It is easy to walk around and slap “high-fives” with your team members when we accomplish something great. That is natural and it is necessary. Encouragement and recognition are two vital components of building a healthy organizational culture. And besides, no one wants to be around someone who always has a negative outlook on life. Those types of people are exhausting and literally zap the energy from within you.

R. Corey Clayborne, AIA. Photo by Dan Currier

However, in an organization such as the AIA, our sustainability and longevity are due in large part to the payment of membership dues. In exchange, members expect to receive valuable services that enhance their businesses and who they are as practitioners. When receiving feedback on our organization, we must take the good with the bad.

As such, our Member Services Advisory Council recently created and disseminated a non-member survey. This survey was distributed to 1,085 licensed resident architects from Virginia who are not currently AIA Virginia members. The response rate was high equating to 33.5% or 364 responses. This could be because people can’t wait to tell you what’s on their mind if there is something just eating them away or they like the organization but there are some obstacles between them and joining. Regardless of the reason, we will take the data gratefully.

Here is what we found. Of the total respondents, 70% had been AIA members in the past for an average of six years. There is a substantial misalignment between the cost of dues and the perceived value of membership. Approximately 76% used either or both of these reasons for not renewing.

Here is the good news. 52% have considered rejoining or becoming a member.

So now what? We have a story to tell.

On my firm visits, one of the questions I ask is, “what do you wish we were doing?” Believe it or not, many times the response includes some type of activity we are already doing that would provide value or resolution to their issue. They simply don’t know about it.

One of my mentors told me it is like you are kissing your members in the middle of a dark room. We have to figure out a way to turn the “light” on so everyone can see that we are kissing! Our Communications and Outreach Advisory Council is working diligently at refining and implementing those strategies.

I hope you are seeing our presence increase in various social media platforms. Please take some time and check out our newly refreshed website at We are also working on an email segmentation tool that will allow you to receive email only on topics that interest you. You already get more than enough email!

So let’s summarize this on a positive note. Membership has grown in all five local AIA components when you compare it to the membership count exactly one year ago. As a state, we have increased by a total of 59 members with much of that growth being demonstrated in AIA Hampton Roads and AIA Northern Virginia.

Bringing this full circle, great job to all of the organization’s volunteers at the local component levels because this deserves slapping “high-fives”!
We all share a common goal. We want better architects. The community wants better architects. Your clients want better architects. Thanks for all you do in advancing the profession of architecture forward.

With service,

Corey Clayborne, AIA, MBA
Executive Vice President