Sunday, 28 February 2016 06:11

Survey Report Posted

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David Schaffner – MA Board Chair

The 2015 Maryknoll Affiliate Survey produced 60 pages of responses, giving Affiliate leadership guidance and challenges for years to come. In all, 82 people, mostly US Affiliates completed the survey, which was a mix of qualitative (dialog box) and quantitative questions. Board member Rich Lessard led the survey committee, from survey design through beta testing, compilation of responses, and presentation of preliminary results to the Board.

To connect with Affiliates more directly, the survey asked what being an Affiliate means to them, how they relate to other Maryknollers, and their deeper heart wishes, passions, and abiding commitments. The purpose was to clarify and strengthen our relationships as Affiliates-to-Affiliates and as Affiliates-to-Maryknollers—Sisters, Fathers and Brothers, and Lay Missioners, and to invite all Affiliates into greater ownership of future direction setting. 

This word-cloud of the Maryknoll Affiliate logo is made up of words provided by respondents
to the survey, shown in the languages of countries where Affiliates are located.

Demographics. About half of respondents have been members for over 10 years, and more than half have had local or overseas mission experiences, or both. Most respondents’ chapters have existed more than ten years. Over 75% of the respondents’ chapters meet four or more times a year, and 72% of respondents attended 76% of the time or more. Over 60% have attended International Maryknoll Affiliate Conferences at least once, and 70% had attended one or more regional conferences. 

Key Questions. The following are only a sample or general statement of answers; 95% were positive and complimentary.

What does it mean when you say you are a Maryknoll Affiliate? … someone who shares the journey of life with others who seek to live with global vision in an ever-changing world. ... lay people who identity with the Maryknoll Charism. Four principal pillars guide us. … thinking of the condition of people around the world, and not just in your own circle. Thinking outside of yourself. 

How has being a Maryknoll Affiliate impacted your life? … value added in that it supports what I have believed. … empowered to take responsibilities in my community and confident in participating in local community. … gives me a support system for my continued commitment to the ministry I started as a Lay missioner. … Before, I was struggling it seemed in isolation … I found the affirmation and support to continue to do what I was doing. 

What excites you; what gives you energy about being a Maryknoll Affiliate? It gives me a boost to know that we can do things locally … The stories of the Maryknollers … regular people who have done extraordinary things. … There is pride in being considered a part of the Maryknoll family. … I can participate in something greater than my little corner of the world. 

How would you see us cultivating your vision for the future of the Maryknoll Affiliates?  Chapters connecting through regular reporting to the Chapter’s website page. … help each other get up to speed on use of the website, social media, leadership [skills] … Connect us with the missioners via podcasts, Skype, … mission opportunities in the US … preparing others who are going on mission and then helping them process their experiences when they get back. 

How connected do you feel to the Maryknoll Affiliate Movement, beyond your local Chapter? Two-thirds of respondents felt very much or somewhat connected to Maryknoll and the Affiliate Movement through Maryknoll Magazine and NSFA and conferences, both regional international. Those who can go to Maryknoll centers for seminars, bazaars, and institutes feel more connected. 

A few observations: … Local members sometimes don’t get the feel of the movement until they help host a regional conference or attend one.I do not feel a part of the larger community of Affiliates. It is expensive to go to the national meeting, but that would probably help. Recently, I started to read the weekly Maryknoll Affiliate updates more regularly. 

Where are your needs/passions/desires met and supported? Varying percents of respondents felt supported by these entities: My local Chapter – 60%, Individual members of my Chapter – 86%, The Affiliate Movement – 52%, The wider Maryknoll Family – 73%, Other– 55%. Comments: I feel I serve the Affiliates more than they serve me …   more energized through my connections with Maryknoll than with my local Chapter ... the movement is too focused around the East Coast. … My chapter is struggling—some members have gotten older, moved away, but I am continually enriched by others in the wider Affiliate and Maryknoll family. …  I think the other entities don’t realize how much we could work together ...

What single most important benefit does your Chapter provide? Not much. I have to force myself to attend the monthly meetings. … A place where everyone’s opinion is respected without judgment. … A caring environment; we are family. … As our parish does not have a justice and peace committee, our Affiliate Chapter provides that avenue.

How connected do you feel to the Maryknoll Affiliate Leadership? Are visits important? Responses indicated that most Affiliates don’t feel strongly connected. Some observations: It would be nice to have a visit from leadership, but the costs may outweigh the benefit. … we seldom connect with anyone from the larger Maryknoll family. … important to hear from Affiliate Leadership so that individual chapters and members [feel] they belong to and are important members of a larger community. … When the RC has the time and enthusiasm to visit and communicate with the chapters, it’s very life-giving. 

How much do you value the Monday morning email updates? A surprising 23% said they do not receive them, but of those who do, 59% value them highly. Respondents said: It helps me stay in touch. I look forward to reading the Monday updates ... not wiling to spend time at the computer to read them … Not much content—format not appealing.  … I rarely get one even though I have asked to get them. 

How can the Affiliate Leadership improve communication?  Make it automatic that Affiliates [with email] get both the Monday Updates and notification (with links) when a new NSFA or NTLH is available … Enhance use of the webpage … Frequent email communications from regional coordinators. … More use of Affiliate FaceBook page by Board and EC (and everyone). … I prefer to receive things by mail, but nowadays everything goes through the Internet. I use the computer at work, so I avoid using it when I am at home. … We should look into other ways of instant communication; e.g., Twitter.

Do you have any final thoughts, comments, suggestions? Without a commitment to a deep spirituality, Maryknoll Affiliates is a NGO. I see no future for a Maryknoll Affiliate NGO biggest challenge is getting more and younger members. … We need to get creative in how our Affiliates can “do” mission locally and overseas (short term immersions). … reinvigorate the effort to create a database of Affiliates willing to provide hospitality to Maryknoll Missioners and develop a way to use it. …Are our earth and environment an area of Affiliate interest. … I think that you are doing a very good job so keep on. Do not get discouraged. Put your trust in God and He will guide you. 

Observations and Report Wrap-Up. While the community that results from chapter life is very important to Affiliates, many factors are eroding this community. Members moving away, loss of chapters through aging, and driving distance to meetings have contributed to 5% of respondents not having a chapter affiliation. Also, most respondents value the Affiliate movement, but many other organizations appeal to Affiliates and vie for their attention and energies. 

The locus of activity and success of the Affiliate movement rests at the chapter level, and many Affiliates and some chapters do not feel very connected to Affiliate Leadership. Although the chapter is the prism through which most Affiliates see the movement, Affiliate leadership activities, such as conferences and newsletters, do add value. 

Interestingly, many Affiliates are not comfortable with the Internet. Then how effective is electronic communication? In our over-communicated society and with our older Affiliate demographic, it is not surprising that perhaps a small percentage of messages are actually read.

In summary, the survey provides insights into issues that need to be addressed to assure the long-run health of the Affiliate movement. It gives us a better understanding of the blessings and challenges the Maryknoll Affiliate movement offers to all of our stakeholders: the Sisters, Fathers and Brothers, and Lay Missioners, Affiliate Leadership (Board, Regional Coordinators, Executive Coordinator, Chapter leaders), individual Affiliates, and others who are impacted by the Maryknoll expressions. 

 Note: The complete Survey Report is posted at Maryknoll Affiliates Survey Report

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