A different look for National FFA Alumni Association

“There comes a time where everyone needs to look at their programs and services. The issues might still be relevant, but there might be a different way to address them.”

--Jeffrey Magee
2012 FFA Alumni Development Conference keynote speaker

Change is not a bad thing. This year, the National FFA Alumni Association is changing a few things to better serve its constituency and ensure it continues to reach more former FFA members and supporters of agricultural education.

At the 2012 FFA Alumni Development Conference in July, FFA Alumni executive director Julie Tesch and FFA Alumni Council president Bob Barton shared some changes that alumni will see throughout the year.

“The most important thing we need to know as an organization is that we need to change the way we do business to ensure we achieve success and grow membership,” Barton said. “We need to have a much larger audience so we can have a bigger impact.”

Barton said FFA Alumni need to make sure they are reaching out to friends and neighbors and sharing the message of FFA and agricultural education.

“Together we can achieve the success we’re looking for,” he said.

Tesch said there are challenges the organization is facing, but there are opportunities along the way.

The National FFA Alumni Council looked at various programs and examined their strengths, weaknesses and how they impact FFA Alumni membership currently.

“A strength of our organization is the passion of our members and the support of the National FFA Organization,” Tesch said. “If we have a weakness, it’s that as an organization we are too small and we need to continue to grow."

Tesch then discussed these various and new programs and how they will be affected in the upcoming year.

One way the association is currently looking to increase membership is through a new program called associate membership, set to roll out in the fall of 2012. National FFA Alumni will focus on providing associate membership to graduating agricultural education seniors to become a non-voting alumni members for five years. To activate this membership, those receiving it will need to log in to the National FFA Organization’s Agricultural Career Network and opt in.

Once seniors have opted in for the associate program, they will be able to be involved with their local FFA affiliates or state association. They will also receive alumni association’s newsletter electronically. The hope is that by engaging graduating seniors in FFA Alumni, it will encourage lifelong participation as an alumni member.

In addition to the associate program, Tesch also discussed alumni awards, Local Program Support grants, Washington Leadership Conferences scholarships, benefit auctions and agricultural education scholarships.

Tesch said the alumni awards are being re-evaluated to ensure awards have value and are relevant. LPS grants will continue as long as there is funding for them, she said. Tesch said the national association wants to make sure that support of affiliates and states is occurring in a way that makes fiscal sense. In the past, almost 10 percent of the national association’s operating budget went to 13 states through rebates; the council believes there is a better way to involve all states. Another piece that was mentioned was scholarships to WLC for FFA members. Tesch indicated that this is not going away; however, it will now be a state decision on how the scholarships are awarded and this will give the states more options. In January, states will be made aware of how much money they will have to provide scholarships.

A larger change for the national association is the phasing out of the silent auction during the national convention and expo. After a reduction in the donated items, reviewing numbers and assessing impact, it was decided to focus alumni’s time and talent on more impactful events. As a result new, more impactful events will be offered at the 2012 National FFA Convention & Expo.

“We know change is difficult,” Tesch said. “We have more acres to cover and want to maximize our potential as much as possible.”

Other areas that are also undergoing changes include the Ag Teachers Scholarship. A concerted effort is being focused on finding a better way to support current and future agricultural education teachers. The other program that is being looked into is the state-to-state mentor program. The results to date have been positive, but it needs fine tuning to make it more successful.

“I know there’s a lot of a change,” Tesch said. “We value what has been done and are proud of our history. We’re standing on a solid foundation established by our past, which is allowing us to grow and expand in our future.”