21% of Intermountain Chapter Members Planning to Renew STC Membership

I’m wary of posting on this topic because I don’t want to launch into a long STC discussion. But according to our recent chapter poll, only 21% of our members are planning to renew their STC membership.

21 percent renewal rate

21 percent renewal rate

Forty six people participated in the poll (we have 77 chapter members). You can read their list of reasons for not renewing in the full survey report.

I’m wondering — if our chapter is a microcosm for the whole, at what point will the STC have to dissolve or restructure itself? And if it does, what will the restructuring look like?

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By Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer working for the 41st Parameter in San Jose, California. I'm interested in topics related to technical writing, such as visual communication, API documentation, information architecture, web publishing, JavaScript, front-end design, content strategy, Jekyll, and more. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

  • http://altmilan.blogspot.com Milan Davidovic

    That “undecided” portion is not small.

  • Joe

    Interesting quip, Milan.

    So let’s make an assumption that the “undecided” all renew. And let us also make an assumption that the sample group was truly represents the chapter as a whole… that the 31 chapter members who didn’t respond feel the exact same way as everyone else (I really doubt this, and I believe that their lack of response was likely a “No” response). The STC still ends up with a 46% cancellation rate from 2009 to 2010. This is our optimistic number. It is the best case scenario.

    A 46% cancellation rate (remember, this is our optimistic number) is SIGNIFICANTLY higher than the national organization estimated. Can STC survive with a 46% cancellation rate?

  • Tammy

    Note that this probably has as much to do with the state of the economy as to STC’s perceived value. Even if you think you get value out of STC, if you need to cut your budget (personal or professional), it isn’t an absolute necessity.

  • Amy

    Wow; that’s a very low renewal rate. I do think we will see renewal rates this low in the smaller chapters, as members realize their chapters will be too small and low on resources to offer any value to them.

    STC really blew it by raising rates in this economy. Members who worked hard to keep small chapters afloat are deserting in droves and they won’t be back.

  • http://www.cleverhamster.com Mary Connor

    One option is to do what ASTD does: Let people join chapter-only for a fraction of the cost, which keeps them involved with the organization and active at the local level (which is where practitioners derive most of their benefit).

    I don’t see too much financial conflict in this: folks who need conference discounts and peer-reviewed journals will stay national, but folks who wouldn’t renew at all otherwise could stay active members in their metros.

    • http://gryphonmountain.net Ben

      This has been discussed at length on the STC presidents’ listserv, as have other comparisons between STC and ASTD. According to this discussion, there are problems with going to this approach given STC’s particular non-profit org status (there are multiple statuses with the IRS for non-profit orgs). But I’m not saying that it couldn’t be done.

      Regarding what Joe said: 60% of the chapter responded to this point. I think that a likely scenario is that the undecided group would probably divide about the same as the other two groups, so we’d end up with about a third of the respondents renewing and two-thirds not. So one-third of 46 people is 15 people renewing. If the other 31 people fall along the same lines, we end up with only 25 members renewing.

      No matter the number of things that STC puts forward as benefits (the things we should be advertising to potential members to get them to join), the fact that two-thirds of a chapter finds $215 to $350 not worth the return is problematic to say the least, making it hard to justify it to potential members. If I have a hard time personally justifying it, how do I market it to someone else convincingly, even if I do renew?

  • Marj Hermansen-Eldard

    Mary, would that STC had considered this option. Instead, they are actually charging us more to belong to a local community…something I find beyond ridiculous.

  • Leslie

    The response to this survey doesn’t surprise me at all.

    Our department has six writers, five of whom had STC memberships last year. The company pays for the memberships but none of us are keen to renew this year because we can think of so many better ways to spend our training budget.

    Our Team Leader insists on having one STC member in the department so that we get the Intercom and emails announcing webinars. No one has volunteered yet, so it looks like we’ll have to draw straws.

    Hard to believe, but true.

  • Tricia

    As a recent graduate and a new technical writer, I was looking forward to joining STC, but it would have been a stretch on my budget before, and now with the dues increase it is out of the question. It is definitely a disappointment for me!

  • http://blog.paulpehrson.com Paul Pehrson

    One question that wasn’t asked in the survey is this: will you renew your membership IN THE CHAPTER?

    In 2010, members will have to renew at the national level, and will have to fork over additional funds to join a chapter (and in 2010, the chapter will receive NONE of those funds, which blows my mind: how can they charge you to join a chapter, but provide none of the funds to the chapter to conduct business or provide value for the membership?).

    So even if 2/3 renew (which I think is overly optomistic), how many of those will join the local chapter at an additional cost?

  • http://askbobkauten.com/blog Bob Kauten

    Thanks for publishing this, Tom. These survey results are exactly what STC HQ needs to see and understand.
    All of my benefit as an STC member comes from membership in the local chapter. There’s no reason whatever to belong to the national organization, but the nonprofit regulations prevent autonomy of the local chapters.
    At least two members of my chapter’s Admin Council will not be renewing. That includes me. I’m unemployed.
    The situation, in short:
    No real attempt to produce the a la carte dues structure.
    No pass-through of chapter fees to the chapters.
    No brainer.
    I’ll link to this article from my blog. Thanks again.
    Bob Kauten

  • Pingback: 2010 – renewing membership in STC and the SIG | STC AccessAbility SIG()

  • Craig

    I’m probably going to try the IEEE. It offers a Professional Communications Society in which I’m interested. If the IEEE doesn’t hold my attention, then I will probably return to the STC.

  • http://blog.paulpehrson.com Paul

    Now several months later, we see that our membership renewals were pretty close to the survey results. We currently have 23 members of the local chapter for 2010. I understand we had 80 last year. That puts our renewal rate somewhere between 25% and 30%. That means we lost between 70-75% of our members….in a single year.

    I’ll be interested to see if this happens on a national level, or if it is just the perils of being a small chapter that brought about such dramatic decline in our chapter membership.