I participate in several organizations and attend many industry events that work to foster creativity and innovation within the design and web communities and time after time people will feel like its OK to complain about the performance of these organizations. I firmly believe that constructive criticism helps to improve anything, whether it be a design or a design event, but its not the critique take issue with… it is the people doing the complaining. This is where I am going to publicly say: If you have a problem with your local design/web organization or an event, get off your ass and help change it. People who bitch don’t achieve anything, people who get shit done make a difference.
Many organizations (AIGA, Refresh, ADC…) are comprised of volunteers. This means the people working hard to make things happen are doing this as on their time… they are not being paid. They are doing the best they can in the amount of time they can spare. While some organizations do have paid employees, I can say for certain they are not making the wages equal to the amount of effort they put into it. AIGA and ADCMW are non-profits, and as many people know that the non-profits that flourish are the ones that have people involved who put in 110%. If there is something that you see happening in your local community that is just bobo as hell, I recommend you look into helping to fix it before you go all publicly bitching about it. If you have time complain, you have time to volunteer.
Organizations that request payment of dues:
It doesn’t take a math genius to figure out that if you don’t pay membership dues you can still go to events and pay the non-members price and make out OK. Thats fine, and I don’t fault you for doing this… that is because I don’t really think we should call them Dues at all. Consider it a “donation”, because that is really what it is. I constantly hear people saying “what do I get for my membership dues?”. My answer to this is that you are supporting your community. You may not physically get anything (though you actually do, you just have to take advantage of it..) but in general your money is often going towards maintaining a full-fledge working organization. In the case of ADCMW, I know that you are helping to support a wide range of educational events and programs that you may not see first hand, but those embarking in the early stages of the creative profession are taking full advantage of. If it wasn’t for ADCMW’s educational involvement during my college years I may not fully understand the importance of community to my profession now.
On the subject of paying for events:
Some communities manage to maintain a model where you do not have to pay for events. That is awesome, and a great model for some communities, but not every organization can maintain that. The money you pay at an event pays for a number behind the scenes things that need to happen in order to make the event possible, and often the entire organization putting on the event. Realistically… not that many people pay dues.. so the money running the organization has to come from somewhere. And here again, I will make this very clear, if you don’t like that an organization makes you pay for an event… volunteer to help bring the cost of the event down, or to be involved in the decision making behind the costs of events.
Some say “well, this organization really isn’t for me” :
The landscape of the creative industry is changing. Creative organizations are no longer exclusively “print” organizations and web organizations are not just for “techies”. There are enormous overlaps and eventually… there won’t be a line drawn between print designers and web designers at all. If you feel like a specific organization is not catering to your specialty (maybe your an IA and want to see more IA related events, maybe you are print designer but you want to learn more about web) then get up and volunteer to make it happen. Every year at SXSW I hear “there weren’t really enough panels on the topic of X”. No? Well then organize one for next year. Organizations aren’t trying to alienate anyone, they just need people to do the things that are actually being suggested… they need the man power.
With that I encourage you to really think hard about what you want to see from your organization of choice and stepping up to help make it happen. The organization I am most closely vested in is ADCMW, and we are currently looking for people to volunteer on the board for next year. We are especially seeking folks who are web savvy, who can make their way around HTML to assist in our web efforts. Even if thats not you we are just looking for people who are enthusiastic, motivated, positive, selfless and love their profession. People who are looking to contribute, have fun, dig in, and get dirty. Those who show up, do what they say they will do, and smile… a lot. All organizations and events need people who do things, not just talk about doing them. If you don’t think you have the time to commit on a monthly basis, there are tons of volunteer and sponsorship opportunities available that require shorter and less invasive time commitments. We need your help to make things happen the way you want to see them happen.. if you are interested in getting involved, hit up my contact form or find an organization that needs your help.
(If you are a member of another industry organization that needs volunteers not mentioned here, please feel free to leave the name & contact info in the comments)