For Immediate Release
Date: Aug 12th, 2013
Contact: By Dr. Jonathan Rich, Chairman, KDA Membership Committee
KDA Membership…Where Do We Go from Here?
Do you know that only 60% of Kentucky dentists are presently members of the tripartite? Does that statistic surprise you? It does me, especially considering that just a few years ago the number was closer to 80%. So what has happened? What are we, as members, and our association doing wrong? What have you personally done recently to increase membership?
If I were you I would start by blaming your chair of membership because he has apparently been slacking in his position! Actually if you have any ideas or suggestions I would be more than excited to entertain them! Feel free to call or e-mail!
To bring you up to speed on some of the things we are doing to increase membership in the state, allow me to give a quick overview. Aside from everyday activity at the KDA and what local societies are doing, the ADA is also working diligently to help us. This is not just a state problem, but a national issue. Over the past several years your association has been hard at work trying to find solutions. One program developed by the ADA was the MPG (Membership Program for Growth). This is a program awards grants to associations or societies for projects focusing on membership growth. Over the past three years we have applied for and received grants through the KDA. Presently, the grants we have been awarded focus in the following three areas.
The first area focuses on our students. This grant’s primary goal is to help with an event called Student Signing Day at University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville dental schools. This program has existed for the last two years. It encourages students to sign “a letter of intent” to join the ADA. This is similar to an athlete signing and promising to play for a team. We have had over 90% of students from both schools sign the pledge to join the ADA in the last two years. Unfortunately, following through with the paperwork has shown to be a little problematic and we, as well as the ADA, are working to remedy this problem. Other activities that involve students include social events with our new dentists. Most recently, the KDA hosted a meet and greet during our 2013 KDA facilitating interaction between students looking for employment and dentist looking for associates or potential buy-outs.
The second area of focus deals with new dentists. A new dentist is ten years or less out of dental school. A new dentist committee was reinstituted three years ago and many events have been planned by a strong group of young and energetic dentists. At our most recent KDA meeting, over 50 dentists were in attendance at a new dentist social. I find this encouraging. I also find it encouraging to see new dentists as delegates at the KDA House of Delegate sessions and in leadership roles, both at the state and society levels. Our seasoned leaders do an amazing job, however, we all know that without replacing ourselves with upcoming leaders our association will no longer exist!
The third area involves a non-member initiative. This grant program focuses on our local society meetings and non-member dentists. It provides funding for a non-member dentist to attend a society meeting or event. This program has shown to be very successful by those societies that have utilized it. For example, the Louisville Dental Society has had great success this program. Not only are they having non-members attend meetings, they also have non-members becoming members. I would like to applaud them for their hard work!
These efforts are an improvement, but not a complete solution. To find other answers to the problem, I and other members of our association, recently had the opportunity to attend the Annual Recruitment and Retention Program at the ADA in Chicago. As the name implies, this program focuses on how to recruit and then retain members! There are key note speakers, breakout sessions and opportunities for each state or society to share best practices of what is working to address membership issues in their areas. I can tell you one thing for certain. “There is not one easy solution.”
One speaker who shed light on the problem, as well as offered some solutions was Sarah Sladek, author of The End of Membership as We Know It. If you have not read this book, I think you would find it very interesting. In her book, Sarah stressed that there are great challenges with disparities among generations. In other words, baby boomers are not like Gen X, millennial are not like Gen Y, etc. and to make matters more confusing, Gen Z will not be like any of the above. Each generation is looking and expecting something different out of their membership. When you tell some of our more seasoned dentists that a younger dentist feels like they are entitled to membership, you are quite often met with resistance. Many of them feel it is a rite of passage to be a member and not something that should be given away. They believe one must earn their place, especially to have a leadership position! The speaker’s point was that while this may or may not seem strange to you, it is a generation gap we must address. Each generation acts the way they do as a result of how and when they were raised. I would like to take this time to remind some of you readers that it is your children’s generation that fit this model. Be careful before you go pointing fingers; you may be responsible for raising the exact person who’s generation you don’t agree with! For those who don’t fit into that category, I would like to remind you that this younger generation will be taking care of us all in just a few years to come. For this reason, we may want to include and not alienate them. With all this in mind, what came across as being the best way to gain members was person to person interaction.
In conclusion, I would like to ask you the following question. What can you personally do to fix the problem? It seems like the association is taking the proper steps to reach each and every age category within our membership. It is true that we have structure in place. In my opinion, our membership problems are not something that a program, alone, can fix. While the programs are helpful, the real fix will require your involvement. That’s right -- each and every member! Therefore, I challenge you to step up to the plate and take pride in what it means to be part of organized dentistry. A grassroots effort must take place. The last time I checked, grassroots efforts require participation by each and every one of us. When was the last time you contacted a non-member in your town or county? There is no time like the present to start!