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Membership Growth Task Force Report

Following March 2010 Meeting
by Noah Funderburg

The Membership Growth Task Force presently is operating as four separate task forces. Each task force is meeting regularly by teleconference and via email. The following is a summary of the work by each task force. A final report will be presented to the Society Board at their meeting at International in Philadelphia. The purpose of the “final” report is to provide a strategic approach, meaning how we best can use money and people resources, to guide Society staff and provide members with a unifying approach to retaining present members and reaching out to recruit new members. I put “final” in quotes since it is quite likely that one or more of the task forces will continue to work on their respective areas to gather data and assist staff in developing programs and materials.

Delivery Methods Task Force
Task Force Members: Alan Lamson (chair), Greg Caetano, John Donehower, Ben Geesa, Steve Morris, and Paul Wietlisbach

The Task Force charge is to:
Develop effective, sustainable delivery methods to systematically and consistently provide support to all chapters that desire support.
a. Review the most effective ways to integrate staff, Society committees, district leadership teams, and chapters in this process.
i. Assess the value of existing programs, including their elements and characteristics that allow them to be effectively delivered and supported as well as any impediments to their success.
ii. Explore new programs, systems, and methods of delivering effective help to chapters.

The Task Force has:

  1. developed a list of “historical delivery methods” used by the BHS based upon personal knowledge, information received from other sources, and a review of past Harmonizers;
  2. started a review of those to determine what worked, what worked well, what did not work and why;
  3. explored some of the current delivery methods and discussed ways to improve those., (e.g. the Live Wire email document had a subscriber list of approximately 5,500 members. When it was noted during a teleconference that the service is an ‘opt-in’ service, it was suggested that as a minimum invitations should be emailed to members encouraging them to take advantage of it or, even more strongly, make it an ‘opt-out’ option. Invitations were sent by staff as a trial and the first hit increased subscribership by about 30% to more than 7,000 or nearly one-third of our membership.)
  4. developing a set of metrics by which the effectiveness of any delivery system can be evaluated;
  5. exploring and identifying new delivery methods that may be of significant benefit to our members and chapters including webinars, a digital video library, production of new material and transcription of good quality existing material to digital format, use of Harmony Marketplace to expand the material offered to assist chapters in membership issues including outsourcing of documents, and additional ways to increase the opportunities for face-to-face training and dialogue with members.
  6. exploring the use of more “train the trainers” programs to get more of our talented members involved and to determine what types of programs/information would best lend themselves to this type of delivery system.

External Focus mini-Task Force (EFTF) overview and status summary.
Task force members: Roger Lewis, Tom Metzger, Rick Spencer, Gary Parker (chair) 

The objective of the EFTF is to recommend to the Society Board a strategy and execution plan that will drive membership growth by enhancing our reputation with the public and especially male singers, and providing more products, services and support to all a cappella singers and music organizations throughout the world, including our own members. This would include being more inclusive within the Society for other types of a cappella music.

Here are some examples of ideas currently being prioritized:

  1. providing a marketing/recruiting plan to be used in conjunction with chapter shows including how to utilize headline quartets;
  2. offering an online chapter marketing collateral/tools center;
  3. building specific marketing/recruiting plans focused on demographically attractive or musically oriented organizations, and
  4. offering an expansive online music library of both barbershop and non-barbershop arrangements to both members and non-members.

New Chapters Task Force
Task Force Members: Drew Ellis, Ev Nau, Rick Spencer, and Alan Wile (chair)

The “New Chapters Task Force” was established to develop a strategic plan to create new chapters, focusing on (a) methods to identify potential new chapter sites, (b) requirements to ensure the success of new chapters, and (c) methods to provide continuing support to new chapters.

This Task Force strongly endorses the need for the Society to increase significantly its permanent presence in the field. Above all other potential actions, and based on past performance, we believe this offers the most promising, positive, and productive capability for identifying suitable sites for new chapters. Further, those hired/assigned for this purpose will be well positioned to mentor new chapters through the licensing and chartering processes and beyond, as well as to strengthen existing chapters in need of external assistance and advice.

Significantly (and simultaneously with the work of this task force), the Society is planning to embark on a new program that will address this need:

  • TAG (“Teams for Accelerated Growth”) teams of two trained and experienced barbershop operation specialists will serve as field agents to provide customized face-to-face training and coaching to chapters, to focus on chapter development, growth, administration, etc., and, at the same time, to work to establish new chapters and be visible spokesmen for barbershop harmony. Initially, and to prove the concept, one prototype team will be deployed for a three month period.

A list of actions is being developed that will ensure not only further and continued growth but will also ensure the strength and viability of new chapters which, we believe, will provide them with the promise of a long, enduring, and successful existence. Included is attention to a significant change to the chartering process and the concomitant expectations placed upon it. Once the chartering process itself is better defined and coordinated, the easier the installation process will be and we can move toward a more inviting and freer atmosphere among men who love to sing.

All Ages Task Force
Members (Montana) Jack Fitzpatrick, Casey Parsons, James Estes, and Shannon Elswick (chair).
Members of the All Ages Task have been meeting, primarily by teleconference, about every other week for the past several months. Here are a few of the more significant items the group is working on:

  • A team consisting of two communications specialists and a research fellow are working on a document to discuss and help guide chapters through the challenges of multigenerational communications.
  • Montana Jack persuaded Bob Fichtner to author “Social Media for Barbershop Quartets and Choruses” to help all of us tap into the power of these powerful media strategies (please see http://tinyurl.com/ylljdws) for a copy of this document).
  • The task force is also working on a proposal to establish a volunteer-driven chapter visitation and resource distribution program which would supplement other existing strategies such as “Music Mentor” and “Next Level.”

Members of the group have committed to deliver a preliminary draft of their recommendation(s) to the Membership Growth Task Force on or about June 1, 2010.