On the Path to Remaking NSPE

July 2013

NSPE Today: Outlook
On the Path to Remaking NSPE


NSPE President Dan Wittliff, P.E., F.NSPE

In November 2011, NSPE embarked on a journey to rejuvenate the Society to better meet member needs. This column will update you on this critically important effort—where we've been and where we're going.

Based on principles in the association management book Race for Relevance, our effort to remake NSPE began with surveys of the NSPE Board of Directors, the House of Delegates, and state leaders. These surveys narrowed the focus to issues that were most important to all members. Not surprisingly, three of the top five priorities dealt with membership initiatives.

In July 2012, we reviewed the survey results and proposed an action plan to the House of Delegates and state leaders. The plan received the endorsement of the Past Presidents Council, the House of Delegates, state leaders, and the board of directors.

To execute the plan, we formed six task forces of state and national leaders. Led by Harve Hnatiuk of Pennsylvania and Tim Austin of Kansas over the past 12 months, these volunteers spent about 3,000 hours developing criteria, evaluating tools and offerings, and recommending actions.

Please join me in congratulating the task force members for their hard work and a job well done! Their work sets in motion a process to improve NSPE, our offerings, and our effectiveness in serving our members for years to come. Here are the task forces and what they did:

Program Evaluation and Prioritization
Over the years, NSPE's offerings grew to over 450 products, services, and benefits. The trend was to continue adding more products, services, and benefits without reducing less-used and less-useful offerings. Because surveys indicated a broad consensus for reducing these offering by 20% to 40%, these task forces reviewed all products, services, and benefits against the criteria approved at the 2012 annual meeting and later against the priorities in the NSPE budget and strategic plan.

The purpose was to identify budget savings by reducing or eliminating less-valued offerings to fund the more-valued offerings. The approved task force recommendations included 1) eliminating NSPE's salary survey and NSPE's participation in the Pan American Federation of Engineering Societies and 2) scaling back the travel budget for Society liaisons, particularly for international travel.

Three other recommendations included: 1) working with the state societies to jointly market continuing education opportunities, 2) taking steps to increase the effectiveness of NSPE Interest Groups, and 3) funding MATHCOUNTS through the NSPE Educational Foundation.

Strategic Partnerships
NSPE has partnership agreements with many national and international organizations. As a fundamental tenet, these partnerships should benefit the members of both NSPE and our strategic partners. When that is not the case, the relationship should be strengthened through collaboration or the agreement should be revisited.

To this end, the task force evaluated existing partnerships between NSPE and other organizations and found that NSPE is generally not actively collaborating with most of its partners despite having agreements in place. The task force did not recommend discontinuing any current partnerships and identified other potential partners for NSPE: the American Nuclear Society, the American Society of Plumbing Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers, the American Institute of Architects, the Air & Waste Management Association, and the American Water Works Association.

This task force looked at everything NSPE does, what NSPE represents, how NSPE is performing for its members, and how NSPE is perceived by nonmembers.

The task force recommended changes that would make the NSPE annual meeting attractive to all members, rather than only state and national leaders. Some of these changes will be incorporated in the 2013 meeting and others will be included in the 2014 meeting and beyond.

This task force investigated the reasons members leave NSPE and developed recommendations to address the most common reasons; determined member expectations and how NSPE is and is not fulfilling those expectations; and developed recommendations for intervention.

Recommendations included: 1) developing and tracking retention-rate goals, 2) calling members prior to their drop date, and 3) sending "thank you" acknowledgement upon renewal. The task force will continue to investigate other process changes designed to improve service to members.

Membership Marketing
This task force sought to develop a marketing program that will promote three-tier membership; develop a marketing program to transition state-only and national-only members to three-tier members; determine the NSPE market penetration in each state; identify areas for best return on marketing budget; and identify possible recruitment and retention activities.

Chief among this task force's recommendations was that NSPE develop a national marketing plan that sets priorities and strategies. Additionally, the plan should 1) define the market focus (e.g., consulting firms, educators, industry, government, or construction); 2) develop an overall strategy for three-tier marketing; 3) provide consistent messaging in identified markets segments (e.g., student, young engineer, mid-career, and senior engineer); 4) prioritize and streamline staff and volunteer member activities; 5) explain the three-tier membership levels; and 6) create national marketing materials explaining the value of becoming an NSPE member.

Communications and Technology
Task force members evaluated the many ways NSPE communicates with its membership, including content and cost, as well as communications with nonmembers and the general public. The task force studied social media, e-mails, PE magazine, the NSPE Web site, and meetings and seminars.

The task force recommended the development by the end of 2013 of an integrated communications plan and tools to promote NSPE's mission, to clarify and brand NSPE in accordance with the Society's mission statement, to improve member engagement, and to promote the personal and professional benefits of membership.