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The benefit to you.

Membership growth and retention. That's the biggie for the executive director of any association.

Recently, I listened to another executive director explore this very topic. This particular individual has enjoyed a very successful run at increasing the membership of her association. In sharing her experiences, she reflected that her association has made a commitment to stress in every speech and in every mailed promotion piece the fact that it is an umbrella organization with a diverse membership. The unwavering message is that here (i.e., within that association) a member can find and interact with a wide range of different professionals. In the process, members learn new perspectives, establish new professional friendships, and gain the insight needed to solve problems they may be confronting.

In short, this director and her staff understand the uniqueness of their association and make it their mission to ensure that everyone else does as well.

While I was absorbing the lessons to be learned from this other executive director, I thought about the similarities between her association and ours. As I have labored to point out in this column and in many of the presentations I've made over the years, NEHA is a generalist professional society Our unique value derives from the rich diversity of our broad-based membership. Yet, because our membership numbers have remained stable, I have pondered the idea that perhaps the message needs to be sharpened. Perhaps our statement of the message has not been specific enough.

Soooo ... let me be specific and offer a couple of concrete examples of how you can benefit from the unique nature of our association. These examples stem from the principle that as a member, you have direct access to thousands of people who practice in this incredibly varied field. This opportunity simply is unavailable anywhere else.

You should know that we sometimes hear from members who are struggling with new problems or who are seeking to understand how others have dealt with issues they are confronting. In some cases, we direct members through our information clearinghouse and try to put them in touch with someone who can be of assistance. In other cases, we encourage the member to write a brief letter to the editor of this journal. By printing the letter, we essentially broadcast the question or concern to our entire membership as well as to our extended readership (estimated at around 20,000 professionals). Members, by using their journal in this way, essentially filter their questions through all of these readers, nudging some of them to reply A wonderful collection of comments and advice comes back from a wide array of responsive professionals. This easy exercise often serves to bring out the best from our membership, and the information gathered can be worth gold.

A second example of what access to our membership means to you is that we encourage members to volunteer their opinions so that our entire membership benefits. We get excited when we receive thoughtful letters to the editor in response to something we've published. We almost always publish such letters and often go the extra mile to get a response from the author of the article. In this way we provide you, the member, with additional thoughts and perspectives on the issues addressed in our columns and feature articles.

By publishing the original article, the letter, and the author's response, we hope that we've covered the issue as thoroughly as possible. We trust that in reading these exchanges, you come to see issues from new and more considered positions. Perhaps we have even anticipated questions that arose in your mind when you read the article.

In our July/August issue, we published two full pages of letters to the editor. In this issue of the Journal, we feature two more letters to the editor and a guest editorial that originally was sent to us as a letter to the editor.

The benefit to you?

If you have a problem and would like the advice and help of your colleagues from all around the country - even all around the world - send your question or concern to us, and we will print it. The response you receive can be an enormous membership benefit.

If you read a question that someone else has raised in this manner and you have an interest in the issue, you can contact that person to ask if he or she will share any responses received.

If you read an article and find that you don't understand something or feel the urge to debate a point or two, you're welcome to contact the author directly. Or you can write a letter to the editor. We will publish your letter and solicit a response from the author.

By participating in any of these ways, you are accessing the rich diversity of NEHA's membership and acquiring deeper understandings of important issues - that is the benefit to you.

Send us your letters and we will happily take it from there!
COPYRIGHT 1998 National Environmental Health Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:advantages of being a member of the National Environmental Health Association
Author:Fabian, Nelson
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Article Type:Column
Date:Sep 1, 1998
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