Andy Warren (blog | twitter) recently blogged about wanting input on What Should PASS Be? and I think it's a reasonable question to ask. What he is basically saying is, "Okay, member of PASS (or potential member), what do you want PASS to be in the future? After all, you're a member and I want to hear from you."
And I think Andy hit the nail on the head: PASS should be about meeting and catering to the needs and wants of its members, just as any professional organization should. Now there comes some governance with that, because it has to do so in a way that sustains (and hopefully grows) the organization in order to continue meeting and catering to the needs and wants of its members. So here are some thoughts I have on the subject.
Trust the Members More:
I wrote this earlier today with respect to who would be eligible to be a part of the Nominating Committee (NomCom) for the PASS Board of Directors:
What we're saying there is we are trusting the members of PASS to do a good job for the future of the organization. If we can't trust the members to do this, then there's no point at having a vote at any level.
I stand by it. Give more opportunity for input to the members. Listen to that input more. As much as you can, in fact, without threatening the viability of PASS. For instance, if the members decides that PASS should give each member a new, fancy sports car, that's not reasonable. And while I'm using hyperbole there, I'm doing so to make a point, which is that, in general, PASS members should be pretty reasonable in what they want and what they need. So let them in more on the decision making. And obviously you can't let them make every decision. That would fall close to paralysis by analysis. But big decisions: the site for the Summit after potential sites are whittled down to what we really can do, the election process for the Board of Directors, maybe even where to spend some of the money, give the information to the members and let them choose.
Work to Add More Members - Real Benefits:
One of the recurring themes when you talk to chapter leaders is that their members see no real benefit to joining PASS. If they go to the Summit, they become a member by default. If they want to access certain content on the web site, technically they are a member. But realistically, they aren't members by any real sense of the world. What benefits does PASS offer for you to be a member? How is that different than being a non-member? And that's the crux of the issue. Basically when we chapter leaders say, "Hey, you should be a member of PASS!" Our answers to, "Why?" stop pretty much after, "Because it is the Professional Organization for SQL Server!" I don't have to be a PASS member to attend user group meetings. I don't have to be a PASS member to attend SQL Saturdays. And realistically I don't even have to be a PASS member for any of the numerous training webinars the virtual chapters put on or even for the 24 Hours of PASS. So except for the Summit, where I'm automatically a member, or wanting to volunteer at a higher level than my local chapter, there is no benefit.
The takeaway from this, though, is the old phrase that's thrown around a lot in Perl circles: TANSTAAFL - "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." I know PASS has been resistant to once again going to a charged membership. But folks like the Association for Computing Machinery have figured out ways to have a membership charge and a good number of members. So if there is real benefit to being a PASS member, people will pay to be one. And that in turns means you can have more benefits. Eventually you'll reach a balancing point where you don't want to up the membership fee any more and the benefits are acceptable by the membership.
Invest in the Sources for Generating New Membership:
Yes, I mean user groups. Do I mean hand 'em cash straight up? No. But the obvious things that come to mind:
I could go on, but that's enough, I think, for now, as I'm already a few hundred words over a thousand.