AZAD Long Range Planning Survey Results
Compiled and presented by the AZAD Long Range Planning Committee
Diane Cooney, Dave Heim, Jan Nash, Val Olcott, Ellen Rogalin, Tim Sutton, Janis Weltzin
The following information is extracted from the summary of a 49-page report given to the AZAD Board of Directors in February of 2003.
To determine how the AZAD membership felt about the objectives and services of the organization, the AZAD Board in 2001 charged the Long Range Planning Committee with the development and execution of a survey. From the responses, the Board would determine what offerings should be continued, what should be expanded, and what potential changes might be made in the organizational structure of AZAD.
Since the Board wanted a broad membership response, a survey was mailed in early December 2001 to each of AZAD’s 2,428 members. Most members received the survey by December 12th. The 577 surveys returned yielded a 23.8% response rate, and represented 89 different zoo and aquarium organizations.
Previous surveys published in Symbiosis resulted in return rates of only 2.5%.
The results were collected over a period of seven months. An initial report with raw data was given to the AZAD Board at the AZAD 2002 meeting in Houston.
General Questions & Demographics
Respondents were satisfied (50 percent) or very satisfied (21 percent) with the structure of the AZAD organization and satisfied (32 percent) or very satisfied (20 percent) with the services provided.
The average docent/volunteer experience of the respondents was 10 years, with a low of 6 months and a high of 32 years.
Among AZAD’s offerings, the annual conference and Symbiosis were felt to be the most important. There was a sense of ambivalence toward the importance of local AZAD chapters and regional conferences. However, data indicates that 46 percent of respondents felt local chapters might enhance the national AZAD organization.
Respondents felt the objectives of the organization were being mostly met (37 percent) or well met (25 percent). Only 15 percent of the respondents felt that the objectives needed to be updated or expanded.
Twenty-eight percent of the respondents came from organizations with 100 to 200 docents/volunteers. The next largest group was 99 or less (20 percent). Fewer than 20 respondents came from organizations with volunteer groups of 600 or more.
Newsletters and flyers were most commonly used to promote AZAD membership within the organizations. Most organizations (74 percent) did not sponsor any kind of event solely for AZAD members.
Respondents felt that AZAD provided them with new ideas they could apply to volunteering (60 percent), with the conference papers cited as the primary source of those ideas.
Over half the respondents were satisfied (51 percent) or very satisfied (33 percent) with the amount of dues they pay to AZAD.
Almost a third of the respondents (32 percent) felt AZAD should not get involved in controversial issues. The 23 percent who felt AZAD should get involved provided numerous and varied suggestions in their comments.
Respondents felt Symbiosis was informative (38 percent) or very informative (32 percent). Animal facts and zoo/aquarium information were cited as the most popular sections of Symbiosis. Articles on the business of AZAD were the least popular.
The most important reasons for attending an AZAD national conference were the chance to visit other zoos & aquariums, the acquisition of new ideas, increased animal knowledge, and interaction with other docents/volunteers. Shopping and features of the host city rated among the least important.
For those respondents (21 percent) who indicated they do not attend conferences, cost was cited as the primary reason.
Most respondents (85 percent) had not taken an AZAD-sponsored trip; however they indicated they might (36 percent) or probably would consider (26 percent) taking such a trip. Cost was the most common reason for not taking an AZAD trip, as was the fact that similar trips are offered elsewhere. Despite these negative perceptions, 65 percent of respondents felt AZAD should continue to offer wildlife trips.
AZAD Executive Board
A total of sixty-nine percent of the respondents indicated they were either not familiar with or only slightly familiar with the structure of the AZAD Board. More than half (51 percent) said they would never seek a Board position. Some respondents felt the AZAD Board was cliquish and should mingle more with the conference attendees.
The majority of respondents (69 percent) said they had access to the Internet, but only about a third (34 percent) of that group had visited the AZAD website. Of those who had visited the AZAD website, conference information was the most-liked feature, followed by publication of the conference papers. The number of respondents who said they would continue to visit the website was actually larger than the number who said they had already visited the website. This would indicate that the website will get more
first-time visitors. Very few (1 percent) of the respondents who had visited the website said that they would not continue to visit.
Objectives do not need to be updated or expanded.
Provide a “Welcome to AZAD – Here’s What it’s All About” packet for members. Find a way to use the delegates from each zoo to promote membership and representation at the annual meeting. There is a need for information to trickle down to the organizations, especially for those people who did not attend conferences – and many suggested having “local” chapters of AZAD similar to AAZK. It would make non-conference attendees feel attached to the organization. Provide more membership information to docent
organizations, membership posters, and flyers prior to the conference, to be posted on docent bulletin boards.
Expand Symbiosis. Use it to explain misconceptions and address member concerns. Provide information, pro and con, on controversial issues so individuals can take their own actions. Promote Board positions and, along with the nomination forms, there should be space devoted to describing what expenses are covered and how much time is needed. This would be especially useful to those who would have to take off from work for the interim meeting.
Select conference sites, when possible, alternating east to west to lower travel costs for members in those areas. Encourage hosting zoos to offer less expensive room opportunities for those who can’t afford the conference hotels. Provide two levels of conference registration, full and partial, with a lesser fee for just the weekend days of the conference. Promote zoo involvement in financing delegates’ travel. Target some of the information on the conferences to the Zoo Boards. Consider promoting regional conferences.
Regional conferences could be scheduled on the opposite coast from the annual conference. A Board representative at the regional could facilitate cohesion of regional and annual conferences. If the conferences continue to be so large, encourage hosting zoos to provide activities for attendees during times of waiting, especially in long lines for buses.
Continue to offer trips with an emphasis on keeping the costs as low as possible.
AZAD Executive Board
Use Symbiosis and the website to acknowledge members’ comments and to ask members to send the Board any solutions they might have. Explain why they are on the Board and what benefits are derived from this kind of involvement to increase the interest in members of participating. The structure and function of the Board needs to be explained. For example: Why don’t we have the usual officer configuration? This could be presented in Symbiosis and also in new member information. Use the website to promote participation on the nominating committee and to publicize the Board positions. At conferences provide opportunities
for the Board members to mix with the members. Have the Board present a paper on issues of importance to the members. Become more visible to the membership.
Expand and make better use of the website. Enhance the content, usability, and design to make it more appealing so members will have a reason to visit it often. Include monthly special features that are promoted in Symbiosis; practical ideas, a monthly feature animal, ideas for special events, topics for brainstorming. Include information about nominating committee, and Board positions so members have an opportunity all year to know how they can become involved at the national level. Include the nominating forms on the website so delegates come prepared to present someone for the nominating committee. Promote Board positions on the website.