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Open Letter to NCMA: Why I Didn’t Renew My Membership

If there is one organization you’re supposed to join in the contracts world, it’s the National Contract Management Association (NCMA).

And yet, I didn’t feel compelled to renew my membership for a measly $125. (I thought it was $75 and I still didn’t feel it was worth the cost).
To be fair, it’s the national organization I fault, not the local chapters. The local chapters I have attended are actually great organizations — a bit stuffy for my informal taste, but to each his own. Sometimes there are cliques, but they welcome you with open arms. Unfortunately, attending dinners every month is not what I look for.
But the national organization is another story. I always felt I was being sold something. Money is obviously vital for any organization, and NCMA clearly recognizes that. However, community is another thing I look for, and I felt no sense of belonging and no real outreach from national; I get the distinct feeling national saw me as a commodity, not a person. I refuse to belong to any organization like that.
GovLoop, on the other hand, I consider as a model of community. People answer your questions; they reach out to you and congratulate you on your successes. I can even interact with GovLoopers whenever I want thanks to the Internet.And GovLoop retains a community focus even though it is owned by GovDelivery, a private company. NCMA, which is a nonprofit, has less community than a private sector owned organization. It’s supposed to be the other way around; but it’s not!
I suspect differences in the feelings of community have to do with their business structures: GovLoop was originally organized as a social network, so it primarily online, supplemented by real world interactions like GovUps. NCMA was created in the pre-Internet Age. It’s use of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and GovLoop are commendable, but that doesn’t change my perception that it views me as a commodity, not a person.
Look on NCMA’s website; you’ll hardly see highlights of its members or even pictures. It doesn’t celebrate its members in the way GovLoop does. NCMA mostly has ads, tiny font sizes, and the latest book or overpriced webinar; (I won’t pay $50 for a 1-hour online course when DAU offers similar services for free, even to the general public).
GovLoop congratulates its members; its people feel like they are with friends; NCMA feels stodgy — this is not something I or too many people of my generation (Gen Y) look for. If you want us to stay, let alone join, offer us something better — we deserve it. Otherwise, you will find your revenue slipping as the aging demographics of the contract profession catches up with your membership.
My suggestions:
  1. Develop revenue-sharing partnerships with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and GovLoop; any if anyone buys a NCMA product through those sites, the social media sites gets a piece of the action.
  2. Celebrate and promote your members through social media sites. Link their blogs. Call them to thank them (and that’s all; don’t ask for money) — word will spread. Take the time recognize major life events.
  3. Do NOT try to turn NCMA into a social media site; NCMA knows contract management, but it doesn’t know how to run a social media site. Leverage relationships with social media sites and customize your presence on those sites.

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8 Comments

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Profile Photo Jaime Gracia

Sterling – Great feedback. One thing NCMA as an organization is trying to focus on is diversity and attracting younger contracting professionals like us. They certainly have work to do, but they need some help and direction. I’ll pass along your post. Thanks.

Profile Photo ROY D WALKER JR

I was just looking to determine my eligibility for testing for certification with this group. I had questions concerniing my eligibility and both my email tries were returned. No clear place to send such inquiries.
If anyone has one please post. Thanks Roy

Profile Photo Jessica Friedman

Hey Sterling,

We are sorry to lose you as a member, but I felt compelled to reply anyhow. Many of your ideas are good ones, and some are ideas we are in the process of developing further. NCMA is currently working on a community program to involve and connect members with similar interest to each other through online discussion and in person networking.

We have a flickr account set up (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ncmahq), and we’d love members to post and tag photos. We are always trying to use member photos in our materials and on our website when we can, so if you have some good ones, we’d love to see them.

Occasionally we do link to a member’s blog through twitter, and members can always post good content on our facebook fan page (http://www.facebook.com/ncmahq) or on our Linked-In group page. We encourage members to share quality information.

Members of different generations do in fact enjoy different aspects of belonging to an association, something we are carefully analyzing and planning for. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Jessica Friedman
Director of Marketing

PS Roy – try emailing [email protected]

Profile Photo Brandon Jubar

@ Jessica It’s unfortunate that a critique of NCMA appears to have been the catalyst for you joining GovLoop, but I hope you stick around and participate. There are plenty of NCMA members here… and probably plenty of potential members as well. Welcome!

Profile Photo Tricia

@ Sterling —

I can relate! I am a member of SHRM (that’s the Society for Human Resources Mgmt), but often wonder why? It has changed over the years, and more and more things you have to purchase to access (these things at one time were part of membership), and the bulk of the communications I receive via email are advertisements (which is frustrating because if you opt to unsubscribe, you are forced to unsubscribe in a big way — it’s set up to not only be unsubscribing to their ads, as well as some of that information/pending legislation you’ve joined for).

Profile Photo Sterling Whitehead

@Jessica. Thank you for responding. Frankly, I wasn’t expecting anything.

While I won’t be rejoining NCMA anytime soon, I’m glad to see NCMA embracing some of these ideas. I believe social media can either save or bury an organization. Engaging members like you did with me after I submitted this criticism was the proper move. It probably prevented further discontent in NCMA members on GovLoop. However, I hope it doesn’t end there. I hope NCMA sees this criticism as at least the beginning of a mandate to further push social media.

Profile Photo Susan Shirey

I actually find the NCMA website very helpful, e.g., past presentations, magazine articles, etc. My fear is that too much coverage of members (pictures, etc.) might interfere with what I want from the site – information.

I realize my opinion is probably not be universal, but thought I offer an alternate viewpoint.

Profile Photo Candace Riddle

Sterling:

I happen to love NCMA’s Contract Management Magazine. I think they do a wonderful job of highlighting different member’s voices in their monthly articles.

That aside, I do love that GovLoop celebrates and highlights their memeber’s blogs. It has truly been the most powerful, online networking community that I have ever been a part of.