The expressions related by NAFA members to me and to our editorial and marketing staff have been encouraging with the introduction of new innovations these past few years. Members are reluctant to be quoted or to put their opinions on paper or to e-mail them to anyone, but we keep track.
All are impressed with the educational programs that keep expanding with newly improved curriculum and accreditation. Inviting the OEMs and fleet management guys for panels and keynotes is helping their conference. Communication appears to be more transparent and leadership does listen (but not always "acts").
We in this media house have managed associations (and still do), so we have more than a basic understanding of objectives and procedures. I personally have been a NAFA member for more than 45 years so I'm extra sensitive about how their members are responding. Here's my summary and recommendations from thoughts shared with us.
1. The NAFA Board
Recognize the need for an equitable representation by sector for inclusion on the Board. Even if the bylaws don't specify, when you've got 40 percent of membership as Commercial Fleets (that's about 800), you desperately need a couple more substituted for Public Sector trustees. The Board needs to be more proactive in recruiting commercial fleet managers at the top where the decisions are made or the perception of a virtually "closed club" will continue to exist with suspicions in member's minds.
2. Sponsors & Exhibitors
This group is sometimes referred to as the "albino or black sheep" section. These are really the Affiliates and Suppliers so vital for participation and financial support. They need full recognition as members to vote and "belong" (perhaps not being eligible to hold officer status). Even though they are less than a third of total "membership" (no need for the fleet manager member to think they, as a group, would "take over"), their financial support and local chapter participation are key to the budget's success. Some fleet managers resent these Affiliates because they make sales calls on their management. Be assured these Affiliates have your interest at heart in the long run. Maybe you'd prefer to have a reimbursement company going over your head (and losing your job).
3. 'Higher Education'
Most agree there have been dramatic and positive strides forward in workplace education. It's remarkable and exemplary. It directly aids members in coping with their job challenges and in job security. Nearly everyone agrees executive management also needs to be "educated" on the value of the fleet function, but no one seems to know how to go about it. Fleet managers are constantly being endangered because senior managers in finance, purchasing, sales, HR, and other areas are regularly listening to sales pitches from accountants, outsourcers, and reimbursement firms who may not be promoting the fleet manager position. It is incumbent on NAFA leadership to prioritize a comprehensive educational and promotional program to influence corporate and governmental execs to protect self-fleet managers and their true values to the bosses who count.
There's a camp that believes if and when NAFA develops an effective program for execs, they could count on direct support from fleet management companies, suppliers, and Affiliates (who also have their own treasury). The Board needs to be the advocate here and lead. There's no other program that would be dearer to the hearts of members than when you can help convince their bosses of their intrinsic value as well as networking meetings and even a CAFM degree.
4. Cut Board Meetings
Historically, NAFA holds three Board of Governors meetings around the country with literally dozens of various officers, committee chairs and members, chapter people, Foundation officers, affiliates, and so on spanning 3-4 days. These are expensive and time-consuming periods. None of this group meets officially during the annual conference. Not everyone has their expenses or time paid for by NAFA. With the time constraints and business travel embargos in force, plus a NAFA budget that deserves scrutiny, it has been suggested that with today's technology, such as "GoToMeeting" or equally effective telephonic meeting methods, consideration should be given to meeting face-to-face during or adjacent to the conference, plus another meeting during the year to conduct planning and execution. Other associations have already cut back.
5. Open Attribution
NAFA rightfully takes pride in its reporting in Fleet Solutions or the Fleet Focus newsletter, etc. Much of this is also archived online for reference. Importantly, credibility is lost and suspicions are raised over possible use by members because no one knows who conducted the analysis or study report. The hint that it might be a biased report remains with unsigned copy. It's standard practice in publishing to identify the author for credibility. This policy should be instituted by NAFA. Attribution equals integrity.
That's what we pick up from NAFA members. If you agree to disagree, let me know.