ACA Member Survey Follow Up – A Message from the Chair of the ACA Board of Directors
I hope that you are staying healthy and safe whether you are at home with loved ones or on the front lines fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank you for your patience and understanding as our small and dedicated staff continue to make improvements to ACA’s processes and communication tools. ACA’s focus today, as always, is serving our members in the best possible ways within the limits of available resources.
The past year has been a year of change, transition, and growth for the ACA. For the first time in years, we have actively recruited Board members from our general membership. I’m convinced that we have a more robust and diverse board that is effectively representing all members’ interests. In addition, we welcomed Beth Spilman to the role of the Interim Executive Director last June. In a short time, she has made an enormous effort to repair and restore some of the fraught ACA relationships internally and externally, including with numerous volunteers. She has rebuilt a broken financial system and ensured that our small office staff is cross-trained and capable of providing services even in challenging times of the current pandemic.
As you may recall, ACA conducted a member survey this past January. For more information about what ACA learned from the survey and about the action plans that stem from your feedback, please continue reading below.
On behalf of ACA’s Board, I want to thank everyone who participated in the survey. Be assured that Beth and ACA staff will use your feedback to make ACA an even better run organization in 2020 and beyond.
Chairman, ACA Board of Directors
ACA Membership Survey Report – April 2020
As a member-, grant-, and donations-funded organization, listening to what members have to say about our services is critically important to the ACA. Member feedback helps ensure we understand and meet your needs. We sent a survey to all members in January 2020, and we are using the submitted feedback to help us better serve you.
The survey included twenty-three questions. We received 1240 responses, which represents approximately 8.5% of the annual membership base. Of these, 632 (51%) responses were from standard individual members, 429 (35%) from certified instructors, and 168 (14%) from all other member categories. Approximately three-quarters of the members who responded to the survey have joined ACA in the last twelve years.
For those who are interested to review the survey results, a full report and the anonymized data set will be available in the future. Some of the initial, clear indicators from the survey results include:
- A vast majority of members value the ACA as the national paddlesports organization and appreciate the services that ACA provides. Ninety percent of respondents plan to renew their membership, and an additional 7% are considering membership renewal.
Survey respondents indicated that the administration of our instructional programs needs technology-based process improvements. Respondents noted difficulties and delays in processing course records, issues with the instructional program record-keeping, and misunderstanding of ACA’s role in setting the cost of instructional programs.
- One of the largest trends indicated by survey results was the need to improve ACA communications. Members want the ACA to improve their website and to communicate more frequently and consistently about our mission, including public policy and stewardship efforts, educational resources and opportunities, and clearer explanations of what role competition (in particular, Olympic level competition) plays within the ACA.
- We are already starting to address these key take-aways from the survey responses.
Education & Instructional Programs
ACA’s instructional program has seen a massive jump in participation in the past ten years. Our resources and processes were not designed to scale with the demand. For too long, we accepted handwritten records and reports; even reports that were submitted electronically had to be reentered manually into a database. ACA deployed the first phase of the new Course Management System (CMS) on February 1, 2020. The CMS allows instructors to enter information directly into a database without the need for manual entry by staff. Student and instructor candidate memberships are confirmed online within the CMS. Moving forward, instructors are able to check the records they previously entered into the CMS without having to ask an ACA staff member. In the coming month, certification and assessment cards will be automatically processed as soon as an instructor trainer enters the data and candidate requirements are fulfilled.
Last year, some courses took more than four months to process; When the CMS deployment is complete, course processing time will drop to a number of seconds. Going from a manual entry system to an interactive web-based system will make record keeping vastly more efficient, provide better support to our instructors, and allow our staff to focus on value-added services rather than data entry. John Traendly, ACA Board member and SEIC secretary, dedicated an enormous amount of time and resources to this effort. If you have the opportunity to interact with John, please thank him for his incredible efforts.
Also, I want to clarify a common misunderstanding of ACA’s role in setting the cost of instructional programs and the availability of instructors and courses in various areas across the country.
ACA is a national certifying body for paddlesport instructors and is not a course instruction business manager. Organizations or individuals that provide instructional services set fees for courses. ACA receives money only from membership fees, Safety Education & Instruction Council (SEIC) dues, and the cost of instructional supplies such as the instructor manual; the ACA does not receive any portion of direct course fees charged by instructors. Additionally, the ACA does not assign or dispense instructors or instructor trainers to work in any particular area. Currently, the ACA staff can help members connect with instructors and instructor trainers. The CMS will allow us to better track requests for classes and help instructors and instructor trainers identify underserved areas with interest in instruction. We plan to work with our instructor partners to explore business models that would enable us to better respond to underserved areas.
We strive to keep our members informed regarding every aspect of ACA’s operations. A large majority of members want to receive a monthly email newsletter containing information on a variety of topics and links to additional details. We published a newsletter in that format last month and will continue to do so in the future. Also, a notable number of members enjoy the current quarterly eMagazine. We will continue with that publication for now and will reassess the viability of the eMagazine by the fall. Printed communications have a negative environmental impact, and printing, binding, and mailing are costly. We will review the financial implications of continued paper communications by the fall.
The new Course Management System (CMS) will help instructors; however, it remains linked to our website, which is tightly integrated with the membership database. We are working to determine the cost of modernizing the database and the website, and we hope to upgrade our website and related online functions in the next twelve to eighteen months.
Paddlesports Policy and Stewardship
Although ACA has been very engaged with public policy and stewardship/conservation issues, we need to improve communications about these efforts. ACA members and staff have worked with regulatory agencies including the US Coast Guard (USCG) and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), for decades to ensure that regulations impacting paddlers have input from paddlers. If regulators didn’t recognize the ACA as a trusted and knowledgeable source of paddling expertise, this collaboration and representation wouldn’t be possible.
Here are a few recent examples of our activities in this sector:
- In the past six months, our volunteers have worked nationally with the USCG to develop rules allowing throw bags, rather than throwable buoyancy aids, as acceptable lifesaving resources for commercial rafting operations in the Western United States.
- The ACA has been working alongside the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) to provide guidelines on multiuse waterway conflicts and management.
- We guided the development of paddling safety and education materials used by the USCG Auxiliary and the Boy Scouts of America.
ACA has successfully fought against paddle craft registration in many states and effectively advanced the message of “education, not regulation.”
On the public policy & stewardship front, the ACA is a founding member of the Outdoor Alliance (OA). OA’s goal is to bring together the voices of America’s outdoor recreation community to protect the outdoor experience for everyone to enjoy. Alongside the Outdoor Alliance, the ACA is working to fight proposed weakening of Clean Water Act provisions, to prevent copper mining around the Boundary Waters area in Minnesota, and gain support for the Great American Outdoors Act. We further work with local members to address environmental concerns at the state level.
ACA’s role as the National Governing Body (NGB) for Olympic and Paralympic paddlesports has brought new challenges and opportunities. The ACA staff is aggressively pursuing funding from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and other sources to support athletes, coaches, and officials, all of whom are primarily self-funded. We will address many more details of how our competition activities could enhance and contribute to the growth of ACA and the paddlesports in the U.S. in the next few months. Until then, I can assure you that the support for the ACA competition activities will not reduce ACA’s support for our other programs.
Thank you for your support by providing us with the gift of your feedback and time.
ACA Executive Director