Membership numbers are an interesting barometer of an association’s health. The general ups-and-downs of AAPG membership are clearly tied to the price of oil and gas.
The primary factor, of course, is the number of available jobs.
A secondary and perhaps more important driver for membership is most effectively stated as “program attractiveness.” This is something that almost every association tries to define and develop for membership.
For AAPG, “science” is the key for “program attractiveness.” That is why a good technical program drives attendees to a conference. You can walk in to your boss and say, “I need to go to this meeting, because it has an attractive program that will help me do my job better.”
Other factors defining program attractiveness include networking opportunities and continuing education.
For the past five years AAPG membership has been steadily increasing. This is largely due to the number of new young people coming into our profession, but also due to growth of the non-U.S. membership. For the first time since the “boom” in the early 1980s AAPG’s membership topped 38,000 total members, but then something happened – we had a hiccup.
Before I explain the “hiccup,” please let me explain how AAPG’s membership cycle works.
On July 1 of each year we drop all members who have not paid their dues the previous year. As a result the highest membership in any one year is on June 30, and the lowest is on July 1 (see chart).
Each year we send the dues statement in March, followed by several reminders. We also hire a service to contact all of the unpaid members once or twice a year.
This process has been very successful.
For example, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009, we had 35,530 members – but we dropped 2,301 of that number, so on July 1, 2009, we had a total membership of 33,229.
On June 30 of this year we had 38,044 members, but we had to drop 6,167. As a result, on July 1 we were down to 31,877 total members.
This is an unusually high number of drops.
For the past 10 years, the leaderships’ greatest concern was the decline in Active members within AAPG. Of course, this decline is primarily due to the aging of our membership. As a result we have activated various methods to attract more Active members. These methods include:
As a result the decline is now around 1 percent, down from a decline at the beginning of the decade of nearly 5 percent. So Active membership is not a key part of last year’s variance.
Based on our analysis, the dropped members contain a high number of students leaving university and a high number of new associates (young professionals).
This variance is tied to our significant increase in students over the past five years – from an average around 4,000 to more than 7,000 total students last year. Currently we have 211 student chapters – 92 U.S. and 119 non-U.S.
As a result of this “hiccup” we are surveying students and young professionals to determine their employment status and plans for professional development. Economic conditions and lower natural gas prices have led to fewer jobs and more stress on staying employed. This always places negative pressure on professional development and activity in professional societies.
Another reason for the “hiccup” is many of the students like AAPG programs, stay with us for a while after graduation but then move on to other professions.
Nevertheless, we are not giving up. We are using all our resources to contact dropped members. As a result, many of them of renewing their membership. Often a simple factor like a change of address is the reason for a lapse in membership.
You can help. Look around you and just ask. Most members join because someone took the time to ask if they would like to be part of AAPG. With online applications, we have made it extremely easy to apply.
The good news is membership is still high and AAPG is still a very attractive program.
Richard D. "Rick" Fritz, an AAPG member since 1984 and a member of the Division of Environmental Geosciences and the Division of Professional Affairs, has been AAPG Executive Director since 1999.