Question for the Profession: Why is it so hard for us to connect?

By Nina Crutchfield, Local Program Success Specialist

Like a lot of you, I’m on Facebook. Yah, I caved. When I took this job they wanted me to set up an account and try it out. Apparently the marketing and communications folks were experimenting with what NFFA could do with Facebook and they needed some Guiney pigs to try it out. Now I have a list that includes family, close friends, former students, high school and college classmates, and a considerable number of acquaintances (some I’m not sure I actually remember 4 years after I accepted their friend request).

With a social media network like this, why is it still so hard for us to connect to the over 8 million former FFA members out there? Are we missing some sort of boat somewhere? Do you know all the former FFA members in the community you teach in? If it’s a small town, probably. If it’s a larger one, you might know some but not others. When was the last time you took a poll at a civic meeting, fair board meeting, or at a local business just to find out who those former members are? If you’re like me, you never have. I learned of former members the hard way—word of mouth from current members or their parents. What a crappy way for me to operate!

I think of all the lost potential because I didn’t engage the very people who built my program in the decades before I arrived. I chose to operate on my own as I made excuses like “I’m too busy,” or “I didn’t grow up here,” or “if they want to be involved they’ll come to me.” I could have saved myself a whole lot of work if I’d have actively sought out these individuals, figured out how they wanted to be involved, and then followed through. I could have had expert guest speakers from every career field in my community, a list of people to call when the school couldn’t/wouldn’t buy new equipment, and a plethora of buyers for anything we might have been selling. If only I had connected!!!!

This month’s Making a Difference is all about the CONNECT! campaign. NFFA is using social media to begin the process of reengaging those 8 million former members. Why not use this as a spring board for starting your own local CONNECT! campaign? It doesn’t have to be elaborate or use social media, just start working on finding those people in your community who love agriculture, love FFA, love impacting kids. You’ll be amazed at the untapped resources you have when you find them.

Please share your ideas and strategies for finding and connecting with former members and FFA supporters in your community at NAAE’s Communities of Practice. I know there are a lot of teachers out there who just need a good idea to get started. Post your strategies here and read all about the CONNECT! campaign in this issue of Making a Difference magazine.