By Linda Zimmerman, ASF
I still own a typewriter. I still use a calculator. The only thing I can do with my phone is talk into it. And I’ve held the same job for more than a dozen years. So by now you’ve figured out that I’m not a millennial or from Generation X!
In the years that I’ve handled ASF’s membership, I’ve seen the resources I have to do my work change from a PC software program on my desk to a database I access through the Internet. When I began in 1997, I didn’t have an e-mail address, and an ASF website was still a dream.
I know from personal experience the changes that have taken place at ASF over the years. And so do many of ASF’s members.
Nearly 50% of ASF’s foundation members joined at least 10 years ago. And more than 60% of those who joined in 1995, ASF’s first year, are still members.
Although the ASF of 2012 is a far cry in some respects from the organization they joined then, it’s clear that they continue to find the relationship a valuable one. One reason may be that, although they’re doing the same work, the world around them has changed, and ASF has been changing with it.
At the risk of sounding like my mother, my life was simpler in 1995. That was true for ASF as well. There were limited ways of obtaining and disseminating information. If members had a question, they picked up the phone. If they wanted to share experiences or network with other members, they physically attended a meeting.
Today, there is new information to impart, new ways to impart it, and new people to connect with. Members can obtain resources on the ASF website; they join the Discussion List; they can attend webinars or participate in teleconferences—all without leaving their desks. The possibilities, although not endless, are most certainly exponentially greater than ever.
It’s a challenge to know the types of resources members want. And change doesn’t come without risk. This is why, as an organization, ASF is developing a strategic plan to ensure that it is meeting the needs of its members while asking larger questions about who, what, when, where, and why. Change requires thought and planning, and, well, change.
Not everyone is comfortable with change; heaven knows I frequently do a mental eye roll when presented with new ideas or technology. What’s wrong with doing things the way I’ve always done them? Perhaps nothing.
But I’ve learned something about change during my years at ASF.
I live in Vermont, and I work at home. This gives me a particular understanding of the way many of ASF’s members are working: often isolated, separated geographically not only from other members of their board but from others who are practicing the craft of philanthropy. When you’re alone, change is particularly formidable. But when you have a network of peers to learn from and to use as a sounding board and a safety net, it can be far less so. It can even turn out to be fun.
Now you’ll excuse me while I go mark on my calendar (with a pen) the due date for my next blog post.
ASF’s longest-tenured staff member, Membership Manager Linda Zimmerman is responsible for the day-to-day processing of all new and renewal memberships and maintaining ASF’s member database. Through the years, she has interacted with many ASF members and enjoys learning about their giving interests and the motivations behind their philanthropy.