President’s Message – April 2016
In my first letter to the membership as President, I’d like to thank you all for attending our AGM and making Whistler an exceptionally strong and profitable event for the association. Maximizing member, non-member and supplier participation in the conference is a key component to the WCTA’s day-to-day operating formula and we appreciate the great support!
At this stage, I feel that further clarifying our operating model will be helpful. Providing a greater understanding of how our association (and others) works is appropriate given the current industry temperature and the choices turf managers have in terms of representation and provision of services.
What is the Function of an Association?
The most successful organizations operate on the basis of a simple mission statement; providing a guide for its members, employees and staff to remind themselves of its purpose. This driving force decides the direction of the association and the services it will provide its members.
The WCTA’s mission of ‘Research, Education and Networking’ was developed in 1958, formalized in 1973 and more recently, members added ‘Advocacy’ to our mandate.
The Progression of Governance and Operations
Small, local groups rely on volunteer directors and members. If the association provides sufficient value to its membership, it takes on new shape, attracts new members and grows. If it grows to its volunteer capacity, staff are required to manage the business/growth and deliver member services while the Board provides direction and creates policy. To cover administrative costs, a dues structure is implemented and other revenue centres are developed. Tracking activity through routine evaluation and the redirection of resources to provide value added services are continuous and through growth, an organization is able to do ‘more-with-more’. Hundreds of thousands of not-for-profit and charitable organizations work this way.
The WCTA, with 700+ members, can be considered a medium sized, multi-regional organization. Within our working Board, each director has defined roles and responsibilities, positioned to make decisions in the best interests of our membership. Since the AGM, we have delegated our nine directors to their respective portfolios and have begun creating the action items that will shape our 2016/2017 year. Those portfolio responsibilities include: Advocacy and Partnership, Governance, Professional Development and Education, Research, Strategic Planning along with several sub-committees. The process of planning, producing and executing initiatives in each of these foundational areas results in the programs, functions, services, events and resources at our member’s disposal.
The Progression on Services
Organizations may add/remove services as needs change and relative to their operational capabilities. Our Executive Director and administrative staff provide the horsepower to meet the demands of member services delivery and running the association’s business. Like other groups, the WCTA has evolved and currently provides a variety of programs and services to our members such as:
● host an annual educational conference and trade show
● publish a quarterly magazine
● circulate industry job postings
● track pesticide recertification credits
● print and distribute an annual member and supplier directory
● publish resource material like our comprehensive IPM Manual
● help provide and/or coordinate regional education, outreach and networking events
● provide an industry voice in governance and advocacy in western Canada
Association Growth and Diversification
Focussing on only one market puts any association or business at risk of reaching its capacity. Diversification is the most effective way to overcome stagnant growth; reaching capacity within one market, we expand to those who share similar values and/or complement what we’re already good at.
Golf courses are often great examples of focussed diversification. The pro shop, who used to only sell golf balls and tees, with more members can now afford to stock shirts, hats, shoes, and golf clubs. Food and beverage operations become greater revenue streams by adding weddings, banquets and corporate events to their capabilities. Clubs can create non-golf offerings like tennis and fitness centres to curling or cross-country skiing in the off-season. Provided these revenue streams are profitable, the club can increase additional services and amenities again, building a locker room, a learning centre, a kid’s area, etc, and the story continues.
As a professional industry organization, what makes the WCTA unique is our diverse, supportive membership, representing many interests within the industry; golf management, sportsfields, sod farms, landscapers, horticulturalists, mechanics, educators, suppliers and others, and the subsequent scope of this mission statement. Working together with all turf management sectors not only makes us stronger as a group, it allows us to share ideas, learn from one another, move forward together and have a much better chance of financial viability. With combined sectors, we have been able to match our annual attrition rate of about 10% with new membership growth, resulting in stable and consistent service delivery to our membership, and the story continues.
Advocacy, Partnerships and Development
The WCTA doesn’t work alone. We liaise with dozens of organizations, government agencies, education and research institutions and the industry at large. It’s important to be in the room and at the table in regulatory matters, for the sake of everyone in all sectors. Water, pesticide restrictions, IPM and federal law affects everyone in the industry - but is very hard to determine which we can take on. Now more than ever with environmental restrictions at the forefront, all our industry associations need to work together to address these challenges as an organized and unified group, a collective strength and powerful voice. While each challenge we undertake risks exceeding our money and resources, the moral dilemma - if we don’t face this, who will? Who will suffer if no one does anything? To address the increasing risk, we need to make the most of our combined resources from all sectors, needing to communicate and create a strategy to share the weight. Looking at a dues structure which can allocate these efforts proportionately is the key.
Bottom Line, What do I get for my Membership?
It’s up to the elected board to ensure members are adequately represented and continue to receive the best value for their dues. For WCTA members, revenue from member dues and conference have afforded significant investments in lobbying government, connecting with ministers of the environment to circumvent pesticide bans, proactively address IPM and present a solution to public and provincial pressures which may limit use of the tools of our trade.
As an organization, the WCTA has put considerable effort into driving turf industry advocacy at every level and are viewed as the leading voice in western Canada. By liaising with various government branches, our association partners, media and special interest groups, we can successfully navigate and leverage the entire sportsturf profession to achieve our mission.
With your support, we will continue on our journey. Your support illustrates you believe in what we do for our industry.