The Results Are In: Reflecting Back the 2006 Member Survey
What’s important to you? This is the question NAMAC sought to answer in our latest membership survey. The results are in. Capacity building and organizational sustainability are the number one topics NAMAC members want to see us address in our programs. Members desire even more original writing, research, and information-sharing and want to see NAMAC create an even larger collective voice for the field. A great majority of survey participants also reported general satisfaction with NAMAC’s service to the field. Based on these exciting conclusions, we’re happy to say that our commitment to giving voice to the media arts community and creating dynamic programs with real-world value is consistent with the needs of our members.
In October 2006, NAMAC distributed an invitation to participate in the survey to 543 NAMAC members through the members-only announcements listserv, which reaches both individual and organizational members. Multiple participants from organizations, ranging from executive directors to managers to support staff, were encouraged to take the survey. Amanda Ault, NAMAC’s program and member services manager, and I designed and conducted the anonymous survey using Surveymonkey.com. It consisted of nine demographic questions, four closed-end Likert-scale questions (“on a scale of 1 to 5, please rate…”), and two open-ended questions. It’s essential to note that the survey was not scientifically designed, nor did a statistician or professional evaluator provide the analysis. Instead, the process of conducting and reporting the survey should be seen as a dialogue between the membership and NAMAC’s national staff.
NAMAC received a 14% response rate to the survey. Respondents were 63% female and 37% male. Most of the respondents’ ages fell between 30-59, with the highest concentration between the ages of 30-39 (33%) followed by 40-49 years old at 29% [see Figure 1]. The vast majority of respondents are organizational members (85%) versus individual members, and 61% of them hold executive positions within their organizations. Another 20% identified as managers, 6% as support staff, and 14% as other. The majority of positions described as “other” tended to be artistic and/or production-related.
Respondents were mostly based in the Western (35%) and Mid-Atlantic (21%) regions. These regions constitute NAMAC’s largest concentration of members. Surprisingly, only 9% of respondents were from the Mid-West, which represents NAMAC’s third largest concentration of members [see Figure 2]. This discrepancy suggests that NAMAC should facilitate more engagement within this region. We’re happy to report that NAMAC will be holding a regional meeting in Chicago in 2007.
Approximately 51% of respondents have been personally involved with NAMAC for five years or more, with 28% between five and ten years, and 23% for ten years or more. Judging from these percentages, respondents’ breadth of knowledge and experience with NAMAC programs and services is high. When asked, “How long (approximately) has your organization been a NAMAC member?” 9% stated they didn’t know, 30% reported “Over 10 years,” while 17% reported between 5 and 10 years. 44% of respondents reported their organization has been involved with NAMAC fewer than five years [see Figure 3]. This suggests that when individuals with a lengthy relationship with NAMAC change organizational affiliations, they expose their new organizations to the benefits of NAMAC membership.
Another important demographic to be considered is the size of respondents’ organizational budgets. I should note here that multiple respondents working within the same member organization would likely report the same budget information; thus organizational budget-information shouldn’t be read as the general demographics of the NAMAC membership, but as the context within which individual respondents are working. 48% of respondents are working in organizations whose budgets range from $50,000 to $499,000 per year, with the second highest concentration working in organizations $1,000,000 and above per year (28%). The budget breakdowns represented in the survey and in Figure 4 correspond with budget categories assigned to NAMAC membership levels and dues structures.
Satisfaction and Value
First we wanted to know how satisfied members were with the value NAMAC provides. This would be essential for contextualizing responses to subsequent survey questions. We were pleased to find that 80% of respondents answered positively as either “satisfied” or “very satisfied.” 13% were neutral, while 7% chose either “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” [see Figure 5].
But it wasn’t enough to know that the vast majority of respondents were satisfied. We wanted to know which of the aspects of engaging with NAMAC were most valued by members. “Networking opportunities provided” and “conferences or meetings you’ve attended” ranked highest, showing us how great the impact can be when members have the opportunity to directly connect with each other. NAMAC programs that correlate to these aspects would include the conference, regional meetings, leadership institutes, and salons. Most questions ranked highest as either “most important” or “very important,” suggesting that the concerns and needs of NAMAC’s membership are not limited to any single topic, but span the range of all that we provide. Of the aspects rated highest as “very important,” the top scorer was “the news, trends, and research provided.” NAMAC serves these aspects through our website (namac.org), newsletter, eBulletin, Closer Look publication series, youth media archive, Mapping the Field, and the Future of Independent Media study, among others. “Being recognized as a member” was the only item that ranked neutrally.
Now that we knew what members found most important, we wanted to know whether they wished NAMAC offered more or less of the activities that represented these aspects. None of the activities presented to respondents were dominantly ranked in the negative categories of “less” or “not at all,” which helps us understand that NAMAC’s efforts are not out of balance with the needs of the membership. There were two activities that respondents wanted more of: “sharing of information, research, and original writing” and “creating a larger voice for the field.” “Networking activities” was evenly split between “more” and “about the same.” Taking into consideration the previous question that ranked as very important “the news, trends, and research provided” and “the way NAMAC provides a larger voice for the field,” NAMAC will need to take a careful look, during our internal planning processes, at the offerings we provide, with an eye toward refining them to meet the needs expressed by members. All other categories of activities were rated most highly in “about the same.” It’s worth noting that respondents felt the frequency of the conference, which rated the most important aspect of NAMAC membership, should remain the same [see Figure 7].
The final closed-end question was related to the topics that NAMAC programs ought to address [see Figure 8]. Again we saw a trend that all topics were ranked most highly as either “most important” or “very important.” The three topics ranked as “most important” included “capacity building/sustainability,” “cultural trends that impact the field,” and “how to better serve artists and audiences,” with “capacity building/sustainability” rating significantly higher than the others. NAMAC has devoted many of our content resources to the topics of capacity building/sustainability in recent years. Recent examples include the three-part telesalon series “Cultivating Resilience: Strategies for Supporting, Sustaining and Transitioning Organizational Leadership,” the article “Social Enterprise: De Rigueur for Nonprofits? Or Just Another New Idea?” by Ann Suter (MAIN, summer, 2006), and the collection of resources developed for our online Strategic Planning Toolkit. These content resources add to our formal programs addressing organizational effectiveness, such as capacity building support, peer coaching circles, the professional development fund, and leadership retreats. In recent years, NAMAC has offered fewer programs that address “how to better serve artists and audiences,” but judging from the high level of importance assigned to the topic by the membership, you will see more in the coming year. In planning future offerings, we will generate more newsletter articles, salons, and other programs that directly address these issues.
The first open-ended question asked was “How can NAMAC improve its relevancy to you, your organization and the field?” Many respondents expressed an appreciation for NAMAC’s research and scanning of the field, particularly when this work can be used for field-wide planning and to emphasize how research and analysis foster more effective advocacy. One respondent stated, “I would continue to look for valuable data or analysis that can help the field plan/strategize for the future.” Another commented, “We need a databank with hard facts and evidence for funders and policymakers. You’ve started this and so please expand and keep it up! White papers on the data that can be used to inform policy might also be nice some day.”
Another strong trend was a wish for more regional networking and gathering opportunities and a desire to broaden participation in the national conference. For example, one person stated, “I like the info[rmation] I get online whether it’s via the salons, email or on the website, but I appreciate opportunities to meet people face-to-face. [You could offer more] opportunities that don’t require the cost and time commitment of a conference but warrant committing 2-4 hours [that includes] professional development, seminar or workshop, guest speaker, etc.” Recognizing the field-building ability of the national conference, one respondent advised that “[conferences] should also be used as outreach to bring new people into the organization.” Another comment supported this idea: “I would hope you would continue to bring critical mass to the national conference, perhaps cosponsoring with others (including emerging independent producer member orgs post AIVF, etc.).”
The second open-ended question was simply an invitation to provide additional comments. The overall trend was appreciative of NAMAC and the breadth and diversity of our programs and services. For instance, one person shared that “the great thing about NAMAC is that I always feel like I’m having a personal experience. I’m not ‘just a member.’ The professional development opportunities are phenomenal. I encourage arts organizations to join NAMAC because in my experience, NAMAC is the best service provider to any arts field!” Another commented, “I have benefited greatly from the leadership trainings and leadership coaching services. Anything NAMAC can do to connect me to the community and the field, I much appreciate.”
Respondents also questioned NAMAC and freely gave constructive criticism. One member advised us “not to forget that many arts organizations are small, fragile and not necessarily run on a corporate model. While professionalism is a good goal, not all orgs strive to be the biggest fish in their pond.” Even more cautionary, another stated: “The organizations I know of are slowly closing their doors. The movement is shifting. How can NAMAC help us understand that and help create a vision for the field? How [could] NAMAC and members have played a role in the sustainability of organizations such as AIVF, which shouldn’t have sunk?” These are valid and potent concerns, ones shared at the board, staff, and membership level. We continually strive to address these concerns—and our commitment to strengthening media arts organizations—through our focused leadership services and capacity building programs. In this way, we’re trying to take proactive steps that help organizations maintain healthy development in order to prevent early demise.
NAMAC builds its activities around the core values of vision, engagement, leadership, and sustainability. These values have been threaded throughout the results of this survey. Clearly, the conference and other networking opportunities provide the most fulfilling kinds of engagement for our members. Members also desire more visionary activities like the sharing of original writing, research, information, and trend analysis; and they wish to see NAMAC further leverage that vision in a broader public context. Capacity building, sustainability, cultural trend analysis, and serving artists and audiences are the most important issues NAMAC programs can address (and certainly not the only ones). The results tell us we’re on track and aligned. They have also brought to light some areas worth developing. The main message we’re taking away from this dialogue is, “Keep doing what you’re doing, and take it even further.”
NAMAC would like to thank all the members who completed the 2006 Member Survey. Without your honest feedback, input, appreciation, and constructive criticism, we would just be shooting in the dark.
DANIEL “DEWEY” SCHOTT is NAMAC’s senior manager of leadership services.