Being my third post already this year about membership, I wanted to explain why I feel SDAF’s new membership structure is kind of a big deal. This could get long-winded, so here goes…
When I first volunteered for SDAF as a jury liaison for the 2011 Orchids & Onions (shout out to Chuck Crawford who taught me everything I needed to know to wrangle the next seven years of O&O jury’s!) it seemed like a no-brainer for me to sign up as a member at the same time. I really wanted to get involved in a local organization and I believe it was David McCullough who recommended volunteering for the ‘San Diego Architectural Foundation’ so naturally like most industry folks I thought I was joining an ‘industry-focused’ group.
I should have known from that very first committee meeting that this bunch of misfits was anything but. Sure we had Architects & designers but there were also photographers, students, other industry professionals & some really wonderful regular folks. It was an awesome group of people with one common goal, professional or not, we all loved design & we all wanted to contribute. Being part of that O&O crew gave me a wonderful sense of community, but not just with other designers, it gave me the chance to build friendships across many disciplines within the industry but also outside of the industry. Over the next couple of years as I was invited to be on SDAF’s Board of Directors, then Vice-President and then President, it became glaringly obvious to me that SDAF really was not an industry-focused organization at all. Do we curate programs & events that cater towards industry folks? Absolutely, but it is just a portion of the productions we plan each year to engage a much wider audience – the whole region of San Diego.
In my first go around on the board, I was frustrated, as were many others, that our membership numbers remain relatively static each year. We’ve always had a solid core of members who remain supportive every year, but we struggled to increase our membership. Discussions had taken place for several years about new membership levels, membership benefits, who gets what, what dollar values, etc and the problem all along was staring us in the face – we had simply over-complicated the entire thing. Somehow in an effort to provide a variety of entry levels for membership we had created a labyrinth of options that would confuse anyone. Furthermore, we had failed on our end to manage our membership levels and so many of the promised benefits went unfulfilled and ultimately let our paying members down leading to many folks not rejoining every year. In all honesty, none of this was done on purpose – it’s just the nature of essentially a volunteer organization. For a few years we simply couldn’t afford staff, and so everything that needed to get done was done after hours or on weekends. The leadership team attempted to try to do everything ourselves and we simply let some really important things slip, it was no one’s fault, we did our best, but in doing so we let down our supporters, our members, and that never sat well with me.
So, in returning to SDAF for a second stint as President I made one giant commitment that we would simplify our membership structure. I didn’t know fully what that would mean, we are a board of many amazing folks & their opinions, but I was certain that change needed to happen, and so here we are. Our Membership Director Michelle Harrison McAllister formed a committee of volunteers, as well as the trusted advice of 12-year SDAF Director Suzanne Clemmer and our most recent talented addition to the team, Lauren Cook our Admin. Together this team created a streamlined, progressive & downright spot-on new membership approach of just two levels. The first level is General Membership which will be free to all San Diegans. This membership level aims to expand our mission far and wide throughout the region, engaging all demographics who live, connect, and are inspired by architecture and design.
I want to make it clear that we are not an industry organization, our mission is focused on all San Diegans – every age group, every economic status, every community, and everyone who wants to know more about our built environment – we have a program for you to connect with and be inspired by. Many of our programs are free, but the ones that do require a cost will be more affordable than ever now when you become connected to SDAF as a General Member.
The second level is our VIP Membership which is a flat-rate fee of $250 per year. This next-level membership will provide exclusive VIP-member-only experiences throughout the year, starting with an in-person tour of M.W. Steele Group’s 625 Broadway redevelopment by prominent local Architect Mark Steele himself. The exciting content we have planned will well and truly exceed its value as you will have the opportunity to meet some of our region’s most dynamic architects, artists, landscape architects, urban planners, developers, and so much more.
So by now you’re wondering what this is all about, why am I ranting again about membership? Well, it’s really quite simple, I want to personally invite you to sign up today at one of these two new levels. If you’re interested in our City, Architecture, Design, Art, Sculpture, Landscape Architecture, buildings like your own home, the school your child attends, the office you work in, the parks & playgrounds in your community, public transportation, etc – if any of these things mean even the slightest thing to you, our organization is either currently curating or will sometime in the future curate an event, a talk, a gathering or a tour of something that you will find fascinating. So being a newly ‘free’ member of our organization simply gives you a weekly e-blast update from us on what we and others in our community have going on. If however you want a more dynamic and intimate experience, sign up for the VIP level membership to get some really amazing private events and know that your contribution is going towards some amazing events, most of which we put on for free.
Finally, the most important component for me of our new membership structure is the accessibility. All ages, all demographics, all communities, all income-levels can afford a free membership! This is a huge part of why our new membership structure, which has really only been rolling for a month or so now, has generated a few hundred new members (yay!), but that’s just the beginning. Our goal is to reach every corner of our county to engage with all 3+million San Diegans to join SDAF.
Let’s do this San Diego, join us today, it’s free!