December 8th, 2006
|11:43 am - ADF membership numbers, regions, and where things are going|
With word that new regions were coming into effect in ADF, I decided that I wanted to take a look at growth rates, given that we'd shortly be unable to compare growth in the Canadian region as we have in the past because it would be split into three parts: Canada East, Canada West, and Europe (everyone in Europe was lumped into Canada before).
Before the split officially took place, these were the growth rates from the previous 20 months, by region, in ADF:
Canada: 98%(These numbers were posted to ADF-Leadership a few days ago, but I'm still thinking about them, so wanted to post here, too.)
Upper Midwest: 25%
The Central Region (Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Nebraska, Texas, Louisiana) has been plagued with issues, including the defuncting of all Groves and Protogroves in Texas within the past two years, and only three Groves in that region (one of which is brand new in New Orleans) are left. We also don't have any Clergy in that entire region. I initially thought maybe the fact that they're all Red states had something to do with it, but the Southeast, which is entirely Red as well, posted 20% increases. None of this, of course, is anyone's fault; I'm mostly just thinking through the drop in numbers more than anything else.
For the most part, though, our regions show double-digit increases, meaning that we're generally maintaining our membership balance like we always have. I'm a tad disappointed in the Heartland regions's meagre 11%, but given our size and usual "top-dog" status among regions in terms of membership numbers, 11% still represents a lot of members.
The biggest surprise to me was the Southeast, with a 20% increase, by far the largest increase in the US. Given that South Carolina, and Georgia have both doubled in size and Florida has increased by half-again, though, that's not too surprising. A lot of it, I think, has to do with the enthusiasm our Groves have shown down there, and I'm pleased to see that the idea that it's hard to get things moving in the "Bible Belt" doesn't seem to be stopping anyone.
I expected to see a larger growth rate in the Southwest, but 13% is certainly nothing to sneeze at. The Northeast is still a solid performer: it's where ADF has a good chunk of "old guard" and a lot of our leadership comes out of there (though this is changing rapidly), so there's a lot if resources in the area for newcomers to really latch onto.
The Northwest surprises a lot too, I think, especially in stark contrast to the Southeast. The way we think about the Bible Belt of the American South and the hippies of the American Northwest: one would think we'd have some leaps and bounds in membership up there, but the growing is slow compared to most other regions. I am generally at a loss to explain it, other than to say that sometimes, logical sense doesn't pan out in reality. :)
Canada is the obvious winner, nearly doubling its membership. Now that it's being split into three separate regions, though, things will change. I'm interested to see how Canada fares, now that it's free from being lumped in with Europe, and I'm particularly interested to see how Europe itself fares, now that they're a bit more independent (and we won't be getting the question, "Hey, why does my region list me as "Canada"? I live in Belgum!").
So go Canada, good luck to the new East Canada, West Canada, and Europe regions of ADF, and someone needs to send a fruit basket to Chris:) and valkyrvolva for excellent work in their regions. I'm excited to see how things pan out in the future of ADF.
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: amused
Current Music: "Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw", -JB
This is true. Sometimes we're downright stodgy.gothicdruid
mentions other options in the PacNW, but then I'm not entirely sure that's the case. Of course, I can't figure out what people see in most of the other Druid groups around there, but then, I imagine that they can't figure out what I see in ADF, either :)
Funny how that sudden recognition works, eh?
I have to say, I've never mentally connected ADFers with hippies. Therefore, I imagine the whole Northwest/hippie thing would not be connected to ADF growth.
|Date:||December 9th, 2006 04:53 am (UTC)|| |
Speaking of this, I'd heard that some folks in that region had been badmouthing ADF. Though that's like 3rd or 4th hand info so I don't have anything to substantiate it. One thing to think about though.
My impression of things there is anecdotal, but several of the past and present prime movers in Imbas are in the Seattle area and ADF comes in for a lot of criticism on their lists, fwiw (as I mentioned in my comment elsewhere, the main theme is disapproval of pan-IE orientation...most of it based on limited information about how ADF really functions on the grove level). My impression of the NW is that there are a pretty significant number of CR folks around, but that they are functionally sols who are very active on the CR lists/boards. There is among that group of folks a tendency to eschew any self-identification with "Druidism" and to focus on "hearth-centered" religion. That's a huge (and maybe unfair) bit of stereotyping on my part, but it is based on observation over several years on more than one list
|Date:||December 10th, 2006 06:05 am (UTC)|| |
Great, thanks for the extra info!
Where I am considered to be is in the "Heartland" region and one reason I could see for the 11% is the fact that I live in the middle of the "Bible Belt". When I have mentioned Druids publically... I generally get "what is that?"
So I am spreading the joyful news through my positive actions in this area to help them define what "that" is. :)
And that is the best way to spread the word, honestly. Thank you for doing that.
This is very true. Canada, after all, was our smallest region: it had about 50 members last time around, so in doubling their membership size, they still added 49 more members all by themselves.
I'm preparing to update this page when I next get a bit of time free, but at the very bottom you can see the numbers I used as my base for this comparison:http://www.adf.org/members/org/maps/
That might give you a better idea of exactly what each percentage means.
|Date:||December 8th, 2006 08:46 pm (UTC)|| |
There's also the fact that many of us are anything but sedentary -- for instance, I'm currently being counted as a gain for Canada and a loss for Central because my address changed from KC to England a couple of months ago (even though my grove affiliation is still Wild Hare PG and my intention is to return to Kansas after I get my MA, at least for a while). So it might be useful to see what proportion of the changes are totally new members or people leaving entirely, and what are just people moving around.
Actually, you can retain your "central" designation by telling the office that you'd like to, since you're affiliated with that Grove, which will allow you to vote in any Central RD elections that come up.
I wonder if I could run a membership query to see how many people are moving about.
You beat me to the point I was going to raise about percentages...
Anyhow...from the cheap seats (having considerable familiarity with where the numbers were within the last 20 months):
--Southwest has...um...let's just say shed quite a few members in the Los Angeles area since spring 2005. I think that more than likely pulled down what would have been closer to 20% growth.
--Central is dominated numerically by Texas. There have been some political (organizational-political, that is) factors at play there: There is a very strong hardcore reconstructionist population in Texas--both Celtic and Norse--and some of those folks have tried on ADF membership and found it lacking for varying reasons. I was seeing some of that play out while I was still on the Mother Grove, so I feel confident that's a major factor. The rest of that region (outside of New Orleans, St. Louis and Kansas City) is just so lacking in population centers AND is so often religiously intolerant that gaining traction there is unlikely in the near future.
--Northwest has a tremendous diversity of choices for reconstructionist-oriented & Druid-identified folks: The Bay Area has a very heavy OBOD participation, for instance--lots of "Druids", few of them in ADF. Seattle is arguably one of the centers of Celtic Reconstructionism in North America (well, really the world) and ADF has a relatively poor reputation in much of that community because of its Pan-IE approach.
--As with Canada, looking at percentage change in Southeast is deceptive. It was always about the smallest region and has rarely had more than one or two groves...one successful grove in that region can have a big percentage impact on membership down there in the Bible Belt.
Again, just observations from the peanut gallery...
Obviously, there is only one response to this, seeing as all the issues appear to surround the fact that nobody likes ADF:
Just curious: what are we doing for Asia, Africa, & Oceania?
(Erm, do we even have any members in Asia (yet)? Are we going to end up being the first...? There's a scary thought.)
We currently have 3 in Australia, one in Japan, and one in New Zealand. That covers that side of the ocean. So I'd say that percentage change there is going to be impressive when you move :)
But your query asks a question that I know the MG has been dealing with: how many members constitute a region? The last "magic number" I heard was 9, but I don't think that's at all solid. Right now, they're under the same old system: closest other region is where they get lumped.
I imagine that in Thailand, you'll be Northwest. Australia/NZ would probably be Southwest. Honestly, though, I'm not sure what would be a better way to do it with such a low population.
The MG should try looking at a different picture (rather than just numbers), especially for those in Asia (or moving to it): as ADF members we will not be in what is typically thought of as "Christian Nation" (as those within North America and Europe are often called), thus we have vastly different needs, challenges, and community goals.
Wow! Mazi brings up an excellent point that hadn't really occurred to me outright. The vast majority of ADF exists in an area that is historically dominated by any various form of classic European culture, and has been for centuries (if not millenia). With the majority of Asia & Africa, however, we're talking about cultures where not only has that same European culture never dominated, but in many areas is totally alien to the indigenous culture there.
For example, it's one thing to talk about issues regarding being an IE Neopagan in a predominantly X-tian society. However, both Neopaganism and Christianity are inherently based in European culture. Harder still is understanding different levels of discrimination when Neopaganism is introduced into, say, a Shinto society.
Would definitely be worth considering when deciding which "reps" speak for which regions, IMNSHO....
|Date:||December 9th, 2006 04:58 am (UTC)|| |
FWIW, I lobbied for a Eurasia region instead of Europe, but the tide was against me (and it probably doesn't matter in the long run :)
Just wondering here, but do you activly seek new members... this conversation leaves me feeling like you are trying to convert people to ADF? Obviously, at least it seems so, you are really number hungry or all that. But usally I hear of pagan groups (not to clump, but i don't know what else to say) not seeking new comers and all that...
just a train of thoughts...
An inherent flaw with this line of questioning is that it places a value on numbers, a value which isn't actually there, especially when seen from the outside.
One of the things I see most often is that some people perceive numbers as a measure of success. It's not, really: your success, religiously speaking, is tied to things that cannot be measured objectively. So if we're looking for something that is somewhat "objective" about whether we're successful in our mission (which is, primarily, to provide open, inclusive worship to those who want it), we are stuck with numbers as our best indicator.
What numbers mean to me in this case is "are we conveying who we are effectively in all sectors of the ADF world, and if not, why not?"
Part of what I believe is that if we do what we do, we will grow. That's a given: people will join something that has meaning to them, that gives them an identity that they appreciate and that they want. If our rituals give meaning, then we will grow. If our interactions reflect well on us, then we will grow. If our message appeals to people, then we will grow.
So what numbers can point to are trends that might point to larger problems. For instance, in Canada and abroad we appear to be communicating in an effective manner, and people seem to be understanding ADF and ADF seems to appeal to them. In the NW, it seems that maybe we aren't doing these things as well as we could.
The trends may also point to problem areas in ADF's administration. It could be that the SERD is getting out and being active in the community, thus making her region more accessible to members and also more attractive to potential members in the community. It may be that ADF is suffering an image problem in Texas, or that the Pac NW has an impression of ADF that isn't what we want to promote. Through thinking about these numbers, we can think about why we experience loss or low or high gain in those areas and work to better serve our existing members (because if we're experiencing low growth, then we are probably experiencing non-renewal, meaning that what once spoke to someone doesn't anymore; and if we are experiencing negative growth, we are most definitely not serving our members in some key, vital way).
Centrally, if we're losing members, we want to know why, and part of knowing "why" is knowing "where". Examining the numbers allows us to locate problems in space, and then figure out what those problems are in terms of, well, everything else that might have a bearing.
There's no question that ADF is growing, and will continue to grow. What these numbers help show us, though, is how we can improve our services to those members: if an area is growing slower than the rest of ADF, then why is it? Maybe it's just supposed to, or maybe we're not communicating effectively.
I admit, I don't really think about ADF as "bigger is better", but if someone joins, I want them to stay with us, so that means that we have to find a way to make sure that our members' needs are met. The numbers become a vital part of figuring out how to do that.
Oh, and to directly address your question: no, we're not in the conversion business. :)
We do seek out new members, but not, I don't think, in the way you mean. ADF is, though, all about public worship. Our longest-term vision is to have at least one Grove in every city carrying out weekly public, inclusive worship. To do that, of course, we have to grow. But we figure that if we say, "Hi, we're ADF, and we're holding a rite that you can come to free of charge and worship the deities with us, and you never have to join, but can just keep coming back as often or as little as you want," that we will grow eventually, and that people will choose to join ADF and become part of that vision.
After 5 years in ADF, I notice that people join despite the fact that I tell them up front, "You can do most everything with us and never join." Public ritual, community service, and even ritual experience can happen without joining. The fact that our rituals are public, though, tends to bring out people who otherwise wouldn't come out, and if the ritual experience goes well, they might decide to join. We're required to do outreach, but that's to make sure that people know we're here (so we can fulfill that requirement for "public" worship.
The outreach that we've always done has been: "We're here if you want to worship with us," not: "We're here, come and join ADF."
Does that make sense?
Yes =) I knew you'd have a wonderful informative answer of this sorts, I suppose thats why I asked. (That is I didn't really think you were in the business of conversion, its just all the replies could have made someone else think that...)
When a church talks about numbers, that idea comes to the fore-front.
Most good clergy of any religion will tell you that numbers aren't the measure of success. It's just that numbers are one of the few gauges we have to use if someone asks if we're successful. It's kinda an annoying place to be stuck :)
So what do you think the solution is? (Just curious)
I think that's the wrong question: I don't know if there's a "solution" to be had from all of this, more like, "Where can we go from here? What does this tell us?"
I'm still working on that. :)
|Date:||December 17th, 2006 08:58 pm (UTC)|| |
*grin* The answer is?
What does this turn of events tell us? Where will it take us? Is that Where we really want to go? What course can we take to get to where we should be?
I ask myself these questions all the time. Each time I look for those answers I end up some where else asking the same questions again. Seems there aught to be a road that says " This is it!"
ADF in the Southeast vs. the Northwest
"The biggest surprise to me was the Southeast, with a 20% increase, by far the largest increase in the US. Given that South Carolina, and Georgia have both doubled in size and Florida has increased by half-again, though, that's not too surprising. A lot of it, I think, has to do with the enthusiasm our Groves have shown down there, and I'm pleased to see that the idea that it's hard to get things moving in the "Bible Belt" doesn't seem to be stopping anyone.
The Northwest surprises a lot too, I think, especially in stark contrast to the Southeast. The way we think about the Bible Belt of the American South and the hippies of the American Northwest: one would think we'd have some leaps and bounds in membership up there, but the growing is slow compared to most other regions. I am generally at a loss to explain it, other than to say that sometimes, logical sense doesn't pan out in reality. :)"
I may be peculiarly well-qualified to address the puzzle you raise here, having been active in ADF groups in New York, Florida, Georgia and Washington.
There is a lot of solidarity in the Pagan community in the South. The pervasive sense of conservative resistance in a paradoxical way inspires greater determination and efforts to gather groups to support one another and to build a public presence that can't easily be written off or ignored. There's a lot of action inspired by defiance of the status quo.
In the Pacific Northwest, there isn't that opposing force to push against. As the pastor of a Unitarian Universalist congregation here puts it, "It's hard for us to find our identity here. In other parts of the country, Unitarians stand out as the intellectuals, the liberals, the ones interested in the environment and social justice. Here in Seattle, well. . . we're just like everyone else."
We don't have to band together to survive here. So we don't.
There ARE motivated people here, but it's not as common, and they are scattered and hard to pull together. A lot of people haven't been exposed to ADF because there just hasn't been a consistent presence. I led a Winter Solstice ritual for Cascade Dragonsong Protogrove in 2001, and several people told me it was the first ADF group ritual they'd ever experienced instead of just reading about it, and they were profoundly moved. I wish I could say I did a transcendent job, but I didn't - it was a very well-intentioned and mostly competent honoring of the Kindreds, but not inspired. If you don't SEE how powerful the group worship can be, why put in all the work to try to make it happen?
I haven't heard anything said against ADF in the years I've been here, but after that Solstice I haven't really heard anything said for it, either. I've tried repeatedly to contact local Druid groups that hold closed events but say they have means for interested parties to get introductions, but never heard anything back. If Imbas has a presence, they aren't looking for members in the shops and Pagan newspapers. I have met some of the local CR crew by complete happenstance, such as Erynn Rowan Laurie, but I've found them to be rather reserved and prone to associating among themselves more than seeking connections with new folks. I tried the Meetup.com Druid group (chaired by someone I see is a local ADF member now, didn't know of a connection then) briefly, but it was such an open and unfocused group that it didn't really seem to have cohesion or goals for working toward holding rituals together.
I let my membership lapse, switched cultures and worked Kemetic for a while, and after that just went on a multi-year spiritual sabbatical.
On the bright side, I re-joined ADF at Imbolc so there's a little upward bump in the graph for 2007. . . .