I had THAT conversation again recently, with a member who is up for renewal trying to decide if theyâ€™re going to send in their dues or not.
Itâ€™s a conversation Iâ€™ve had countless times in the years Iâ€™ve been involved in the NPPA leadership, I imagine itâ€™s a conversation Iâ€™ll have at least as many before Iâ€™m done.
The problem I face is that far too often the two of us in the conversation are coming from completely different sets of expectations, making it nearly impossible for me to make the case for renewal in the way that will work.
I have to admit, from the start, that I do not see NPPA membership the way I see a utility bill. I donâ€™t get a daily service from my membership for which I can break down the dues cost into an easily quantifiable measure.
To me NPPA membership is more like â€¦ well, maybe my AAA membership, where I know itâ€™s there if I need it, but I may pay the whole year and never get a tow. Or maybe itâ€™s like the money I put in the collection plate at church? The reward is not here in this life? Okay, that may be a bit extreme. At $110 dues are not even close to a tithe. Heck, I like to point out that dues are about one less trip to Starbucks a week. That is not a daunting number.
Which really brings us all back to what we get for that membership? Right now, maybe in this economy, or maybe itâ€™s the overall state of journalism, not enough people who are working in the field are seeing the value in those dues.
And yet Iâ€™ll make the case as often as anyone will let me, that being a member of the NPPA is about so much more than what you get for your dues.
If you are like me, passionate about visual journalism, if itâ€™s so much more than a job, If itâ€™s your calling, if you cannot imagine doing anything else, even though itâ€™s not ever going to make you rich, If youâ€™ll find a way to do journalism even if you end up finding other ways to pay the mortgage each month, Then being a member of the NPPA is about being part of that community.
There are countless blogs, web sites and forums where visual journalists gather in reasonable numbers. Iâ€™m a member of more than a few of them myself, but in the end there is only one organization that has the historical mission, the traditional connections and the reach to draw all of us engaged in the role of visual journalist together under one tent in solidarity.
When the chips are down (and theyâ€™ve been pretty far down of late) I believe we all need to pull together. If enough of us do it in one place, give that one place both some financial support as well as some of our time and energy, The NPPA can do even more than it does now.
But we all need to get past the thought that paying dues to the NPPA is about buying something. Because what itâ€™s really about is buying in to a greater community.
Stop wondering what the NPPA is about and join the team and help shape that community. The NPPA may be over 60-years old, and we may have a tradition of changing only slowly, but that does not mean that the NPPA cannot be more than it is now and can be more of what you may need it to be. But that will never happen if you choose to wonder from the outside and leave the rest of us to explain to the next generation why we need to stand together in support of this profession, this calling, that we love.