A key challenge PASS faces as a user-run organization is, ironically, identifying the needs of our community, collecting feedback, and understanding issues. One of the best cross sections of the PASS community is the local Chapters. In an effort to better plug in to our Chapters in a structured manner, we have begun a series of Chapter Leader surveys. We hope these surveys can help us identify how PASS can better serve every Chapter Leader and member. Surveys are often considered more art than science, but our intentions are pretty simple and straightforward: We want to gather basic information in each survey and include questions that will help us better understand the grass roots of the organization.

Last week we closed out our first Chapter survey, and I want to share the results with you. Of PASS’s 211 Chapters, an impressive 104 Chapter Leaders (49%) responded to the survey, making the results more than a sampling of current Chapters. I would personally like to thank everyone who participated. Here’s what Chapter Leaders told us about their Chapters:

  • 73% of Chapters that responded have a membership of 500 or less
  • 74% of Chapters that responded have regular attendance of between 10-50
  • 39% of Chapters that responded have 6-10 meetings per year, 33% have 11-16, and 24% have fewer than 6
  • 49% of Chapters that responded took advantage of PASS’s one complimentary registration and sent a representative to either PASS Summit 2009 or European Conference 2008; most of those who didn’t send a representative said they couldn’t afford the associated travel expenses or time away from work or their Chapters were new (they were established only shortly before or since those conferences)

We asked Chapters about what PASS services they were currently benefiting most from. (Note that the Chapter Leaders who responded are more likely to be actively engaged with PASS, so it is possible some numbers reflect higher-than-average usage):

  • 61% use the monthly Chapter meeting PowerPoint presentation
  • 51% take advantage of the complimentary TechNet subscription
  • 49% use PASS Webhosting
  • 47% use LiveMeeting services
  • 30% use Regional Mentor support, which is a focus area for 2010

When we asked Chapter Leaders to rank which potential PASS services/benefits would help them be more successful, Chapter Leaders responded as follows:

  • 65% rated “Email/Newsletter functionality for Webhosted sites” as their #1 or #2 priority
  • 55% marked “Event Registration” as priority #1 or #2
  • 34% rated “Sponsor Bureau” as priority #1 or #2
  • 29% ranked “Speaker Bureau” as priority #1 or #2

It has been my experience that all these potential services/benefits are very important, but these results are in tune with the top two requested services/benefits I noted in the Chapters Vision for 2010 blog. This aligns with our goal in late 2010 or 2011 of making Chapter Webhosting more robust with added event management and membership email capabilities (announcements/newsletters).

We also asked Chapter Leaders for specific feedback on a planned PASS Chapter Speakers Bureau, which could provide a central place for SQL Server speakers to register, load their presentation decks, and designate areas they will travel to. Moreover, speakers can identify if they are available to deliver LiveMeeting presentations. Even though the Speakers Bureau did not rank top in the PASS services/benefits mentioned above, the amount of survey feedback it received shows that it remains an acute need. According to the survey results, Chapters’ primary needs in a Speakers Bureau are:

  • 77%: Access to all speakers who live in local regions
  • 59%: Ability to search by the following (speaker name, topic name, location, travel radius, evaluation score, availability for a meeting date)
  • 47%: Access to speaker schedules so Chapters can know when speakers are traveling
  • 39%: Remote (virtual) speakers
  • 34%: Emergency speaker list – finding a speaker when there is a last minute cancellation
  • 26%: Post feedback on presentations that can be viewed/searched by other chapter/event leaders

Again, I want to thank all the Chapter Leaders who took the time to respond to this first survey, and I look forward to great participation in each survey in the future. I trust this summary gives the PASS membership a better window into our Chapters. With each survey and feedback channel, we hope to better understand the needs of our Chapters, Chapter Leaders, and members. In the meantime, I encourage your feedback—please let me know what items we should be asking about in the future.

— Douglas

Douglas McDowell
PASS Director of Chapters