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ASPA Surveys Members: Current and Former Members Offer Opinions

This article was published in the
March/April 2011 print edition of PA TIMES. Email Editor Christine
McCrehin at [email protected] for information on how to subscribe to
the paper.

Michael J. Scicchitano

As part of its strategic planning process, ASPA conducted a survey of current and former members. The survey was conducted in March 2010 and sponsored by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia. The survey was designed and implemented by the Florida Survey Research Center at the University of Florida.

Current and lapsed ASPA members were sent an email with a link to a web-based survey. A total of 651 current and lapsed members completed the survey. The survey asked the current and lapsed members a variety of questions regarding how they first learned about ASPA; their reasons for either staying a member or for not renewing their membership; their perceptions of the amount of dues they pay and the value of those dues; and their ratings of the benefits and services provided by ASPA.

The results are presented for four membership categories: practitioners, academics, students and individuals employed by nonprofit organizations.

Current Members
The survey asked respondents to indicate the single most important reason for their membership in ASPA. The single most important reason given by current practitioners (32.2 percent), nonprofit members (25 percent) and students (22.1 percent) was to “keep up to date in the profession.” Whereas, academic members (31.4 percent) and a smaller number of nonprofit members (21.9 percent) indicated that the single most important reason for their membership is to “receive ASPA publications.”

Interestingly, a significant number of students (15.5 percent) cited “prestige and professional visibility” as the single most important reason for their membership in ASPA. Students were more than twice as likely to give this response than any of the other three categories of members.

The survey also asked current members to assess whether ASPA is “moving in the right direction,” “staying constant,” or “falling behind.” Most of the respondents in each membership category (80 percent) believe that ASPA is either “moving in the right direction” or “staying constant.” Specifically, over half of students (60.2 percent) and practitioners (50.8 percent) believe that ASPA is “moving in the right direction.” Whereas fewer than half of academics (41.4 percent) and nonprofit member (36.8 percent) believe the same.

Similarly, when asked whether ASPA was the member’s “primary professional organization” over half of students (61.9 percent) and practitioners (54.2 percent) identify ASPA as their “primary professional organization;” but less than half of academic (47.6 percent) and nonprofit members (34.4 percent) make the same claim.

Additional current member findings:

  • A majority of current members (about 66 percent) indicate that ASPA dues are “about right.”
  • ASPA members (45.4 percent), with the exception of those in the nonprofit sector, rate the value of ASPA membership for the amount of dues paid as either “excellent” or “good.”
  • Members (46.9 percent), again with the exception of those in the nonprofit sector, rate the services that ASPA provides to its members as either “excellent” or “good.”
  • A substantial percentage of all members, however, would like ASPA to adopt a “menu” approach to paying dues where members can select the benefits they want.

Lapsed Members
The most frequently cited reasons that lapsed practitioner, academic and student members (about 60 percent) give for not renewing their membership in ASPA is the “cost vs. the benefit” of membership and that ASPA “does not provide good customer service.” Lapsed nonprofit members (29.4 percent) did not renew their membership because “ASPA does not provide the services” that they need.

When lapsed members were asked if they would consider re-joining ASPA in the future, a majority of all lapsed members: student (82.8 percent), academic (76.2 percent), practitioner (60.9 percent) and nonprofit members (55.6 percent) indicate that they would consider re-joining ASPA. The decision to rejoin, however, would be based on economic considerations, ie. if the cost of membership decreased, if their income increased or if their employer paid their dues.

One of the most interesting results of the survey is the key role that being a student has played both in joining ASPA, as well as not renewing membership. When current members were asked where they first became aware of ASPA, by far the most frequently cited way of learning about ASPA was from a “professor or instructor” in college.

Unfortunately, ASPA does not retain all of the members who join as students. Fewer than half of nonprofit (35.3 percent), pracitioner (18.6 percent) and academic (16.7 percent) members renew their student membership after graduation.

The survey results provide ASPA with a substantial amount of information as it completes its strategic planning process.

For more information about the ASPA member survey, contact Michael J. Scicchitano, director of the Florida Survey Research Center. Email: [email protected]

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