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Ár nDraíocht Féin
Three Cranes
Chaos Matrix

December 8th, 2006

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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%
Central: -9%
Heartland: 11%
Northeast: 17%
Northwest: 8%
Southeast: 20%
Southwest: 13%
Upper Midwest: 25%
(These numbers were posted to ADF-Leadership a few days ago, but I'm still thinking about them, so wanted to post here, too.)

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: amusedamused
Current Music: "Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw", -JB

(27 comments Leave a comment)


Date:December 9th, 2006 07:40 am (UTC)
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...
[User Picture]
Date:December 9th, 2006 02:14 pm (UTC)

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.
[User Picture]
Date:December 9th, 2006 02:28 pm (UTC)
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?
Date:December 9th, 2006 03:48 pm (UTC)
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...)

[User Picture]
Date:December 11th, 2006 02:50 pm (UTC)

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 :)

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