The middle of last month saw IPMS (UK) have its Annual General Meeting. It marks a renewal point in our year as it it the place where we (the Executive Committee) must report back to our membership on what we have achieved in the past 12 months and how the Society is operating. We can put forward proposals to change aspects of how the Society operates and allow the membership to vote on such matters. It is also a place where members can air their views, propose their own changes and also to stand for election to the Executive Committee (EC).
This year was particularly rewarding in terms of elections because we welcomed five completely new faces to the EC. They bring with them fresh enthusiasm, potentially new ideas and above all a willingness to move the Society forwards. It also proved the value of the AGM in giving members the opportunity to debate the proposals in an open forum. One of the Resolutions tabled by a member sparked a useful debate. It was immediately clear that whilst the people attending the AGM understood the principle behind what was being proposed and broadly supported it, the solution on the table was not one that they were prepared to vote for. A useful debate ensued and a general canvassing of those present made it clear that a better course of action would be to withdraw the Resolution and look at alternative processes to achieve the same end in a more open and transparent way.
It is probably this technical and often dry process that dissuades so many from attending the AGM. All members have a vote but only a small number choose to exercise that right. Over the years we have increased the opportunity for members to participate in the decision-making process. At one time, only those attending the AGM could influence the decisions but we have steadily introduced postal voting and more recently the ability to return ballot papers via email. Even so, the votes represent less than 10% of the active membership. It can be difficult therefore to gauge what the real views of the grassroots membership might be.
We like to assume that they are generally happy with how IPMS (UK) is being run, that they have no strong views on the changes we (and others) might propose from year to year and that we have their support. We are often approached by our members at shows and given support and encouragement but how reflective of the Society are they? It’s an old conundrum and we have to assume, due to a lack of evidence to the contrary, that we’re doing OK.
It hasn’t always been thus. When I first joined the EC back in the late 1990s, the Society was in a difficult place. Our membership records were in a parlous state which meant we weren’t entirely sure how many members we had; our finances were poor and our cash flow even worse. We knew we had to get a handle on the basics and put the Society back on an even keel. Alluding to my previous comments, it was very clear that the membership were not happy and weren’t afraid to tell us!
It took time and effort to turn the situation around but it was done through the hard work and dedication of a number of committee members. We finally nailed an accurate figure for our membership; started to manage an effective cashflow and stabilise the Society to a point we could begin to think about growing again. We set ourselves an impossible target back in 2003 or 2004 – to grow our membership from what was then around 1,500 to at least 3,000 within ten years. We felt that 2,000 would be difficult but probably realistic, never believing in our wildest dreams that we would reach, or even exceed our target. It may have taken a year or two longer than planned, but we hit 3,000 and now we’re approaching 3,500.
In an age where our fellow modelling societies are struggling to retain members, we’ve clearly been doing something right – more likely it’s been several ‘somethings’ rather than a single decision or facet of our campaign. It’s great to see those results, to enjoy the success of the hard graft that we’ve put in, but it’s also about handing on the baton to new committee members each year and keeping the programme on track.
The AGM provides that focus for IPMS (UK). It’s about thanking the membership for what they put into the Society. It’s about thanking the EC for the work they do, not as individuals but as a group. It’s about renewing our commitment to the future of IPMS and indeed the wider hobby. Welcoming those five new faces to the EC last month gives me confidence that there are people within IPMS (UK) who want to become involved, who want to drive the Society forward and want it to change and grow alongside the hobby.
First published in Scale Military Modeller International magazine