2010 Division membership workshop at the APA Convention

Division membership chairs and administrators shared ideas about recruitment and retention

At the recent APA Convention in San Diego, Calif., the Committee on Division/APA Relations (CODAPAR) and the Division Services Office (DSO) hosted a session designed specifically for division membership chairs and central office administrators who are directly involved in recruitment and retention activities. These activities are especially important because there has been a steady erosion of division memberships over the years. And, while discussions about division recruitment and retention have been held with presidents-elect at the annual Division Leadership Conference, this convention session was seen as an opportunity to share ideas among those who are most invested and experienced in the area of membership.

Prior to the session, the DSO distributed background materials to those division representatives who accepted the invitation to participate in the session. The materials included general trends on APA and division membership as well as information specific to each division (assessment history, historical counts, 2009 profiles, and a 2005-2009 comparison of their members’ demographic, education and employment characteristics).

CODAPAR members Dr. Deborah Ragin and Dr. Lawrence Zelnick opened the session by welcoming participants. DSO staff Sarah Jordan, Troy Booker and Keith Cooke participated in the session.

A lively and interesting discussion was held on topics ranging from the use of member surveys to obtain information about members’ needs and interests to the possibility of hosting a hospitality suite at the 2011 convention in Washington, D.C. Membership chairs exchanged information on successful recruitment efforts and innovative activities.

Common Denominators

  • Fading to Gray: Aging out of members.  High percentages of members are transitioning to Life Status and paying reduced or no dues. Life Status members may also be choosing to drop their division memberships altogether. This translates into loss of resources in expertise, manpower and dues revenue for divisions.

  • Hard Times Hit: Dues are too expensive. Some institutions are reducing the amount of financial support provided to faculty for membership in professional organizations. Members have to decide which memberships to keep and which to cut. Not to mention, members are still feeling the impact of a weak economy. 

  • Shopping Around: Joining specialized organizations. Members report that they try various divisions until they find the one that best suits them and are moving to organizations that address their specialized interests. 

  • To Be or Not to Be – a Member: APA may no longer have relevance. Some say that APA is losing its relevance to their professional career or is out of touch, therefore, members are dropping their APA membership altogether. Many note that APA dues are high.

Dr. Diane Finley, Division 2 – Society for the Teaching of Psychology; V.P. for Recruitment, Retention and Public Relations noted that when STP surveyed its membership, it received a 78% return rate with the “common denominators” mentioned above as the reasons for dropping their division membership.

Young Blood, New Blood; Get ‘em While They’re Hot

As senior members prepare to retire, it is evident that students and early career psychologists (ECPs) are key to the continued existence of the divisions.  However, divisions are finding it challenging to recruit and retain students and ECPs. Divisions should recognize that students and ECPs are two distinct groups and need to be treated as such! Recruitment and retention tools that work for students may not necessarily work for ECPs and vice versa. Tailor separate messages and strategies for each of these groups.

Return To Sender

A common problem many divisions face is getting student affiliates to transition into early career members. Because many students do not update their information, they are often times unreachable once they get their doctorate. APA Executive Director of Governance Affairs Dr. Nancy Moore said that the best way to stay in contact with students is through their mobile phones. “Students are more likely to keep the same mobile number even when they move”, she said.  Currently, APA does not track mobile numbers, but this is the direction she is pushing towards with the creation of the new APA membership database. Her goal is to replace the fax number field with one for cellular and mobile numbers. She also hopes to include graduation dates for student records in the new database.

  • Did you get my text? Utilize mobile and cellular numbers!  Simple text messages could make all the difference in a division keeping in contact with student members and pushing relevant information out to them. 

  • What’s your status? Ask about it!  Follow up with student members and ask, “Hey, are you still a student?”  This is pertinent information; it clarifies the composition of your division’s membership.

We Have Arrived

Committee on Early Career Psychologists member Oksana Yakushko spoke about the differences between students and ECPs. At this point in their careers, ECPs are young professionals and full APA members. ECPs have stepped out of their trainee mode and are looking for professional development opportunities. Dr. Deborah Ragin attended a successful convention session called “Speed Mentoring” that was designed to help ECPs obtain advice, for example, from tenured professors on how to get ahead in academia or from practitioners on setting up a clinical practice. The program was set up so that experienced psychologists mentor groups of 10-12 students and ECPs for short chat sessions (in 10-minute segments). This provided multiple opportunities for young professionals to speak to experienced psychologists.

  • Welcome them in. Get them involved. Invite early career psychologists to serve on committees, write articles for newsletters, even run for office.  ECPs are more likely to stay involved with a division if they feel engaged and have a role to fill. 

  • Separate but equal. They are different. Early career psychologists’ needs are different than students. Create a formal ECP structure where they can share ideas and get advice on career development. Designate committee positions specifically for ECP members. Involve them in a meaningful way that will help them develop their identification as a psychologist and as a division member. Remember, this is the division’s future leadership.

What’s In It For Me

Nowadays there is a lot of talk regarding membership value – “what’s in it for me?”  The days of belonging to an organization just for name recognition are waning. Students and ECPs are looking at the value an organizational provides -- is what they get worth the dues they pay? Newsletters, bulletins, and journal may not be enough of an incentive for them to stay with the division. Getting their work published, roles as junior editors, involvement in advocating for their chosen field, presenting at meetings, mentoring relationships, theses may help to capture the attention of potential members. Also of interest to young professionals is information on financial planning and webinars (behind the firewall of a division webpage).

In January 2010, the DSO conducted a survey of the divisions asking them to list all of their resources, activities, benefits, and events for students and ECPs. Responses were received from 37 of APA’s 54 divisions. A summary of those responses was compiled and put on the APA web page at the division, student and early career sites. The student list is on the graduate students page. The ECP list is on the early career psychologists page. Hopefully the listings will increase the awareness of the wonderful opportunities divisions have for young professionals. Take a look at the list to get ideas about things that your division might do to attract students and ECPs to your division.

If your division is not listed or you’d like to update or add to the information on your division, please contact Sarah Jordan. The goal is to have all of the divisions represented in these listings.

  • Help me help you: Mentoring programs. There are many successful division mentoring programs. This is a great way to keep senior members connected to the division while providing students and ECPs a connection to someone who can help them with professional advice. A few keys to making a mentoring program work: 1) set a time limit on the agreement, 2) add structure by having mentors and mentees commit to scheduling regular mentoring sessions; and 3) ask mentors and mentees to be specific about how much time they are willing to commit and their strengths and special interests. This makes matching a lot easier and when there are common interests the relationship should be more satisfying.

Tomorrow’s Forecast: Brainstorming

During the discussing on the value of membership, a participant remarked that science-oriented students do not see the benefit in belonging to APA or its divisions. In an effort to address these concerns, Dr. Nancy Moore talked about a new Science Directorate project targeted at getting more science-oriented members involved in APA. APA Convention 2011 – A Showcase for Scientific Research in Psychology Sub-Disciplines is a competition for new, engaging, interactive projects coming out of the divisions. Ten prize winners will receive funding to cover travel and project costs, complimentary registration at the convention and coverage in the APA Monitor on Psychology. A prize of $3000 will be awarded to the best project at the 2011 Convention in Washington, D.C. and the winner will be recognized at the Convention’s opening session. This should be a good opportunity to showcase cutting edge research. Dr. Moore is specifically asking divisions to help disseminate the information to their students and early career psychologists. Look for additional information on this project as it takes shape.

  • Batter up: Students/ECPs on deck. Students and early career psychologists are very eager and excited to attend APA Convention. This is their entry into the big league! Some divisions have special programming, panels, poster sessions and hospitality hours dedicated just for students and ECPs to showcase their work!  Use them as volunteers. Donate an hour of programming time to the Committee on Early Career Psychologist (CECP) or APAGS. Consider co-sponsoring events with APAGS or CECP. 

  • Let’s all chip in: Southern hospitality. The buzz of the afternoon came when it was suggested that a Division Hospitality Suite be set up for the 2011 Convention. The suite would allow for collaborate programming and social activities to be held that would pull convention attendees that are not currently division members. Special attention would be given to students and ECPs. CODAPAR will discuss this further at its September 22-24, 2010 meeting. Look for more information on this in the fall.

When Did “Friend” Become a Verb

You cannot have a discussion about what divisions can do to recruit and retain students and ECPs without taking about social networking!  Having a strong web and social networking presence is essential. Staying in touch means you need to ‘write it on a wall’, send a tweet or shoot them a text. Students and ECPs want instant access to your up-to-date, cutting edge information – now!  Many social networking platforms interface with mobile phones, iPhones, Blackberries and PDAs so you can be in touch and connected with your members at any time. APAGS has a Facebook page with over 2,000 members!

Nancy Moore announced that APA is developing a social networking platform that will be offered to all divisions. The site will have features similar to Ning with different levels of services, privileges, posting rights and member privileges. Look for more information at the 2011 Division Leadership Conference in January!

Follow The Yellow Brick Road

Sarah Jordan described the new marketing campaign that DSO will launch in 2011. This semi-annual campaign will target APA members who do not belong to a division and encourage those members to join a division. Still in the early stages of development, the campaign will go out via email with direct links to the divisions’ membership applications so potential members will link directly to each division’s information!

Attendees talked about strategies that have actually worked. And, while you won’t get to see the Wizard of Oz or land in Kansas, the tips below may help your division gain or retain some members.

  • Send welcome letter (and possibly even call) your new members. 

  • Give free one-year membership to new members. 

  • Create Student and ECP committees. 

  • Regularly check for accuracy of your ECP/Student members and contacts. 

  • Create a mentoring program.  

  • Create special programs, panels or poster sessions for students and ECPs. 

  • Develop a social networking site. 

  • Host a virtual Happy Hour -- an hour long session where people call in (with their glass of wine or beverage of choice). One speaker talks for a set time and then others chime in. Division 42 says it’s relaxed, interesting and a fun way to promote collegiality among members! 

  • Set up research teams, interest groups, conferences – keep new members active once they join.  

  • Solicit help on the listserv. 

  • Add links on your website on how to become active and involved.

There’s no place like a division!  There’s no place like division!  There’s no place like a division!

It’s an APA member’s home!