2001 Membership Survey Summary
(from Maine Townsman, November 2001)
By Christopher G. Lockwood, MMA Executive Director

 The Maine Municipal Association is dedicated to providing high quality services to our members.  As part of our on-going Strategic & Business Planning process, we have devoted considerable attention during the past year to sharpening our vision for MMA as an organization. The Membership Survey this summer was an important part of this effort. 

Working with Market Decisions (a research and market research consulting firm), the MMA Strategic & Finance Committee, Executive Committee and staff actively participated in the design and development of the survey.  We sought information regarding the value and importance of MMA’s current services and the future needs of our members, as well as the level of understanding and familiarity with MMA’s services and programs.

We appreciate the commitment and time our members took in responding to the survey.  We received a 48% response, with at least one survey from 80% of our municipal members.  Market Decisions indicated this was an excellent response rate for a survey of this nature.  Much to the amazement of our consultants, members also took the time to write thousands of narrative comments in response to open-ended questions.  These narrative comments add invaluable insights into the statistical results of the survey. 

We are gratified that the survey reflected a very high level of satisfaction with MMA overall and provided a strong affirmation that our current programs are largely on the mark.  The survey also provides important information on areas in which we might need to make refinements, particularly in terms of ensuring that the broad spectrum of officials within our member municipalities understand and take advantage of MMA’s services

The following is a brief summary of some of the key findings from the survey:

• Overall membership satisfaction is very high. Only a handful of members are somewhat dissatisfied. Virtually no members said that they are very dissatisfied.

• The most important priority for municipalities is the local tax burden followed by economic development, then roads.

• Local tax burden is an issue that spans all sizes of communities.

• Larger communities were much more likely to be interested in economic development than smaller communities (30% of municipalities 300-3500 residents, 57% of 3500+).

• Smaller communities are more likely to cite roads as an important priority (48% of municipalities of 500 or less, 39% of those 3500+).

• Respondents are interested in a number of new MMA programs, especially group purchasing and regional meetings.

• Some 82% of members are satisfied with MMA’s advocacy services.

• Only a third of members know the process for deciding an MMA position on an issue or the name of their policy representative, yet 2 of 3 say they have contacted a legislator about an issue.

• Some 90% of members are very satisfied or satisfied with legal services.

• All legal services were seen as very important: legal opinions (79% very important), legal manuals (77%), training (65%), sample ordinances (66%) and advocacy in the courts (53%).

• About half of members were satisfied although many were not familiar with Personnel Services and Labor Relations.

• Some 92% of members said that MMA is effective at communicating about its programs.

• A majority of members rate workshops as very important to their municipality. Some 75% of members rate workshops as very important.

• While the vast majority of members have Internet access either at home or at work (86%), most respondents still prefer to receive information in a traditional way – through the mail (82%).

• Larger municipalities, over 3500 in population, were more likely to have access in the office (73%) than small towns (54% for towns between 500 and 3500, and 33% for towns with less than 500 residents).

• Key elected officials and board members are much less likely to have Internet access.

• Some 91% of members are positive about MMA publications.

• More than two of three members are familiar with and use the Maine Townsman (94% familiar, 88% use); the Municipal Directory (89%, 77%); the Salary Survey (76%, 64%) and the Fiscal Survey (65% and 49%).

• Some 45% of members attend the annual MMA convention. Some 37% of members find it very valuable and 47% find it moderately valuable.

• Some 84% of members are satisfied with the Municipal Information Resource Center and MMA web site.

• A majority of members are familiar with and use the MMA web site (69% familiar, 52% use) and inquiry services (76%, 67%).

• Over three in four members (79%) said that the Maine Municipal Employee Health Trust Services met their needs.

• Almost three of four members found the Risk Management Services’ property and casualty fund and workers compensation fund to be very important.

A more detailed summary of the survey findings is available on the MMA website or by contacting Theresa Chavarie (1-800-452-8786).  A complete copy of the survey results is available at the MMA office for those who wish to review the report.

At the MMA Executive Committee’s September meeting, the survey consultants presented the final Membership Survey Report.  The Executive Committee also received presentations on Maine’s demographic and economic trends.  I sought to tie these pieces together in my annual State of the Association Report in which I presented a vision for MMA in 2005 and mapped out the broad strategies to “get from here to there.”

Based on the presentations and follow-up discussion at the September Executive Committee meeting, we have a clear vision of MMA’s current and future role. 

MMA’s Service Programs in 2005

• Our major focus will be on our current portfolio of services (with refinements based on the Membership Survey).  As we look ahead to 2005, it is likely that 90-95% of MMA’s services will be those we are currently offering.

• Limited development of new programs.

MMA As An Operating Entity in 2005

• Focus on personal, high-quality service.

• High level of interaction with members.

• Efficient systems/processes.

• Financial strength.

• Sound planning and coordination.

2002 will be a challenging year for MMA and our members. Given the concerns about the economy and the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, we are acutely aware that our members are bracing for difficult financial times and increased service demands, particularly related to public safety and emergency response. Concerns about Maine’s tax structure continue to mount, as evidenced in the top rating of this issue in the MMA membership survey, the Legislative Education Funding Reform Committee, and the Property Tax Cap/Rollback referendum petition recently submitted to the Secretary of State for certification. 2002 is also a gubernatorial and legislative election year.

During times such as this, both MMA’s advocacy and service programs take on an added significance.  Municipalities look to MMA to carry the municipal government message to state and federal officials, to respond to legal and personnel questions, to provide risk management and employee benefit programs, to offer training programs including new areas (e.g., dealing with terrorism), and the many other services which MMA offers.

As we work with the Executive Committee in formulating MMA’s 2002 budget and priority initiatives, we will focus on maintaining the quality of our current service program (with refinements based upon the Membership Survey), within a budget framework allowing MMA to address current and future needs while recognizing the financial constraints facing our members.

We appreciate your support and look forward to continuing to provide you with quality services.  Please check our web site or contact our office if you would like any additional information or have any questions regarding the membership survey or other issues mentioned in this column.