GRAPEVINE, Texas — ACCA is changing its contracting membership policy, switching to an open membership system for both the national association and state chapters.

For the last 15 years, ACCA has been working under a federated system where contractors could not join the national ACCA association unless they were also members of their state and local ACCA groups. The same rule applied for contractors wanting to join the state association — they had to be a member of the national organization.

That changed at the 2015 ACCA National Convention in Texas as ACCA’s leaders announced they were adopting the open membership policy in hopes of attracting more members.

“It’s been 15 years since we took a long, hard look at ACCA membership, and the world has changed a lot since then,” said Phil London, chairman, ACCA, and vice president of residential services, Thermal Concepts Inc. “What made sense in 2000 doesn’t make sense now. Today, the world is mobile, accessible, user-friendly, and 24/7. ACCA has more than 100 different dues levels, and there’s no easy way to join online. It just doesn’t make sense.”

After June 30, state and local contracting associations will be able to control their own membership dues, enroll and renew members, and develop their own strategic plans and benefits. This decision will affect contracting companies in about 40 percent of the country that have businesses in areas with local or state ACCA chapters.

Local Reaction

Most of the state and local leadership were caught off guard by the announcement. The national ACCA board approved the change after convening a Membership Model Task Force on the issue.

“I was totally surprised by it. I had no reason to think that was coming down. I was not part of that work group. We heard about it Sunday at the hotel before the convention,” said Brindley Byrd, executive director of the Michigan ACCA Chapter.

Once the shock wore off, Byrd began to see the growth opportunity this may extend his chapter. “So far, the reaction of our members and board has been positive. They see this as a way to focus and strengthen the Michigan association, because many of our board members have seen what has happened since the federation started. We are forecasting that our state numbers will go up. That is what our historical members are telling me,” Byrd said.

Before the federation policy, the Michigan chapter had 400 members. Today, there are 80. While that can be attributed to many different factors, the federation policy would be one of the issues.

The Ohio Chapter was also much bigger when ACCA offered open membership. “This is a great opportunity for membership growth,” said Rocco Fana Jr., executive director of ACCA Ohio. “We were surprised, but are excited about growing the association. A lot of times, when we talk to the smaller contractors they complain about the costs. Now, we can offer them a flat rate of $225. Nothing against national, but it’s a pretty good deal for the investment into the state association. A lot of the older members are saying this is the way it used to be. Our association was much larger at that time.”

It is good timing for the Ohio Chapter, as it is in the middle of a membership drive.

“I think it is going to be a good thing in the long term. We just need to give it a little time. There are lots of options still to be discussed. We will look at the numbers in about a year, and that will be a good test for all of us,” Fana said.

National, state, and local associations will be required to create tangible value for contractors in order for those associations to succeed. In the past, chapters needed to change their name to “ACCA Chapter” to comply with the affiliation requirements, but, now, they will need to revert to the original name or a different name that does not conflict with ACCA trademarks. Also, the ACCA wave logo will be reserved for national use and will need to be phased out over the next six months.

This will mean a lot of work for the chapters in the next couple of months.

“From the moment the announcement was made, 50 percent of my time has been dedicated to this issue. That will probably continue for the next two to three months. This has spurred a significant amount of administrative changes,” Byrd said. “The biggest question is, if this is truly a positive thing for our association, how will we capitalize on it? What will be our mission and vision? What kind of value can we provide to our Michigan contractors? That is what will take the most time.”

ACCA president and CEO Paul Stalknecht believes open membership will be beneficial to contracting associations on all levels. In documents obtained by The NEWS, Stalknecht explained the decision in a letter to chapter leaders.

“The fact is this: All of the ACCA federation affiliates have dealt with contractors unwilling to join our respective organizations because of the forced requirement that they pay membership dues at all levels. We have seen this first-hand at ACCA. In our chapters, which operate in fewer than half the states, and represent an ever-decreasing percentage of our membership, we have collectively witnessed a 21 percent decline in membership over the past two years. In the at-large areas, where we do not have a chapter requirement, we have experienced a 35 percent membership growth during this same period. Correspondingly, many chapter executives have told us over the years they could grow their local membership base if the national ACCA dues were not a requirement.”

Time will tell if the associations thrive.

“We’re independent contractors,” London said. “We believe in local control, we understand the power of a brand, and we know the free market works. Put those three things together and you get our new membership plan.”

Publication date: 4/13/2015 

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