'Listening' Can Take Many Forms

At the end of World War II a young U.S. Army soldier name Charles returned home to Oklahoma. Tired from his duty but exhilarated by his return home, one of the first things he wanted to do was see his favorite aunt. Aunt “Pebble,” as she was called, was working in downtown Tulsa at the Singer Sewing store.

On his way down the street his eye caught a young woman working on mannequins in the store window. Engaged by her beauty, he watched her. When she felt his presence she turned and waved him away.

Inside the store, he asked his aunt about the young woman. She told him her name was Marilyn and that she was a fantastic girl.

She introduced them – and at the same time warned Charles that Marilyn had four tough, older brothers who chased any suitors away.

Looking for opportunity but not demolition, Charles decided on a strategy. His plan of action was simple – first he made friends with Marilyn’s brothers. Then he began to date their sister.

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At the end of World War II a young U.S. Army soldier name Charles returned home to Oklahoma. Tired from his duty but exhilarated by his return home, one of the first things he wanted to do was see his favorite aunt. Aunt “Pebble,” as she was called, was working in downtown Tulsa at the Singer Sewing store.

On his way down the street his eye caught a young woman working on mannequins in the store window. Engaged by her beauty, he watched her. When she felt his presence she turned and waved him away.

Inside the store, he asked his aunt about the young woman. She told him her name was Marilyn and that she was a fantastic girl.

She introduced them – and at the same time warned Charles that Marilyn had four tough, older brothers who chased any suitors away.

Looking for opportunity but not demolition, Charles decided on a strategy. His plan of action was simple – first he made friends with Marilyn’s brothers. Then he began to date their sister.

Charles and Marilyn were married one year later.


Communication and opportunity go hand-in-hand with strategic planning.

At AAPG, the leadership and staff are constantly looking for opportunities to serve our members. Part of this is expanding our ability to communicate and understand members’ needs.

To accomplish this we are embarking on a new system of communication with both members and non-members.

Last winter at the Leadership Conference we asked consultant Glenn Tecker of Tecker and Associates to come and talk about “building a great society.” Glenn is among the world’s leading experts on not-for-profit associations.

A key part of Tecker’s message is that communication is a key part of building a better organization – especially listening.

Experts say that it takes much more than annual surveys to understand members’ needs and even wants. Tecker made a point that it takes several types of “listening tools,” because each tool only reaches a particular subset of members.

To build a better society we need information on a broad spectrum of the membership. This requires a broad research base.

As a result, AAPG is building a Flexible Membership Research Toolbox. The toolbox will include the following tools:

  • Traditional and online surveys.
  • Spontaneous intercept interviews at meetings.
  • Executive interviews.
  • Data mining of member’s interests.
  • Web-based focus groups.
  • Instant response groups.
  • Specialized studies.
  • Town Hall meetings.
  • Past-member interviews.

Of course, we will not use all of these tools in any one year. The goal is to build a database over a period of three to four years that will ensure AAPG leadership has access to a common stream of information that allows them to make the best decisions for the benefit of the membership.

A good definition of an “association” is “a group of people who voluntarily come together to solve common problems, meet common needs and accomplish common goals.”

The Flexible Membership Research Toolbox will be a key tool for building a better society and looking for common opportunities.


Marilyn and Charles were my mom and dad, and they made the best of their opportunity. Their marriage lasted over 50 years.

My mom passed away last month at age 81 to rejoin my dad. She was an extraordinary woman who gave her kids her energy and passion for life.

She will be greatly missed but greatly remembered by all who knew her.