Every Member a Member

Every Member a Member

By Robert B. Martin, Jr.

There are about 300 local rose societies affiliated with the American Rose Society. Local rose societies are the backbone of the ARS, which has a number of good programs to support them.  For example, ARS provides a blanket insurance program for local societies that enables them to obtain insurance for their activities at considerably less expense than if they tried to obtain insurance separately. Also, the ARS is recognized by the IRS as an educational organization exempt from Federal income taxation. Local rose societies affiliated with the ARS are eligible for tax exemption as an educational organization under a “group exemption” procedure under the blanket of the ARS.  Contributions to local rose societies that have been recognized as eligible are tax deductible. This support of the local rose societies by the ARS is valuable.

Still, the number of local societies has been declining, along with ARS membership. And increasingly, members of our local societies, many of which are growing, do not belong to the ARS. 

To arrest this decline, the ARS has implemented a Free Trial ARS Membership Initiative, which gives each new member of a local society, who is not already an ARS member, a free four-month membership in the American Rose Society at no cost to the new member or to the local society. The only requirement for the local society is to have a designated member of the local society send in the names of the new members on the trial member submittal form.

The Free Trial ARS Membership Initiative is a good step in the right direction. But I think we can lengthen our stride and do more.

I believe we should take the Free Trial ARS Membership Initiative a step further and undertake a initiative in which we make every member of an affiliated local rose society a member of the American Rose Society. I am thinking of calling this form of membership an “affiliated member” which is something like the old affiliate membership we used to have many years ago. It would implemented by a local society submitting its membership list annually when the society itself renews. The local society would have to provide a valid e-mail address for each affiliate member ARS adds.

The affiliate member would get the following:
(a) A membership card - to be sent by e-mail so he/she can print it out and ARS doesn't incur postage;
(b) Garden entry and reciprocal privileges;
(c) An e-mail subscription to ARS & You;
(d) Access to the Members Only section of the ARS website - with password sent by e-mail; and
(e) Member discounts for purchases from the ARS stores and sponsors.

An affiliate member would not get the magazine subscription, the Annual, the ability to be a judge or a CR, or the right to vote.

The idea is that the ARS provides an affiliate member with those benefits that don't cost much while at the same time giving them a stake in the national organization. The ARS captures their addresses and e-mail and can thereafter encourage them to upgrade their membership It also triples or quadruples our national membership which gives ARS more gravitas in the garden and nonprofit world. And, best of all it gives a local society a powerful benefit to attract new members.

I believe the support of local societies should be a priority of the leadership of the American Rose Society. I spent several years on the ARS Local Society Affairs Committee and was active in the initial development of the White Book and its later revision. I have also been active in local societies for years and hold the bronze medal from three of them. In this service I have come to believe ARS exists to support local societies and not the other way around.