[Unlocking SAA]: The Key Contact Program

The Unlocking SAA series will try to help new SAA members navigate all the things membership offers us. In this post, Michelle Sweetser explains what a Key Contact is and why it’s good to know who yours is.

Guest author: Michelle Sweetser
University Archivist at Marquette University and Co-Chair of Key Contacts

Joining a professional association for the first time can be a bit daunting. Every organization has its own lingo, be it sections and roundtables, acronyms (DAS, anyone?), or high-impact programs that feel like well-kept secrets (e.g. the mentoring program). To the uninitiated or the newbie, it’s easy to feel like an outsider and it can take some time, repetition, and work to gain a better understanding of how the organization works and where one fits within it.

All individuals who join SAA receive a welcome from the society’s main office in Chicago with an overview of services and programs. As one might expect, however, that welcome is somewhat generic, tailored to the needs and interests of the “typical” SAA member, whoever that may be. In this day and age, it can be easy to overlook that one email amidst the daily flurry of activity. SAA recognizes that multiple points of contact are likely to make for a positive experience for a new member. To that end, the Key Contact Program provides a personalized welcome and introduction to the organization, extending the work of the professional staff in the SAA headquarters.

How exactly does this personalization work? Well, approximately 70 SAA members currently volunteer and serve as Key Contacts under the auspices of the Membership Committee. Each Key Contact is assigned to a geographical region under the supervision of a district representative who coordinates the work of the district (see a list of contacts and division into districts here. Each key contact is asked, at minimum, to contact new members in his or her region one time. (Generally this contact is done by email.) Depending on when an individual joins, the email from a Key Contact could lag by as long as a month or two. The Key Contact can highlight and make the new member aware of workshops and programs that are being offered in their region, can invite new members to ask questions about the organization, can highlight committees or services that are likely to be of interest given what is known of the new member (especially in the case of students), or whatever makes sense at the time. In this respect, the Key Contact program is what the individual contacts make of it.

While Key Contacts serve an important role in welcoming new members to SAA, they also serve a critical role in cultivating members in their region. While it can be difficult to gauge this networking aspect of their work, we hope that key contacts will use their personal and professional connections to introduce potential members to the organization and promote the value of SAA’s programs and services.

The Key Contact Program was approved in February 1996 and is modeled after similar programs in regional archival and allied professional associations. Are you interested in serving as an SAA Key Contact? Fill out this form to be put on a waiting list (please note that you’ll need to be logged in with your SAA user name and password to access this form). Key Contact terms generally run for three years, and you will be contacted by committee leaders as vacancies in your region become available.

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