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AWA 2015: The Year Ahead

A new year begins and a new Board has taken the helm of AWA at an important time.  During January, the Board met to review the status of the Association, question what we were trying to achieve, and consider how best to move forward.  We went through a thorough strategy process to decide where we should be heading in 2015 and beyond.  We assessed what had been done well in the past, and what our current organizational resources are.  Here are our findings and our strategy points for 2015:

A quick assessment of the organization

AWA as an organization is well respected.  We are blessed with a member portfolio with a diverse range of backgrounds, capabilities, and personalities.  Our members are at various stages of their personal and professional lives.  Some have only recently arrived here from the US or another overseas location, some have been here for awhile and plan to stay here for a while longer, if not permanently.  Some are working professionally in Australia, and some stay at home and support their families.  Some of our members are here for love, moving for their Australian partner.  The majority are away from their former lives and trying to make Australia their new home, often without a return date.  They typically need a support network of other who are in a similar situation.  For most of the members, the shared experience of dealing with the initial hardships of an international move, mixed with the joys of discovering a city as vibrant as Melbourne, helps to meld us as a group, and underlines why AWA offers such unique values to our members. 

As you can imagine, as an organization, our job on the Board is to accommodate, as best we can, the diverse needs of our members.  Our prime objective is to provide a social support program for American expatriates and to create a social hub for our members to gather around and find a home away from home.  We are also an organization that gives back to the Melbourne community through its work with the Royal Children's Hospital.  

Historically, most of the members were spouses of the expat executives who offered a lot of their time and effort to the organization, especially in the area of fundraising.  In recent years, and particularly after the financial crash of 2008, or organization has gone through a massive change in the membership profile.  The new members have less time for the type of fundraising that used to be such an active part of our branding as AWA.  They are now typically more professionally engaged and therefore have less disposable time, but this does not mean that the members are less willing to give.  It has been a challenge for the organization to engage members and tap into the talent available to us.  We need to figure out ho best to harvest the inherent goodwill in the member base and apply it in the right direction for our organization.  

Here are the key decisions reached in the meeting
  1. Who are we? We have not changed.  We are still an organization that provides support and a home away from home for American expats.  Our members are our priority.  To better serve the social needs of the member base, we will update the format of our regular get togethers.  In the future, we will be more spontaneous, using social media to announce meeting times and places that are obligation free, but nonetheless provide an opportunity to get out of the house, meet new friends, and try new and exciting venues.  Where possible, we will seek to support American owned, or American themed venues.  Luckily, American BBQ joints are becoming increasingly popular around town!
  2. Where are we? We are dealing with less member engagement.  In short, we have fewer people actively involved as volunteers for the various events we typically schedule each year.  As such, those people end up burning out, and this is not sustainable.  For 2015 we will pull back and only run one large fundraising event.  This may change in the future, but for now we see no alternative unless more volunteers come forward. 
  3. So what does this mean for 2015?
  • We will put our effort primarily into member support and engagement.  Will will have less organized fundraising events, but more friendly get togethers.  We will try to hold events that take into consideration the various demographics of our membership.  The events will often align with various American holidays, cultural events, the Consul General holiday party, and there will still be one major fundraiser.  We will communicate these events via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, the AWA web site, and the Stars & Stripes newsletter. 
  • We will develop incentives to attract new members
  • We will have regional activity groups that are spontaneous and based on particular regional interests.  This will hopefully allow you to meet new friends in your local area. 
  • We are working with the RCH to organize new volunteer opportunities at the hospital.  This has been difficult at times, but with the new foundation space, we hope to find areas where our members who are passionate about working with the hospital can volunteer directly. 
  • We will have a welcome wagon to provide "one on one" support for new arrivals and anyone else needing a bit of friendly support.  We want to be there when you need us.  Stay tuned for this program.
We want to build a healthier organization and want to meet or exceed your expectations of the AWA, but to do that effectively, we need more feedback and ideas from you!  If you have any ideas or suggestions to help us improve the organization in 2015, please contact the 2015 AWA President, Masoomeh Wake.  

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