I have never posted a “Tyler’s Take” on any other day than Thursday but I felt that this was a special exception given the recent ALOA convention. At the Membership Meeting the subject of the average age of ALOA members was broached. It’s no secret that ALOA membership is skewed heavily in favor of, and I say this with all due respect, the older crowd. A few ideas were presented by other members. Rather than speak, I decided to chew on and digest what I heard before crafting/suggesting my own solution. Well, I think I have it.
As a percentage of the U.S. population, the “Baby Boomer” generation is the largest demographic in American history. Millenials (my generation) are the second largest. Generation Z is the third largest. Generation Z’s oldest members, depending on who is defining the birth years, range anywhere from the mid-to-late teens to early twenties; they’re either about to enter the work force or just started out in it. Suffice to say, if ALOA has missed the boat for a large majority of Millenial members, there’s another big boat, though not as quite as big, just behind us. It’s very important that we don’t mess this one up.
If you ask a locksmith who isn’t a member of ALOA why they aren’t a member of ALOA you’re likely to hear two responses:
- It costs too much and I don’t see the value.
- I don’t think they do a good job/I don’t agree with what they do.
Addressing point 1, that’s very much a Catch-22 situation. How can you demonstrate value while at the same time asking for money to prove it? That would be like Netflix or Sling TV asking you to pay before you experience their content. But neither Netflix nor SlingTv require money up front; in fact, they offer trial memberships. Trial memberships are in place to address point 1 across just about every industry out that utilizes memberships. Keep that thought in mind.
Addressing point 2, well, again, it’s very much a Catch-22. Much like democracy in America, if someone doesn’t agree with a politician or a party, they’re told “Well, if you don’t like it, vote differently.” or “Find and get behind another candidate.” At the end of the day, it doesn’t cost a dollar to vote. But to ask for dues for the right to impart change or affect the outcome of the future of an association? That’s a tall order and has largely fallen on deaf ears.
With both of these points in mind, along with the coming demographic shift, I think there is one solution available to solve ALOA’s age dilemma.
The solution is very simple.
- Have ALOA calculate the total costs to the association for new members. In other words, how much does the background check cost the association, what are the administration costs for the association to process new memberships, and what is the total cost of the material and postage for the new membership packet.
- Set the membership dues of all first year members AND all annual membership dues for persons under the age of 30 to the aforementioned cost.
- Create an ambassador committee to spearhead the implementation and promotion of this program.
Sounds simple enough right? That’s because it is, but allow me to expand a bit more on each point:
Have ALOA calculate total costs to the association for new members. In other words, how much does the background check cost the association, what are the administration costs for the association to process new memberships, and what is the total cost of the material and postage for the new membership packet.
The premise behind this is to protect ALOA from losing money on the idea. By setting membership dues to a price point where the ALOA breaks even, they’d essentially be giving out a trial membership.
Set the membership dues of all first year members AND all annual membership dues for persons under the age of 30 to the aforementioned cost.
Here’s how ALOA can entice new members, both old and young.
First, first year memberships, no matter the age of the applicant, would essentially put ALOA and the new members on a “prove it” deal. It would be up to ALOA to demonstrate first hand value to the new member and up to the new member to take advantage of the benefits of an ALOA membership. If at the end of the first year the new member saw no value or it didn’t translate into a value for them then I’m not sure what else could be done differently within that year. But if they did? If they saw value that they might have otherwise never experienced because of current membership costs? That’d be a win for both parties.
Second, every member under the age of 30 should pay this cost annually until they reach 31 years of age. I’ve been a locksmith since I was 19 – those first few years are tight on a budget. $270 annually is a tall order for a younger guy/girl if the employer doesn’t cover costs. By keeping this price point the same through their 20’s, ALOA is essentially saving their place in the Association while still allowing them to reap it’s benefits, for when their income and budget allows for full dues. Think of this as very much “paying it forward”.
Finally, membership classes would remain the same and still apply using existing bylaws. These new membership dues would entitle all new members to “Go Green” membership benefits.
Create an ambassador committee to spearhead the implementation and promotion of this program.
It’s easy enough to set aforementioned policy but that doesn’t mean it will work. In order to work, locksmiths must hear about it and understand it along with all ALOA membership benefits. That means discussing it on Facebook groups and locksmith forums, at the local distributor’s counter, at local associations and chapters, etc. The purpose of the ambassador committee would be to find these avenues and remain active on them to recruit and communicate with prospective members.
This would very much be a a selfless and thankless job but I can think of many ALOA members, myself included, that would be up to the task.
A large, vibrant, and active association benefits everyone. This solution won’t fix ALOA’s age dilemma overnight but, going forward, I have no doubt it will. If ALOA breaks even on every single new member that joins under this program and the new members do absolutely nothing during their “trial membership” tenure, ALOA will lose nothing. But that won’t happen. Some of these new members will attend the convention, some of these new members will attend classes, some of these new members will take PRP tests, some of these new members will buy educational materials at the ALOA store. Most importantly, the ranks of the association will swell. Can you imagine the impact of 500 or 1,000 new members on advertising prices in Keynotes? That’s a potential increase (a conservative one in my opinion) of 10-20% of the current circulation number. Or how about the financial impacts of an extra 200 or 300 members at a convention?
It’s up to us to craft and implement new measures to get us to that point; right or wrong, the existing measures either aren’t working or aren’t translating. The popular saying reminds us that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” We got here collectively and the laying out the situation isn’t a knock on anyone involved. We have to own up to how we got here and either allow it to keep happening OR be proactive in finding it’s solution and carrying it through.