Board shares its response to ARA Member Review and publishes full Report

The Board commissoned a membership review in late 2012. The findings andrecommendations are now shared, with the ARA Board’s response and plannedactions 


This briefing outlines the findings and recommendations of research undertaken into ARA membership with a view to creating a membership category for archive users and supporters.  It also details the ARA Board’s response and planned actions. Further updates will be provided through ARA Today. 

This membership review comes at a time when membership is holding strong and increasing – it is  currently at the highest level ever.  At the same time major initiatives are coming to fruition, including the high profile campaign Explore Your Archive.  Member engagement has always been a strength of the sector, with over 350 involved in roles across the Association.  As a small organisation engaged in a huge array of activities this ownership and involvement is central to our success.  We want to build on this to ensure every ARA member feels confident in seeking opportunities to engage with and develop their Association – to the benefit of the profession. 


As part of the creation of the Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland) (merging the Society of Archivists, the National Council on Archives and the Association of Chief Archivists in Local Government) there was a clear commitment to explore how archive stakeholders, including users, could be better reflected in the membership.  Extending the membership in this way directly assists the creation of a bigger voice for the archives and records sector.

In 2012 the ARA, having established the new organisation, commissioned research to explore the potential new categories of membership, and the implications of this for current member benefits.


The consultants, SH Communications undertook the following seven-step process:

• Internal stakeholder review;
• Desk based review: ARA fee structure; ARA membership model;
• Desk based review of analogous organisations (professional bodies, membership bodies);
• Qualitative survey (December 2012): 3x face-to face interviews; 11x telephone interviews Every region & nation; all active sections; diversity of skills levels and employer types;
• Hypothesis-building working sessions;
• Quantitative (on-line) questionnaire completed by 446 members during January 2013;
• Focus Group discussions at Officers Day 4 February 2013.

Contributions were made by over 450 members at every stage of their career, participants and critical friends  from every region and nation, section, type of work environment. This resulted in varied and often contradictory views, meaning some recommendations are clear and unambiguous, whilst others require further development.

Recommendations were made across the following areas

1. New membership structure (and fees).
2. Benefits associated with each category of membership.
3. Outline of membership categories to strengthen current membership and encourage new members (with a particular focus on users and supporters of archives).
4. A regional structure that effectively supports ARA members.
5. A Sectional structure that reflect the interests and demands of the sector and the membership.
As a result of the consultation response additional recommendations were made relating to
6. Improving communications, including the website and CPD.

The ARA Board has received the report.  It has noted some errors in understanding. It has not accepted the recommendations in full, but has used it as a basis for its action plan to consolidate the membership offer, strengthen the regional infrastructure and sections to better meet member needs and develop a new membership offer for archive supporters.  The actions from the plan have been incorporated into the summary below.

Findings, recommendations and actions

1. Member structure


Work with stakeholders supported the idea of moving to a ‘career path’ approach to categorisation of membership.  Some were concerned that there were too many University courses resulting in too many qualified people for the jobs available in the industry, others perceived career progression as limited by a static workforce. There was a clear mandate from members to expand existing continuous professional development services.


• Simplify the membership structure: Individual (Students & low waged; Early career; Established career; Senior career), Organisational (Employers; Institutional members)
• Introduce a new ‘supporter’ membership category
• Clarify and develop member benefits (see section 2 below)
• Continue to develop post-Registration CPD scheme, expanding to include wider management skills and competencies, provide a wide range of CPD opportunities, and celebrate success


Establish sub-categories of individual membership (potentially student; assistant & technical; early; established; senior) targeting benefits to position in career and submit for approval at AGM/EGM.

Action:  2014 to enact 2015  

Review Institutional membership categories to offer lower cost, differentiated offer for voluntary sector for decision at AGM/EGM.  

Action: 2014 

Simplify membership fee banding, remain salary linked but with fewer bands and a higher upper limit (£70/75k).  

Action: 2014 to enact 2015  


2. Membership benefits


Consultation with members concluded:
• Being part of a recognised professional body is key – it ‘says’ the right things about me and asserts status to non-archivists.
• The ARA membership offer is features-led at moment. It needs to become a benefits led organisation to drive engagement, impact and to justify fee changes.
• Professional networking is important to members. Members want, for example,  to keep the conference.
• There remains a place for paper based communication (as well as on-line communication). Members value ARC Magazine and ARA Today. The Journal gets mixed feedback. 
• Over half say they want online CPD tips, tools, advice.  Standards & best practice guidance are important but need to be accessible, consistent, relevant, simple.
• Active members should be rewarded – recognition, status, Fellowship, waive fees, conference fee discount.
• There is room for improvement in benefits that they feel positive about – including ARA Today.


• Clarify and develop member benefits.
• Continue to develop post-Registration CPD scheme, expanding to include wider management skills and competencies, provide a wide range of CPD opportunities, and celebrate success.


Ensure members are aware of current additional benefits  

Action: Nov 2013 
Establish practice of celebrating success by awarding Registration certificates at Conference.  

Action: Completed 

Establish Careers working group to define targeted benefits for Individual membership sub-categories and explore the wider issue of career support.  Autumn 2013

Action: Completed 

Establish ARA Fellowships as part of CPD 

Action: October 2015


Incremental improvements to current offer or features will continue as part of day-to-day delivery.  New initiatives such as the core training programme are already underway. Activity related to the communications can be found under 5 below.  Recommendations below about the regional and sectional infrastructure will impact on opportunity for networking.Engaging with users and supporters


The goals for engaging with sector supporters are to:
• Widen the voice for the sector - build awareness to help defend and  advocate the existence and importance of documented history/archives and create ‘a voice to defend our national memory’.
• Support current users and those getting started in navigating resources and support, from the first critical questions: what is an archive?
• Build an interest in the profession and open doors to those with an interest in a career.

Potential audiences include:
• Archive users - interested individuals, students, or established historians;
• Professionals;
• Community Heritage Groups;
• Owners of archives;
• Leisure volunteers (i.e. not those engaged in pre course qualification activity).


• Introduce a new ‘supporter’ membership category.

Activity Deadline 
Develop Supporter membership category and offer (working with CAHG) for decision at AGM/EGM

Action: 2014

3. Nations, Regions and Sections


• Members appear to be negative about the quality, consistency, ease of access to many of the sections activities. They are mostly neutral about regional activities.
• Bureaucracy and  risk aversion are halting member engagement, even amongst committed group of volunteer officers.
• There is a clear mandate from the members to unlock the value of regional activities – not to be driven by bureaucratic requirements and there appears to be an opportunity to create overlapping or flexi-regions.


• Reorganise the English regional groups into Hubs that any member can join – allowing attendance wherever meetings are accessible and drawing on the practice of successful Regions.
• Disband underperforming sections and encourage the establishment of new Sections against evidence of need.
• Reinvigorate the Nations as high-performing sections.

Further work is required to explore alternatives to current regional working.  No decision has been made at this stage as to what form it may take in future. The following actions outline our approach to working with members to identify and explore possible effective and responsive structures.

Revise By-laws to remove need for Nations, Regions & Sections to hold an AGM or set number of meetings, set minimum standards offering accountability for budget, members to be able to become member of all sections without charge. 

Action: Autumn 2013 

Board to approve new by-laws 

Action: Autumn 2013 

Review ARA's relationship with existing regional archive bodies (e.g. RACs and  their successors) to ensure work efficiently 

Action: Spring 2014 

Form focus group to develop appropriate options to revise Regional structure (including to discuss Hub principles and impact); and examine implications for Nations' (Wales, Scotland, Ireland) work.  Submit proposals to the board.  

Action: April 2014 

Work with Sections leads to establish how sections relate to other elements of the proposed ARA structure. 

Action: Autumn 2013 

4. Communication and website


• Members want the ARA to be better at advocacy for their profession; they expect a  website that is easier to navigate, and enhanced awareness of what’s going on - if you don’t shout about your successes nobody else will.
• The ARA needs an overarching value statement that it can embed in stakeholders consciousness – something along the lines of “we represent those who preserve our national memory”.
• Feedback loop and communication processes are not working, and many features of the website received unprompted negative feedback. 


• Engage members that are or feel isolated.
• Enhance the functionality, navigation and content of the website.
• Enhance the profession’s profile, by regularly reporting the good work that goes on in relation to advocacy and finding opportunities to link archives to stories of public interest.
• Communicate through multimedia.


Activity Deadline

Use NRA to promote knowledge, share news, press releases, respond to discussions.  

Action: Autumn 2013 

Work with nations and regions and sections to create social media policy and protocol that allows a collaborative and effective approach to communications. 

Action: Autumn 2013 

Social Media Policy to be approved by Board 

Action: November 2013

Encourage engagement with social media by Officers, Board, Regions & Sections 

Action: Ongoing 
Recruit small focus group to look at quick fixes for ARA website navigation 

Action: Autumn 2013 

Remove unused social community elements from website where possible 

Action: Autumn 2013 

Source Joomla expert to rename section headers on website & review what is below them 

Action: Winter 2013 

The Explore Your Archive campaign is seeking to step up practice across the sector in linking archives to stories of public interest.  The review of regional infrastructure and sections under 4 also has implications for reducing isolation of practitioners.

Further information

The full report and research findings can be found at

For any queries, or to find out how you can get involved please contact the ARA Board members leading the member services review:
Catherine Taylor This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Louise Ray This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We will keep members up to date with the review, publishing updates in ARC and ARA Today. The 2014 ARA Officers’ Day will also feature the Review and its progress.