Herbert Stone

Enhancing the Membership Experience
Attending the IFT Annual Meeting + Food Expo® (AMFE) and participating in a Regional Section or national committee and are two essential parts of an IFT member’s membership experience. A continuing challenge for IFT is to identify ways to enhance a member’s experience so that membership retention is high, newly graduating food scientists will want to be part of the IFT family, and individuals in related disciplines will also want to be members.

To grow—not only in size but also in reputation as a premier source of knowledge about food safety, security, and science—and to satisfy the goals of our Strategic Plan, we need to know more about what constitutes a positive membership experience as well as what we are missing, and how to structure our organization to address those gaps. Consequently, two surveys were recently conducted, one by a task force of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and another by the IFT staff.

The ASAE task force conducted an extensive and far-reaching review of all that we do as a society. The task force interviewed staff members, Executive Committee members, IFT’s “Three Presidents,” and others and prepared a detailed report about who we are, how we compare to other organizations of equivalent size and focus, and what we should be thinking about in the years ahead to better serve member needs. The team identified key areas needing attention. Some recommendations regarding IFT operations have already been initiated, and some have been completed. The IFT staff is continuing to work on other, longer-term issues that have significant budget implications.

The IFT staff conducted a survey to measure the reactions of awardees and others to the various activities at the AMFE in Las Vegas. The results were very helpful in planning for the AMFE in New Orleans next July. I wrote about our planning for New Orleans in my October President’s Page. Since then there has been input from various committees, and further changes are being made. Some of you may be frustrated by committee and technical session scheduling conflicts; however, given the number of committees, Divisions, and special groups that want to meet in a 4- or 5-day period and still find time to attend sessions and/or visit Food Expo, it is unlikely that everyone’s wish list will be completely satisfied. But we can try.

I wrote about committee participation in my November President’s Page. For many people, the first time they attend a meeting can be quite challenging, in part because they may not have received any briefing materials or been directed to the committee’s page on our Web site. All too often, we assume that all committee members have the same background information and know the focus of their specific committee. New members should expect to be directed to the minutes of their committee’s past meetings, either through the Web site or by the committee secretary. I urge new members to also read the relevant committee responsibilities as stated in the Policy & Procedures Manual, which is also available on our Web site

Some committees become bogged down in the minutiae of what was said and by whom rather than focus on the reasons for that committee’s primary functions. As a result, little or no progress is made. Management Committees were established to help minimize problems such as these; however, the key to success for any committee is for the committee members to function as professionals and focus on solving problems and promoting activities that benefit the IFT membership. Management Committees are new for us, but I believe they represent a means for focusing committee work on those activities that best satisfy the Strategic Plan and also identifying potential leaders.

For those of you now involved in committee work and those of you intending to volunteer, I encourage you to access the member portal on the IFT Web site and learn all about committee activities, the Strategic Plan, and related information. The more you know about IFT, the better will be your experience.

IFT President, 2004–05
President, Tragon Corp.
Redwood City, Calif.
[email protected]