I make no apology for calling a special council meeting in November to discuss your responses to the membership survey.
The questionnaire was long needed to provide council with a strategic direction. We had a stimulating day in which there was a lot of talk. Action has yet to follow in most instances but here's a brief summary of what we looked at. If you want to know more about anything, then please contact me.
The clarion call for a photographic competition has been addressed. It is now up and running with entries due to close on January 31. Thanks particularly to Theresa Eveson for progressing this. More details at http://www.gaj.org.uk/contextra/TemplateParser.asp?aId=286
We will also be relaunching the horticulture award. I would like this done before I step down in March, but am wholly dependent on others who tell me everything is organised and ready for it to be relaunched. I've been hearing these words for months though and quite frankly am getting rather dismayed, annoyed and frustrated at the lack of action. Your chairman has made his views abundantly clear that he wants action, not fobbed off with yet more excuses.
We have reviewed the agm and downgraded it. It will now be held before the council meeting on March 13. The attendance in recent years has been dismal. There is no lunch so if you want to come along you are more than welcome.
A new professional development event is under consideration. The likelihood is that it will be held somewhere in Yorkshire. This would include seminars for our PR members on a range of key issues, as well as similar sessions for our journalist members on standards, technology, etc. I have been left to progress this one and am rather keen to hear views on the range of seminars you might want. It would be a day-long event, and include the agm. Focus is on holding it in the spring. The one thing that came through from the survey was you all recognised the benefits of Guild membership and the networking that this allows.
We're also looking at better marketing ourselves. There are many agri hacks out there who are not members. Why is the question I ask? £52 a year equates to a £1 a week and for that you become part of a global network of contacts and story sources. This exercise involves us looking at better quality promotional material extolling the benefits of membership.
We too want to look at raising our profile so we've asked council members to go out and ask if other any groups in agriculture can see benefits from joining forces. We've already done it with the Royal Show conferences, but there is a feeling much more could be done to get the Guild's name in lights at the top of industry and for those there to recognise the real benefits of being involved in events with us.
The credit crunch may well have an impact on what we do. Council has already agreed to meet less frequently to save costs. Four meetings will be held in 2009. This decision alone has helped us keep the membership fee at £52 for the year ahead. Direct debits will be collected in February.
I also don't feel we can justify an increase in membership until council is seen to be delivering more value to members. The planned new event of continuing professional development workshops is one that I see considerable benefits. Yes you're likely to be charged to attend, but I would hope to keep this to a minimum. Many members tell me they can't afford to attend events; this is, however, one that you could write off as a business expense, so no more excuses on that front that it means a day out of the office and losing earning potential. This event would be designed to boost your earning potential.