Catching Up from Leadership Day
Discussion started by Nathaniel Lim , on 31 May 02:06 PM

Hi Gang,

Thank you for continuing to express interest after Leadership Day in creating a new membership category. To get you caught up, last week, I received an e-mail from Nicky Bliel, who is on the Board of Directors and in charge of the Recognition Committee for STC. (Hillary Hart talked to Nicky about this at the Summit.) In summary, Nicky's recommendation is that we not pursue, because of the administrative cost of doing this, which STC does not want to allocate funds to. Two years ago, Nicky said that there would be a one-time $50 processing fee per applicant and programming would cost $8,000 to implement, which would take several years to break even. I have asked Nicky more than once where those costs come from but still have not received an answer. Even with self-administration, the STC office still needs to put time and recourses into it.

Hillary Hart concurs with Nicky but encouraged me to continue discussions through social networking. I have also opened a discussion on the STC Linked In group.

Like the STC certification, a new membership category could take some time to implement and get buy in from the membership. Nicky still believes this is a good idea -- this just may not be the best time for it.

Let me know your thoughts.


-Nathaniel Lim

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Nathaniel Lim
I believe the $8k is the total cost not per person. However, I no longer have the meeting minutes to verify. Nicky Bleiel can probably clarify it.

The cost is academic at this point anyway. According to Nicky on Friday, 08 July 2011, STC is switching systems this year, so I am sure the cost to implement it in the new system would be different anyway.
Wednesday, 09 May 2012 17:04
Li-At Ruttenberg
Hi all,

Thank you for this discussion. I'd like to add my 2 cents' worth:

* I agree with those who said that recognizing individuals for their volunteer efforts is important. It may not get them more prestige or more money, but it will let them know that their efforts were noticed and appreciated. As someone who received the DCSA, I can say: I certainly didn't volunteer so that I would some day receive the award, but it sure felt flattering and wonderful to know my peers thought my help had been worthwhile.

* $8K per person is definitely not doable. If I'd received an honor/rank, knowing that it took away $8K from our Society--only so that I could receive this honor/rank, I'd be quite upset. I do not condone spending this sort of money per member, but I hope this is somehow wrong or can be brought way down.

* If the $8K is not per person but, instead, a total expense, I suggest considering it. After all, the reason there are so many people to recognize is because there are a lot of people that donated a lot of time and energy to establishing and continuing this Society. I understand this statement may be on the Pollyanna-ish side, but I want to see more of our money spent on things tangible to members at-large rather than overhead and whatever else most of our dues money goes towards. (I promise to keep learning where our money goes.)

* I agree with those that envision the "Distinguished Senior Member" category as an honor rather than a membership level. And I agree that "once a Distinguished Senior Member, always a Distinguished Senior Member."

Wednesday, 20 July 2011 18:10
Ray Gallon
Hi all,

I think Leah makes some good points, but a little too strongly. What is true is that STC has to pare down its costs, so it can pare down the dues bill. The society is floundering trying to define a new value proposition in an environment that is totally alien to the one in which the society was founded, and we are not finding this easy.

Leah is probably right that this may not be the moment to embark on something that involves extra costs, though I think the $8000 per member figure can be significantly pared down, as many of us have expressed here.

On the other hand, I do think that it is important for the society to recognize people who render service. Nicky is right in citing the distinguished chapter service award, but a serving chapter officer cannot receive this award, so in some ways, at the chapter level, we have the same bind as for serving elected officers and directors at the international level. That said, many chapters have created their own local awards, and nothing prevents them from defining their own rules and qualifications for these.

Let's look at what we're trying to do here:

- Senior member is a status gained by "seniority."
- Associate Fellow is a high honour, that you must be nominated for, and that has a high bar. Seniority is part, but not all, of the picture.

We are seeking to find a way to recognize people who have been active, be it at chapter, international, or both levels, that would fill a gap between attaining senior member status (which you do nothing for except pay dues for five years), and the time when they MIGHT get nominated as associate fellow. Some of these people will never be AF's for one reason or another.

Like Nathaniel, I think this is a good idea. HOWEVER - I also take Leah's point, and add my own: internal recognition in the society is valuable when the society itself is perceived as being important. Today, when we are in such dire need of redefining ourselves, I think the perception of the society in the eyes of its members is a more important focus than this new membership level.

That said, I support the idea, and sooner or later, I think we need to do this. Perhaps we can find a way that is not costly, and that can be implemented quickly. If not, I will continue to support and discuss Nathaniel's proposals, even if it means waiting a bit longer to implement them.
Tuesday, 19 July 2011 15:27
Nicky Bleiel
Recognizing volunteers at STC is considered important! That's why we have so many different recognition programs for both individuals and communities.
Tuesday, 19 July 2011 14:56
Nathaniel Lim
“Even getting an AF has no impact on your professional status or income.”

If this is the case, then why do so many Fellows and Associate Fellows put their honorary ranks on their resumes? Why does the Society continue to spend money to recognize Fellows and Associate Fellows? Would not they be able to save money by eliminating those honorary ranks all together?

Research has shown that a little recognition can go a long way to get a member to contribute to an organization. The member benefits by volunteering. The organization (especially a voluntary one) benefits from the member’s contributions. It’s a win-win. Below is an excerpt from an article on recognition.

Recognizing volunteers
27 September 2005
by Mary V. Merrill

Volunteers should be recognized for their contributions to the organization, the clients and the paid staff. This serves not only to satisfy basic human needs but also to motivate volunteers to continue their involvement. Recognition lets volunteers know that others acknowledge and appreciate what they do. It tells them they are doing something well and that they have something meaningful to contribute. Recognition and approval give volunteers a feeling of warmth, pleasure and accomplishment.

Managers of volunteers and programme managers should consider recognition as a process rather than a product. When effective volunteer recognition is integrated into the total volunteer management process, volunteers feel rewarded, valued and positive about the volunteer programme as a whole. Recognition by and in front of peers, professional associates, friends and/or community neighbours is the most meaningful kind of recognition (Bruny, 1981). Meaningful recognition leads to increased satisfaction, which leads to increased volunteer retention.

To read the full article, see
Thursday, 14 July 2011 13:58
Leah Guren
Hi, folks! I just want to wade in with a few thoughts:

Right now, STC has to make really tough decisions about where and how money is spent. If we were in the flourishing state of ten years ago, this wouldn't be an issue. But for now, this is a high expense item that provides no benefit to members, to the Society, or to the profession.

Even getting an AF has no impact on your professional status or income. You won't make more money or be more respected by people outside of STC. Clearly, adding another intermediate level below AF won't do squat! So what is your motivation? Do you want honors or recognitions for your own professional level or participation in STC or do you think that this, in some way, makes the profession better?

If the former, you have a few options already. You can ask someone to sponsor you to and complete the paperwork for an AF. You can look over the guidelines and see if you are missing any criteria, and then use those items as a personal roadmap for yourself for the next year or two.

Bottom line: the admin overhead of yet another level of recognition is prohibitive, IMO, esp. as this does absolutely nothing to forward the profession, help the Society, or even advance the career of single TC.

Want more value for your effort? Consider certification. That is something that the outside world (employers and clients) might perceive as having some value.
Thursday, 14 July 2011 02:30
Nicky Bleiel
Let me try to answer a few things at once:

Associate Fellow is a rank that recognizes contributions to the profession and service to the Society. It has a high bar for professional accomplishment, service at the chapter and/or Society level, and length of membership in the profession and STC. That will not change, and I think you would all agree that makes sense.

I would like to note that the 3% "cap" on Associate Fellows is in the Associate Fellow guidelines (these are being updated and are not yet posted). The cap means that no more than 3% of our total membership can hold the rank of Associate Fellow. So far, no one has ever been denied Associate Fellow because of the cap.

Something that hasn't been mentioned yet ... the Society does award the Distinguished Community Service awards every year. These recognize outstanding volunteerism. For the DCSA, members are nominated by their communities.

One of the options brought before the Board two years ago was to create a new membership level called "Distinguished Senior Member". Since this would be a membership level, hundreds of members could be eligible for this, so therefore the most fair and efficient way to handle this would be to program iMIS so that it kept track of volunteerism and flagged qualified members based on points. Each volunteer option would be in iMIS, and have a number of points assigned to it. A certain level of points = Distinguished Senior Member.Please note that besides iMIS programming, this system would require that staff do additional data entry (the members would need to submit their vounteerism, then that information would need to be entered in iMIS) and generate certificates for honorees.

As Ray noted, we could bypass iMIS and make this an award instead. This was one of the options discussed two years ago also. In that case, we lower the up-front programming cost, but we raise the staff cost. The staff would have to process a large number of applications (much larger than for any other award), plus we'd have to add a committee to review and vet the applications. There would still need to be a small amount of iMIS programming (to add this level to the database). Staff time is a finite resource, and any time spent on processing these applications is time that is not spent on other efforts.

I hope I answered everything! Please let me know if I haven't.

On a tangential note -- Thanks to each and every STC volunteer! I find it an honor to serve, and I know all of you do also.
Tuesday, 12 July 2011 15:54
Jamie Gillenwater

Thank you for your insight. I guess the point of my questions is to ensure we offer a valid case to the Board.

This topic has been proposed multiple times and if we are going to move forward, we need something to distinguish a new honor from the Associate Fellow/Fellow honors. Perhaps we should review the current honorary ranks to see if this process needs to be changed to honor all of the worthy members without decreasing the value of the rank.

I am still a new member, so I am still learning about how the Society works. I am interested in helping as I can, but I want to make sure we will really be adding value for the members without creating too much extra work or expenses.
Monday, 11 July 2011 20:22
Rachel Houghton

Let me respond to this paragraph as an STC member (and not as a Board member):

"Why do we need something in the five years between receiving senior member and associate fellow? Is the membership level more for Society service or for promoting the field of technical communication?"

My answer: It can be longer than 5 years between Senior Member and Associate Fellow. Take, for example, my story.

I started as a technical writer in Dec 1996. By the Associate Fellow rules (which require 15 years in the techcomm profession), I'm not even ELIGIBLE to apply (or have my chapter or someone else submit an application for me) until December 2011. As you can tell, I still have 5 months to reach the 15 year mark. I joined STC in Mar 1998, so I've been a member for slightly over 13 years. If I continue as Secretary until 2014 (assuming I'm elected again in 2012), the earliest I could even receive Associate Fellow status is in 2015. (A current Board member cannot be submitted for Associate Fellow or Fellow.) Assuming I would get AF status in 2015, I'll have been a member for 17 years.

As you can see, it's easy to go way past "10 years" in STC before you're even eligible for Associate Fellow.

Monday, 11 July 2011 15:31
Jamie Gillenwater
I think if we are looking at an honorary membership level between senior member and associate fellow, it will be difficult to justify.

One of the primary questions will be what distinguishes these members from associate fellow? Why do we need something in the five years between receiving senior member and associate fellow? Is the membership level more for Society service or for promoting the field of technical communication?

I am not opposed to the idea, but I am not sure we can justify a new level without distinguishing it from being an active member who hasn't achieved the associate fellow rank.

What is the current cap for associate fellow and fellow ranks? Where is the document that shows these caps?

Thanks for everyone's contributions on this topic.
Saturday, 09 July 2011 22:11
Ray Gallon
Jamie, like Nathaniel, I had seen this as something intermediate, not quite associate fellow, that would recognize a kind of service to the society that we currently have no real way to recognize.

As such, it is not like certification, and would not expire.

It seems to me that, once we've exchanged IMISS for whatever else it's going to be, we should look into how to do this in a way that provides the recognition we need, without causing enourmous costs.

It strikes me that with a little creativity we should be able to do this. Let's think "out of the box" and not be straight jacketed by what has been done in the past. I'd love to kick this off, but know nothing of the internal processes - however, just to start off, what if we made "distinguished senior member" like an award, i.e. we present a certificate, and that's it, plus a logo badge, like the current logo badges we now use, that the member would be entitled to use on emails and business cards under the same conditions as the existing ones for senior member, associate fellow and fellow? That would not involve programming IMISS or any other system, and would still provide a permanent recognition for the member concerned.
Saturday, 09 July 2011 10:47
Nicky Bleiel
Hi all,

The cost of $8,000 that was quoted is for iMIS programming (thanks for explaining iMIS Rachel!) In order to keep track of each member's activities, iMIS would need quite a bit of programming.There are a large number of "service to the Society/profession" categories that would need to be added to iMIS, plus the addition of the new membership level itself.

STC will be switching from iMIS to another system in 2012, but it is too early to estimate the costs for the programming changes now.

Friday, 08 July 2011 13:10
Rachel Houghton

iMIS is the Association Management software platform that STC is moving away from (see the website for iMIS here:

Friday, 08 July 2011 12:17
Nathaniel Lim
That's okay, Jamie. We are all busy people.

My vision was "once a distinguished senior member always a distinguished senior member". I do not think a member has to keep earning it once they have it. However, I understand your point of view. We can continue to discuss. Does anyone else have thoughts on this?

Let me know what you find out from Nicky. Also, what is IMISS?
Thursday, 07 July 2011 17:22
Jamie Gillenwater
I'm sorry I have been as active in this group as I would like. I think one thing that we need to make clear is the need to distinguish this from the Fellow/Associate Fellow honors. These ranks, while well-deserved, are honorary rankings.

I believe the group is aiming to create a new membership level that is earned. If the criteria is met (likely based on a point system), then the membership is earned. The membership level must be maintained through a renewal process (annually/semi-annually?) which will evaluate contributions since the last renewal.

This will be another big difference from the honorary rankings. Once a Fellow, always a Fellow. I don't believe that should be the case with this new, earned member level.

I will try to follow up with Nicky to see if we can determine where the costs could come from for this ranking. If it is an IMISS issue, perhaps we work on the point system and renewal requirements. Once we move away from IMISS, we can work on the logistical side of the process.
Thursday, 07 July 2011 11:27
Nathaniel Lim

Thanks for your frankness. If you (or anyone else) has some creative ways to implement this, I am all for it. Can you find a sponsor? Is anyone good at finding sponsors? Does anyone know of a way to do this without spending $8000 in the first place?
Wednesday, 08 June 2011 16:48
Ray Gallon
Hi all,

Nathaniel, I think, as we discussed at Leadership Day, the idea needs to be a way to honour people without going as far as associate fellow. That being the case, from an administrative point of view, the status is just like associate fellow or fellow - primarily an honour, but once the honour is bestowed, it becomes a membership category.

To me, this is not complicated or difficult. I frankly fail to understand why it would cost $8 000 to implement unless it's that tweaking IMISS is so difficult that we have to pay a programmer a fortune to do it, in which case, the solution is to get rid of IMISS (I know, it's planned).

One of the ways in which STC needs to change, IMHO, is to stop being so glacial when a positive change comes from the grass roots. I see the response as primarily a way to wave off something that might upset the bureaucratic apple-cart, without really taking into account its value to the society.

I know we can't just spend money - that's how we got into the financial pickle in the first place - but we can be creative about how to do things so they don't have to be bureaucratically unwieldy and we can be creative about financing activities, too - like finding a sponsor for the $8K if it's really necessary.

So far, I haven't seen a convincing argument for not doing this. My 2 cents.
Sunday, 05 June 2011 16:39
Nathaniel Lim
You are welcome, Jamie.

After I submitted my initial proposal three years ago, Nicky took it to the VoC (Voice of the Communities), whoever they are. They provided feedback, and Nicky changed stuff around before the actual motion to the board.

From Nicky on 5/2/2008, "In a nutshell, since the proposal straddles the line between a membership category and an honorary rank, it was found to be confusing and stepping on other recognitions. There were other observations, but those were the main issues."

From BoD meeting minutes in 2009: "A motion was made to adopt the Distinguished Senior Member Category, which requires STC membership for eight years and winning of the DCSA or DSSA award. The cost would be $50 to apply, but the programming would cost $8,000 to implement and it would take several years to break even. The motion failed.”

I asked Nicky more than once about these costs. Nothing. I also do not have the specific feedback she received. Feel free to ask her yourself, and let me know what you find out.
Thursday, 02 June 2011 15:13
Jamie Gillenwater
Thanks for setting up this group.

I agree that we need to determine what really causes these costs. I know Nicky did a lot of research following the related proposal in the past. Do we have copies of the feedback she received? Were members not interested? Or was it just something the office did not believe they had time to do?

From there, I believe we can determine if it is worth moving forward. I think it is a valid point that must be considered, but I don't want to reinvent the wheel to end up in the same place either.

If we decide to move forward, we can discuss ways to evaluate and implement a new membership level. We need to determine real costs associated with this level. If we can make a proposal (whenever it is ready) before the following year's budget is finalized, we can ask that it is included in the budget.

Please let me know if you are able to find anything out about the costs from Nicky. I don't personally know her, but I will e-mail her if you believe it will help us get the information.
Wednesday, 01 June 2011 07:45