This yearʼs WNPA business meeting came at a critical time. More than a dozen members and the Board talked for 40 minutes last month at our convention in Milwaukee. They addressed issues such as declining membership, declining participation in contests and the annual convention, and declining traffic on our Web site. It was generally agreed that for WNPA to survive and thrive, we have some work cut out for us in 2010.
Year 2009 was a difficult one for visual journalists and photographers in our state, as well as our organization. Some key WNPA volunteers stepped down after many years of dedicated service. Wisconsin newspapers saw a substantial amount of layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts and other economic and operational disruptions. Despite hardships, the WNPA Board and volunteers managed to preserve our key programs: WNPA still put on a successful and memorable annual convention and another great POY contest for still pictures and multimedia in March 2010. In 2010 and 2011, we donʼt want to merely preserve our programs and member benefits. We want to improve and expand them. We want to see a surge in activity on our Web site and in our membership numbers. We want to be a stronger organization. The annual business meeting identified several areas of improvement to put WNPA on track for a stellar rebound. Below are these areas where youʼll see change in 2010. We hope youʼll help us!
1) Web site
In 2010, weʼll be taking steps towards the launch of a new Web site. WNPAonline.com is one of the primary member benefits, and itʼs also the public face of our organization. Our members, prospective members, and potential clients of our freelance members need to be treated to a robust site that is more visually anchored and showcases the visual journalism they create.
WNPA is a volunteer-driven organization. Lots of duties and pressures are concentrated on the same people year after year. When long-time volunteers have stepped down in the past, itʼs often been a chore to find others willing to take their place, contributing to instability. For this reason, the culture of volunteerism in WNPA needs to change from “it takes one good volunteer” to “it takes a [small] village.” Beginning in 2010, WNPA will be creating committees headed by chairpeople to take on the major tasks of handling the Web site, contests and the annual convention. We hope it will result in better results and alleviate strain on individuals. Furthermore, we hope that members who previously were scared away from volunteering will see the new structure as a way to simply give any time they can afford to give, rather than be locked into a time-consuming role they canʼt easily get out of. Weʼll also do a better way of communicating the organizationʼs needs to members, letting them know specifically how they might be able to help.
The WNPA Convention has been a successful program for years. Financially, it has become more challenging to put on during slim years such as these. We want to continue our fine tradition but it needs to be financially sustainable and stable. The convention has been budgeted on reserves and registration fees in the past, but both of these are variables. Attendance has declined significantly over the past few years and reserves seem to get slimmer every year. Attracting vendors, sponsorships, and a wider regional or national attendee base will be vital to the success and stability of future WNPA conventions. Itʼs been said that you canʼt cut your way to greatness. For next yearʼs convention, weʼll be looking to expand and make our convention a canʼt-miss destination for Midwestern visual journalists: more educational workshops, more speakers, and more activities. Weʼll be planning much further ahead, and looking at the calendar closely to ensure we donʼt conflict with other workshops, seminars, or large-scale sports/news events.
Thereʼs a tendency to think weʼve already maxed-out on our potential membership base, but WNPA needs to make greater efforts in reaching out to students, interns, and non-member professionals in Wisconsin, especially in smaller markets. By bringing more photographers and photography-related workers into our organization, weʼll further our mission to connect and educate, raising the quality of visual journalism in Wisconsin and helping WNPA retain its status as an invaluable resource.
The new Web site and volunteer structure should aid in improving communication among the Board and volunteers. WNPA also needs to become more adept at utilizing social media for promoting itself. Furthermore, our organization is a community and WNPA should constantly foster friendships and networking that are rewarding on both professional and personal levels. There is also talk about a second monthly Photo Night being started in the northern half of the state aside from the one already established in Milwaukee.
We hope these changes and improvements excite you. We hope youʼll tell a friend about WNPA and how much youʼve benefitted from it. Moreover, we hope that youʼll roll up our sleeves and help us out in any way you can. We canʼt do this alone.