August 2009

United we stand

CIM’s new One Membership initiative promises streamlining, solidarity and synergy

By M. Kerawala

It is surely a testament to our vitality that the CIM family has grown so prolifically, spreading across our vast country since its inception over a century ago. However, as with many families, those who were once linked by kinship have come to cluster into different groups, sometimes making communication and united action difficult.

The realization that we at CIM are united by common interests and that this unity must be reflected in our organizational structure yielded the One Membership initiative, currently being rolled out to CIM branches across Canada.

Coming together

At present, there are two levels of membership — national and branch. National membership also includes societies and other special categories such as retirees. However, numerous branch members are not national CIM members and only participate in local branch activities. Branch-level membership records have been traditionally maintained separately by the branches. Branch members who are not national members, while entitled to participate in many excellent branch activities, are not entitled to important national membership benefits that would give them access to CIM best practices and a better understanding of our industry.

In addition to impeding communication with many of our stakeholders, this duality has led to some organizational inefficiencies. To address this situation, the idea of one membership emerged a number of years ago, coalescing in 2006. At a Council meeting in February 2007, under the leadership of Jim Popowich (CIM president 2007-2008), a motion was passed unanimously to adopt the One Membership concept.

The One Membership proposition is quite straight­forward. For a nominal additional fee of $ 10 at the branch level, all qualified branch members are upgraded to a basic-level national membership. Their records enter CIM’s national database, and they will have full access to the online membership directory. In addition, they receive a copy of the December “outlook issue” of CIM Magazine containing the national membership directory, an official CIM membership card, all CIM official communiqués and the ability to manage their membership accounts online. The infrastructure for these facilities is currently being put in place.

The branches retain full autonomy over setting their membership rates and planning and running their activities; however, they pass on the responsibilities of database management and dues invoicing to the CIM national office. Access to the online members’ directory and CIM national office’s advanced online communication tools are some of the other benefits that branch executives enjoy. In addition, CIM’s national office ensures compliance with privacy laws and maintains data securely on the branches’ behalf.

A visionary move

Popowich, who together with the then incoming president Jim Gowans and CIM executive director Jean Vavrek, led the nuts-and-bolts development of One Membership, is well-placed to speak of the rationale behind the initiative. “The concept has been considered for many years,” said Popowich. “It is more than a merging of databases. With One Membership, CIM can better communicate with all those interested in the minerals industry — locally and at the bigger-picture level. We felt that CIM should address softer issues such as education, safety and corporate social responsibility, and we needed to connect with all in our industry so they could be better advocates of it. The best way to do this was through our branch members — the grassroots and the mainstay of our industry. Under the former system of membership, we had no way of communicating with our significant stakeholder base. Hence the concept of One Membership began to emerge.”

Another important strand of the fabric of this idea relates to CIM’s need to attract more and younger members. Michael Allan, the current CIM president, explained: “I believe we need to focus on getting more of our younger members involved in CIM activities. Many of them are active in branches but may not participate in national activities. Although I was always a national member, my involvement with CIM started with branch activities and progressed to being involved with CIM’s national meetings and ultimately to being on Council.” Allan is optimistic that many young branch members will follow a similar path and that CIM will benefit from the fresh ideas of young talent.

One more reason for which the branches are vitally important is that, as Jean Vavrek pointed out, “the branches are the key avenue through which our ‘retired’ members stay connected and maintain lifelong friendships, enabling us all to profit from the wealth of their experience.”

Significantly, president-elect Chris Twigge-Molecey and his successor, Chuck Edwards, have also thrown their support behind the move, ensuring that the CIM leadership’s commitment to One Membership is sustained well into the future, long after the tenures of its original architects have been completed.

Economies of scale

Big-picture benefits notwithstanding, One Membership just would not take off if it did not offer benefits at the everyday level. “We needed to make the cost reasonable,” explained Popowich. “Many at the branch level, while interested in the bigger picture, did not wish to pay a high fee. We also wanted to reduce the branches’ workloads by maintaining their membership database for them. The branches are operated voluntarily by people who have regular day jobs, so we want to make things easier for them. With our new web-enabled systems, we have better tools to assist the branches with communication through a secure central medium that is constantly updated. Branch membership renewals can also be more effectively handled from a central database. One Membership will significantly reduce the workloads of branch executives at a very low cost.”

Elaborating on another important benefit, Allan said: “All membership records are maintained in a secure system. The potential issues with privacy legislation that can plague ‘unregulated’ databases are taken care of by having CIM National look after the data. Also, potential liabilities for which CIM is ultimately responsible, such as those pertaining to taxation, can be better managed.” Finally, Allan added: “We will have the potential to perhaps dramatically increase our national membership.”

Gaining ground

The One Membership initiative has already been implemented at 12 branches. Despite a few concerns, the reception has been largely positive.

“We decided to be the test market for One Membership for multiple reasons,” said Cameron Rennie of CIM’s Winnipeg Branch. “Firstly, having CIM National manage our database alleviates a large workload.  Secondly, the program will provide our branch members with numerous benefits, including a member card, access to the CIM membership directory, etc. Thirdly, the program helps to ensure that the member database and communications meet the requirements of privacy laws.”

Eric Hinton of the Red Lake Branch had his eyes on the big picture. “We wanted to gain access to possible scholarship funding for high school graduates within the national body of CIM. We had been using the CIM name for many years and had not gained a lot of opportunity, except for that of the Distinguished Lecturer tour. There are other resources available to the branch from the national office, such as potential financial support, advertising space, and marketing and networking opportunities that would otherwise have to be started from the ground up. The Red Lake community can also benefit by finding out what other communities are doing with the resources available for schools, and from the availability of people to answer any number of questions, either technically or socially.”

These sentiments are echoed by many branch executives. “When the New Brunswick Branch decided to move to One Membership, it was our understanding that this was part of the consolidation of finances and therefore it made sense,” recalled Paul Rennick. “The greatest benefit for our branch members will be the communication for national issues and events, a facility that previously was not available.”

The Vancouver Branch adopted One Membership because it simply made sense from a cost-benefit perspective. “A number of administrative and legal issues provided very compelling reasons to sign on,” explained former branch chair Alex Doll. “By moving all branch members under the national umbrella, insurance and tax issues are allayed. Collecting administrative tasks under the national umbrella is more cost-effective than each branch registering as a non-profit society, buying insurance, remitting GST (for bigger branches) and having the books audited. A branch that is prepared to do all this probably wouldn’t see much benefit in One Membership.  But, they should ask if they would really be saving money, given the nominal cost of One Membership.”

It’s bigger than it seems

As more branches come on board, One Membership is destined to grow into much more than an administrative union. The more people that come together, the more expectations they will have. Welcoming this prospect, Vavrek, said: “We need to get to a point where people say, ‘This works for us’. That’s a commitment we’ve made. Right now, it’s the first stage and I know that people have expectations from us. At this early stage, we can only estimate them. I am hoping that the implementation will be an interactive process, and invite feedback from our branches on what they expect and how it is working for them. The sooner we know what they need, the sooner we can work to meet those needs.”

Vavrek will not have long to wait. Feedback is already trickling in from the branches. “Our hope is that CIM National can share its abilities to attract new members at the branch level, allowing us to increase our membership and visibility,” declared Rennie. This is also on Hinton’s mind. “We expect more visibility of our branches within the CIM Magazine and more support from national sponsors for our events,” he said. “We also want the leadership to be visible in the community, showing that we are involved both on the mining side and the community side.”

With so much to be immediately and potentially gained from One Membership, it is little wonder that Popowich and Allan are so enthusiastic. “We are a strong networking institute and One Membership just allows CIM to be better at this,” said Popowich. Allan, on whose presidential watch the initiative is being implemented, added: “This will be good for the branches and good for CIM overall. We will all benefit.”

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