In the late eighties American Express trademarked the slogan, “membership has its privileges.” In those days you had to pay a fee to carry their card, so they wanted you to feel as if you were a part of a preferred group. This adage applies to trade and professional organizations as well, as the focus is on acquiring and keeping members.
People often ask us how we “make money” as a nonprofit association. We are supported by our members who pay dues and in exchange, they expect something of value in return. What they value might vary from one person or company to the next.
Some members join for the networking and learning opportunities. Some join because they want the resources and others join for discounts on products and services, which includes our annual conference. We encourage members to join because they believe in and support our mission.
At the Women In Trucking Association our mission is simply to encourage more women to enter and succeed in careers in the supply chain. Every decision we make is related to that goal. We believe our high renewal rate reflects the importance in what we offer to anyone who joins.
When times are tough, we need to regroup now its more important than ever for us to maintain your support and provide you with the value you deserve when you pay your dues. Last January, before we knew that a pandemic would forever change our industry (and the world!) we initiated some programs to advance our mission in the coming years. Your support will help us move these activities forward in the coming months.
Because of the pandemic, our drivers were experiencing both physical and emotional challenges on the road. We partnered with ESPYR to offer our driver members free 24/7 access to mental health counselors and health coaches to keep them safe and healthy while alleviating some of the stresses they were experiencing. Amazon and Total Transportation of Mississippi graciously funded these services. We were encouraged by the success stories.
Since our goal is to promote gender diversity in the trucking industry, we knew we had to find a way to measure desired outcomes and provide best practices for companies looking for greater diversity. We partnered with Carriers Edge to create a Diversity and Inclusion Index to measure and to set benchmarks for all areas if inclusion. This is an ongoing project to recognize those companies who are achieving more balance in their hiring and promoting practices.
In order to continue the networking and educational opportunities we are creating WIT Chapters so you can meet in your local or regional area. Stay tuned as we work though the details on ways you can be more engaged by starting a chapter at your company or in your city or maybe even virtually until we can meet in person.
Another way you can stay involved right now is to participate in the online Engage Platform on our website. It’s a way to learn, connect and find others who share your experiences. We are spending a great deal of time and resources to make this program more user friendly and interactive, so please log in and join us.
A long-term goal has been to have a Driver Ambassador program. We hired Kellylynn McLaughlin, a training engineer at Schneider, Inc. Her company agreed to brand her tractor and to allow her to work for WIT one week each month. Walmart donated a trailer which is currently being retrofitted into a mobile display for educational and professional visits to schools and events.
Walmart also approached us about recognizing top female drivers, so in 2020 we created a female driver of the year program. Our first recipient was Susie DeRidder who has four decades of experience as a professional driver and is based in Canada. We are currently looking for the next Female Driver of the Year, so visit our website to submit a nomination.
As the pandemic progressed into the summer and fall, we made the decision to move our Accelerate! Conference and Expo into a virtual event. This was not an easy task, but over 600 of you attended and participated. The response was very positive, but our plan is to see you all in person this year in Dallas, Texas in November.
Finally, in order to keep the momentum in the years to come, we created a succession plan and hired Debbie Sparks as our new Vice President. Debbie will work into the CEO position to ensure a smooth change in leadership in the coming years.
Remember, membership has its privileges and all of our services, events and resources intended to support you, our members. This has been a challenging experience for all of us, but we want you to know that this year you will have more opportunities to find value when you consider joining or renewing your membership at Women In Trucking (www.womenintrucking.org).