Members Value Organization
Schwartz, Mark, Nation's Cities Weekly
National League of Cities membership is perceived as both valuable and necessary according to results of a recent NLC survey. Nine in 10 NLC member officials agree "it is important for cities to be a part of NLC" and would recommend membership to another municipality.
The survey, recommended by NLC's Membership Committee, was mailed last summer to a random sample of NLC member elected officials and to members of NLC's leadership groups (Board of Directors, Advisory Council, policy steering committees, etc.). It included questions designed to measure general member satisfaction with NLC, levels of personal and community participation in the organization, and the perceived value of specific programs and services. Following are excerpts from the full survey report.
MEMBER SATISFACTION AND INTERACTION WITH NLC
Community Participation in NLC
Why do cities join NLC? Respondents most often chose the following three reasons for joining: "to keep informed about federal legislation affecting cities and towns" (selected by 80.5 percent of all respondents); "to find and share innovative ideas and solutions to local government problems" (77.9 percent); and "to network with other city officials" (65.5 percent).
Of all respondents, 63.2 percent joined "to be part of a national organization representing cities and towns"; 56 percent "to influence public policy as it affects cities and towns"; 49.7 percent "to access training information and technical assistance"; and 11.3 percent "to obtain discounts on conferences and publications."
Why do cities renew NLC membership? Responses showed that cities renew NLC membership for the same three reasons: "to keep informed about federal legislation affecting cities and towns" (81.3 percent); "to find and share innovative ideas and solutions to local government problems" (76.8 percent); and "to network with other city officials" (62.8 percent).
Personal Participation in NLC
From a list of 10 specific activities, the highest percentage of all respondents (80.9 percent) chose "read Nation's Cities Weekly" as the main way they participate in NLC. Nearly three quarters of all respondents (72.1 percent) have attended a national or regional conference since joining, decreasing to 60 percent in the main sample and increasing to 92.3 percent among leaders.
Leaders identified other ways in which they participated with NLC, including serving on the Board of Directors, speaking at meetings and seminars, and testifying before Congress.
Communication with NLC
For the sample as a whole, respondents contacted NLC 2.5 times during the past year. As would be expected, members of NLC's leadership groups contact the organization often, while more than half of grassroots members (50.7 percent) said they have had no contact with NLC during the past year.
Among those who contact NLC, 47.7 percent do so to obtain federal legislative information. Another 44.8 percent are interested in conference and training program information, 35.8 percent want information on other cities' programs, and 35 percent wish to discuss NLC organizational business.
Overall, survey respondents gave staff members above average ratings on the four characteristics listed. More than 60 percent of respondents rate NLC employees "excellent" or "good" in all four categories: availability/accessibility; speed and quality of response, professional demeanor; and knowledge of subject area. However, approximately one quarter of all respondents indicated "no knowledge" of these characteristics, suggesting they may have little or no contact with NLC staff.
Factors Affecting Level of NLC Involvement
Fifty percent (50.1 percent) "strongly agree" or "agree" that time constraints keep them from becoming more involved in NLC. This percentage increases to 60.6 percent for all respondents in the smallest towns and generally decreases with city size. …