Working with trade organizations is a specialty for Kate Sherman, Director, Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors. Kate’s experience within the sub-sector has included roles at the Pennsylvania Society of Association Executives and The Foundation of the Pennsylvania Medical Society prior to her current workplace. She explains that she has been attracted by the small-office environment, the friendliness of the members and the opportunity to help brand the organizations with which she has worked.

“A trade organization has a very different climate than the other non-profits for which I have worked. One prime reason for this is that membership dues and revenue are so closely tied to the economy,” explains Kate. “Also, how we obtain funding is quite different. For example, we don’t do direct mail fundraising campaigns or events such as golf tournaments; a major portion of our funds come from our annual conference in January and other continuing education programs.”

Maintaining and growing the membership base for the Society, which represents the educational, legislative and ethical needs of the Pennsylvania land surveying community, is a priority for Kate. Currently, the average age of the Society’s members is 58 – which is why raising the profile of the organization and attracting new, younger members is in Kate’s short-term plan. She is currently working on creating membership materials to use for a statewide campaign, developing continuing education webinars to reach a larger audience and strengthening the Society’s brand.

“We want to reach the community with a positive outlook and a fresh perspective as the premier surveying society in Pennsylvania. To get there, we need to streamline member accessibility to information, bolster online and print content, encourage member-to-member interaction and convey a solid identity as a strong and beneficial organization that others would want to join,” explains Kate.

When Kate arrived at the Society, she found that the communications materials were sparse and insufficient to provide members with important industry updates. Among the improvements Kate made was increased advertising, a new look and a stronger editorial outline/content for the Society’s newsletter, resulting in the piece winning a national award: the Excellence in Journalism Award, Best Newsletter, National Society of Professional Surveyors.

However, implementing change in a non-profit trade organization isn’t always easy, according to Kate. “While we as staff might want to see rapid change, sometimes taking the ‘fine wine’ approach provides the same results, albeit months later. When you feel like giving up, don’t. Rather, work harder and use that special creativity to carve out new paths to reach the same goal. It might take a little longer than anticipated, but it will pay off ultimately and you will gain another talent to add to your portfolio.”

Follow Kate on Twitter.

Marlene Oliveira

Marlene Oliveira

Communications advisor and copywriter at moflow
Marlene Oliveira is communications consultant and copywriter at moflow and founder of the Nonprofit MarCommunity blog. Having worked in the nonprofit sector since 1999, Marlene specializes in working with capacity building and grant-making organizations, advising on communications strategy, and writing stories and other content.
Marlene Oliveira