Thursday, June 22, 2017

Case study: Demise of a professional membership organization

Unless there are dramatic changes in statistical trends, the New York State Occupational Therapy Association may face insolvency and may be forced into dissolution in the very near future.

Two years ago I reported that the NY State OT Association was at a critical juncture. At that time, only 4.4% of all NY practitioners were members of the group.  During the period of time from 2006 through 2014 NYSOTA OT/OTA membership declined 24%.   The decreasing trend of participation is continuing.

According to statistics published by NYSOTA, now there are only 379 OT members and 120 OTA members.  In consideration of the total of OT practitioners in NY State (17,318 total) that is a membership participation rate of 2.9%.  This is decreased from the rate two years ago of 4.4%

According to publicly available financial information (Form 990), NYSOTA's net assets are in free fall.

2012        $180,045
2013        $135,154
2014        $107,234
2015        $  88,333

Percentage change over this period of time: 51% decrease

Additionally, management fees, NYSOTA's largest expenditure, are increasing dramatically:

2013: $56,000
2014: $74,980
2015: $75,000

Percentage change over this period of time: 34% increase

Membership revenues are flat.  NYSOTA is currently relying on revenues from its annual conference in order to sustain itself.


1. Convene the NYSOTA Board and create a dissolution review committee that can begin to evaluate the potential to sustain the organization.

 2. The current governance structure is failing.  Consider changes to the Bylaws to re-create a representative structure. Organize the structure around schools that are geographically distributed throughout the State. Have each school comprise a council that can be no more than 49% academicians. The other 51% of each local council can be public members, clinicians, or other stakeholders.

3. Create a new NYSOTA Board structure that is strategic (not operational) in its purpose and has representation from each local council. Again, limit academic power on the executive board, no more than 49% composition.

4.  Immediately engage an efficiency and ethics review process for all contracts within the organization - particularly the management contract. Establish a timeline for re-negotiating contracts as possible with approval of a newly constructed Board that is operating under newly constructed bylaws.

5. Offer free membership to every OT practitioner in NY.  Invite donations to help during the transition period.   Open up all processes for full transparency.

6. Focus short term efforts on the annual conference because of its historic revenue generation.


This information is all cited from publicly available documents and represents a cautionary case study for anyone interested in the challenges of operating a professional membership association.  OT practitioners in New York State and elsewhere require robust organization in order to address legislative and policy issues that will impact practice.  The current member organization is failing and this places all practitioners at risk in New York State.  The significance of this problem can not be overstated.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

OT History in Clifton Springs!

A group of people made OT History today - pulling off an amazing day of celebration in Clifton Springs that was enjoyed by so many attendees.

Eighteen months ago I started corresponding with Steve Egidi, an occupational therapist and Vice President of the Clifton Springs Chamber of Commerce.  He invited me to join a working group that was forming to help make plans for  the 100th OT Anniversary Celebration in Clifton Springs.  Steve was a steady organizing force for the group and it was a real pleasure getting to work with him.

Also from the Chamber was Jeff Criblear, President of the Clifton Springs Chamber of Commerce.  Jeff did amazing work with restoring the 50th anniversary plaque and also helping to coordinate so many of the Centennial celebration activities with the Clifton Springs community.

The glue behind the entire project was undoubtedly Jamie Noga, Coordinator from the Clifton Springs Chamber of Commerce.  Jamie did it all - she kept us all organized and on track, managing all of the details behind the scenes.  Jamie was fantastic!

Jim Conners, Clifton Springs Village Historian was also a pleasure to work with - and his work in creating the occupational therapy exhibits at the museum with the staff there was fantastic.

Les Moore, from the Clifton Springs Historical Society, also made many valuable contributions to the group - most memorable to me was delivering the graveside memorial service that we held with the Barton family the morning of the event.  It was such a moving service and it was a memory that I will cherish.

Corky Glantz, also an occupational therapist and former AOTA Board member, joined our group and was very helpful in communicating with AOTA.  We have Corky to thank for helping to initiate contacts and coordinate those efforts.

Linda Shriber, occupational therapy program director from Nazareth College, also provided invaluable guidance and support for the entire project.

Rochelle Marx-Asher, occupational therapy fieldwork coordinator at Bryant and Stratton College was critical in helping to organize student volunteers for floats and also for helping to coordinate entertainment for the event (by volunteering her husband!)  The music was fantastic!

My own part was small, but I got lopsided media face time for the project since I was the one who did the presentation during our ceremony today and did a few interviews with local media outlets.


There are so many others - the Keuka College students who 'ran security' in front of Consolation House, the Nazareth and Bryant and Stratton students who ran the 'kids tent,' the Utica College students who marched in the parade, the Orange Community College program that made a float, the SUNY at Buffalo students who made a float, representative from NYSOTA that marched in the parade, and representatives from AOTA who served as Grand Marshals and who also gifted the community with a 100th anniversary plaque, donated the 'Flat' Founders and banner, and also gifted the community with a new seal (that is another story!).


Thanks also to the OT community who came and celebrated, and especially to the Barton family who came and shared stories and fellowship.  I also want to thank Karen and Patrick Boland who were so gracious in allowing us to visit their home (former Consolation House).


I hope I have not forgotten anyone.  I will certainly edit this if I have made any accidental oversight.  We made OT History today!  Thanks to all!