Hard Questions for NSPS

I don’t know if I would want to have Curt Sumner’s job right about now. 

As Curt, the affable and well known executive director of the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS), and fellow NSPS officials travel around the country selling their new “100% membership” plan to state societies, they are being challenged to explain their plan. If it succeeds it will resurrect the surveying profession’s national voice, and if it fails it may doom NSPS to the dust bin of history.

During the two months since the effort was launched, NSPS has gotten commitments from 12 state societies to have 100% of their members add $40 to their state dues, which will go directly to NSPS as national dues. By doing so, NSPS membership rolls will swell from about 2,500 (currently) to over 10,000 nationwide. Another dozen or so state society boards have responded positively and are taking the proposition to their memberships for approval.  

Still, there are questions to be answered.

 A yearly membership of “$40 is a no brainer,” one member of the audience at the December meeting of the Maryland Society of Surveyors meeting near Baltimore exclaimed.  “But your timing sucks. We’re just coming out of a recession and about 60% of our state’s surveyors have been out of work.  I think you need to explain and justify how this will benefit them,” he concluded.

“You’ve got too many layers of board members or governors.  How do I get my message to the top?” another surveyor asked.

“Our national organization is run by three people. Wow, it doesn’t sound like much of a national organization!” (Although NSPS now has three full-time staff members, down from 15 staff members a few decades ago, Sumner emphasizes that there are literally hundreds of dedicated volunteers who do much of NSPS’s program and certification work.)

“You need a more robust governmental affairs program… “
“You need a more effective way to communicate to members…”
“You need to reach out to the younger professionals who also represent our future…”
“You need to …”

And on it went, with Curt, NSPS president Bob Dahn, and Alan Dragoo, the Maryland Society of Surveyors member of the NSPS board of governors, fielding the questions and providing information about how NSPS does provide those services, while acknowledging that communicating information about NSPS must be improved and offering evidence that change at NSPS is afoot.  They are hearing the criticism and taking it to heart.

 If the effort to revive the membership at NSPS does not work, Sumner and others explain that professional surveyors will be folded into the membership ranks of other national organizations such as the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Whatever kind of national voice surveyors will then have is highly debatable.

But for now change is coming, and apparently the pitch by NSPS is working. If all state societies agree, the numbers shoot up to perhaps as high as 40,000 members, depending on which set of state society membership numbers you believe.

And numbers are what it is all about.  2,500 is not a national voice; a couple of state societies have more members.  Now, 40,000—that’s the real deal.

Either way, the hard questions by surveyors who are being asked to join need to be answered clearly and quickly for the groundswell of support to continue.


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