of the Eastern Section is considering a fall conference in New Bern in order to boost our identity as architects who share a common profession as well as a common geographical area.
3) I think we also need to consider what value we are providing to the community. The service award idea for section design awards and the programs with USGBC or Habitat that board member Nick Wade has proposed are possibilities for this to occur.
4) We also need to connect ourselves electronically over the website as well as face to face in social events. Our executive director, Nicole Elsholz has linked firm websites to our Eastern Section website in order to make it clear who and where we are geographically and what value we provide our clients.
5) We are a section characterized by places and spaces. If these spaces are only measured in mileage between our communities that will be much better than disagreement about who we are as an organization and why we matter.
One of the members at the meeting two weeks ago said that he stayed a member of the AIA “just out of habit”. If we are going to just be a habit- let’s be a good habit or better still a group of architects with good habits in terms of our professional presence in their community.