Alfred S. Martin, ARS President
The extent and effectiveness of reciprocal communication between the Society and the totality of its membership has grown from a vague to an acute concern of mine during the past several years. The fact that I cannot visualize the profile of an average member in clear perspective fills me with a growing apprehension. The ultimate objective of an Society must be maximum service to its membership. How can this goal be achieved without clear knowledge and understanding of fundamental desires, needs and expectations of the whole membership.
Our current plans are necessarily based on input gained through contact with the segment of membership that regularly or spasmodically attends Chapter and National meetings. This group unfortunately comprises only about a third of the membership of the Society. Some may even question whether this active minority itself might not be dominated by its own vocal minority. The fact that only about ten per cent of our members bother to vote in Society elections is not an encouraging sign. Maybe we should feel that we are doing something right since there is a very slight annual increase in membership. But what are we doing wrong that results in a ten per cent annual turnover in membership? The fact that our costs for almost everything are rising is an unfortunate and familiar fact of life. Not too far down the road we will find ourselves in a common dilemma—either increase membership or cut services. The first alternative is infinitely more palatable a solution since the second too frequently feeds on itself in an increasing downward spiral.
We now have a unique opportunity to gain direction in the resolution of our problems. Through the efforts of Henry Schannen, Valley Forge Chapter, a privately funded survey has been prepared to tap the resources of our entire membership. An explanatory article and the survey questionnaire are included in this issue. The results will be tabulated and analyzed by Research 100 in Princeton, New Jersey. I not only urge, but beg, all members to return the survey in the envelope provided as soon as possible. We need a large majority response in order to chart direction for a growing and viable Society, sensitive to the full needs of its membership. A minor response would waste this special opportunity. A similar questionnaire is being sent to all members who have dropped out over the past three years.
Committee appointments through June, 1975 are listed in this issue. Working committees are valuable components of the Society. Like all tools, they are useful only when used. They need your cooperation and assistance to function effectively. Do not hesitate to call on them and by the same token, help them generously when requested. Dr. Robert Ticknor, in his last Presidential Report, comments on the difficulty in finding new talent for committees. Perhaps you have particular qualifications and competence to serve on a committee. Let me know this. We need all the help that we can get particularly considering the large geographical area we serve.
This month you will be asked to vote on a proposed change in the Bylaws. The proposal was initially passed by the Board at the Philadelphia meeting in February, 1973 and for the second time at the National meeting in Pittsburgh, June, 1973. Final passage or rejection is now subject to membership vote. The pros and cons of the change are discussed in separate articles. I strongly support the change as an individual member. This is a purely personal opinion. Previous changes in the By-laws have drawn a low percentage of votes from the membership. It would be painful to think that so few people really cared. Casting a mail ballot is a relatively passive affair, but an extremely effective medium of expression. Right now, the vote itself is as important as whether or not the proposal is affirmed. A minimum vote has to be discouraging to all those who work hard to make the American Rhododendron Society an effective organization.
Using this column over the coming year, I would like to explore with you in some depth the national organization of the Society. This would include financial and administrative policies, the By-laws and their interpretation through the written policies of the Board of Directors. We would also like to share the thoughts of our Board meetings and current and future plans. In the April Quarterly, I will go into the tax aspects of the Society, the election of new Board members and Society publications. The report of the Nominating Committee in this issue lists the nominees for Directors this year. The ballot for Directors will be mailed to you in March. More than occasionally, members tell me that they don't vote for Director's because they don't know any of the nominees. If this is the case, there is still plenty of time to consult Chapter officers, National officers and member friends.
Should anything about the Society at all be bothering you, please do not hesitate to let me know directly. The very least I can do is promise an honest answer within my capabilities.