By Haruka Roudebush, VP of Membership and Services
Happy New Year to our JACL community in 2018! I look forward to a fruitful year ahead and am grateful for the opportunity to serve you all. As I and many leaders in the JACL have acknowledged many times over, our membership is the lifeblood of this organization. We simply could not serve our communities and fulfill our civil rights mission without the valuable contributions of our members, not just in terms of operating revenue from your membership dues and donations, but also in your generosity with your time, energy, talents and expertise.
With the start of the new year comes an increase in National JACL membership dues by $5 across the board for Regular/Individual, Couple/Family and Youth/Student memberships. This dues increase was approved by your chapter delegates as part of the National JACL’s biennial operating budget at the 2016 JACL National Convention largely in response to a large national operating deficit in 2015 and a long-term decline in membership. We understand it is not necessarily easy for all to readily contribute more to the JACL, and we certainly appreciate and value the continued and loyal support of our members. As a National Board, we are committed to making improvements to maximize the impact of your contributions to our advocacy efforts and programs.
While our declining membership is not a new challenge to the JACL, I look forward to bringing new approaches with JACL staff members and leaders at the National, District and Chapter levels to meet this challenge. From an operational perspective, I will be working with JACL staff and chapters on streamlining how membership dues are processed, with a focus on working with all chapters to establish a standardized chapter membership dues assessment.
In addition to National JACL membership dues, each JACL chapter currently has a separate amount it assesses in chapter dues for members, which adds a level of complexity and additional workload to National JACL staff processing memberships. Adopting a standard chapter membership dues rate would not only increase the efficiency of operations for JACL staff, but would also enable us to update and upgrade our membership database system, which would make an immediate impact on membership recruitment and retention, including simplifying registration for new members and adding new features such as automatic membership renewals.
In addition to technical improvements to membership processing, I would like to see the National JACL become a more responsive organization for its chapters and members. To that effect, membership staff and I will establish a National Membership Committee comprised of representatives from each JACL district that will convene during monthly conference calls to not only report and make headway on membership-focused initiatives and campaigns, but also provide a consistent forum for members to provide feedback as well as exchange ideas and best practices on how to improve their efforts to recruit and engage membership at their local chapters. These conference calls will also focus on separate regional districts on a rotating basis and will be open to chapter membership representatives to participate.
Specific initiatives that the National Membership Committee will undertake in the coming year include updating the JACL Chapter President’s Handbook, with a focus on sections relevant to membership, as well as coordinating targeted membership outreach campaigns directed at distinct demographics, including youth, young professionals, families, baby boomers and seniors. It is my hope that a National Membership Committee can provide opportunities for districts and chapters to engage their boards and members with both operational aspects and ideas and resources for programming and activities that will enhance the experience of all members in the organization.
Whether it’s a platform for historical and cultural preservation, civil rights advocacy and civic engagement, or a means to be connected to the Japanese American and Asian American community, the JACL is an organization that serves our members and community in so many different ways. However you choose to engage and be involved with the JACL, I hope we continue to be an organization that provides you with a sense of place and purpose and that you are proud and excited to be a member.