Dennis Meissner 2015-10-13 10:26:26
Where We Are and What Lies Ahead Greetings to all of you, colleagues and friends. I am barely back from a wonderful SAA Annual Meeting in Cleveland and am already facing a deadline for my first column. Where to begin? Let me start by re-emphasizing some of the important work that SAA is doing: • With the “Year of Living Dangerously for Archives,” Kathleen Roe initiated an effort to help SAA and its members become more effective advocates for archives and the archival profession. Those were the beginning steps down a long road, and we must not back off from that work, in any way, until we are much further along. To keep us moving along that road, I will work to start capturing data that can help explain, in more numerical terms, the value of archives to our users and to the communities in which we operate. The work of two relatively new committees— the Committee on Advocacy and Public Policy and the Committee on Public Awareness—will move our advocacy efforts forward in other ways. • We have committed ourselves to diversifying the SAA membership and the archival record. We would like our efforts as archivists and as SAA members to become more inclusive of the rich diversity of American society, past and present. To begin making concrete progress toward realizing that aspiration, the Council will be working with a variety of SAA groups to start rolling out resources and training aimed at increasing our cultural competence. • We will be making further investments in the resources that enhance SAA members’ professional growth. The Committee on Education has developed a focused curriculum on arrangement and description that will lead to a certificate along the lines of the very successful DAS curriculum. Two years from now the Publications Board will begin rolling out a seven-title recasting of the Archival Fundamentals Series that will benefit members and nonmembers alike. • Finally, SAA will increase the sophistication and agility of its member services by investing in a new association management software system that will provide a smoother and richer experience for all SAA members. These efforts, of course, come at a practical cost. To ensure that they are sustainable, and that SAA’s financial solvency is protected for the years ahead of us, the Council has approved a proposal for a modest dues increase across all income categories. If adopted by the membership, this increase would be implemented in stages over a three-year period to ease the impact on individual members. SAA’s financial house is currently in good order, so why would we increase dues now? There are several good reasons to do so, all of them reflecting sound organizational planning: • The association management literature suggests that organizational financial strength is best preserved when 35 percent of revenues come from member dues. We currently sit a few percentage points below that, so it behooves us to make an upward adjustment before that important leg of the revenue stool weakens. • Related to the point above, we sometimes rely too heavily on our annual meetings to fund our operations. The 2014 conference in Washington, DC, was a huge financial success; Cleveland, Atlanta (2016), and Portland (2017) will be much less so. It’s good to experiment with meeting locations, but we need to plan ahead for the inevitable financial impacts. • The current initiatives that will lead to success and member satisfaction are straining a staff and volunteer infrastructure that is stretched increasingly thin. As our organizational footprint and reputation grows, our capacity to deliver is challenged in key areas: publications and continuing education, engagement with issues of diversity and inclusion, strengthening advocacy and public awareness, launching the SAA Foundation, maturing the online member experience, and supporting burgeoning standards and best practices. We will need more revenue to keep this work sustainable for the foreseeable future. Regular, incremental dues increases are the most sensible and sustainable method for ensuring that we will always have the resources to achieve our strategic goals and to provide exceptional member services. So, for these reasons, I hope that you will support the dues increase proposal that will go before the membership in an online referendum in November.
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