Grassroots Outdoor Alliance dropped some big news this week. The specialty retailer advocacy group added 10 new member companies to its nationwide roster in a single stroke, one of the biggest spikes since the organization's founding in 1994.
According to the association's leadership, the move was not a concerted push to add numbers, but rather the natural result of a new system implemented to make onboarding faster and less labor-intensive.
"Last year, Dana Howe, our director of retail membership and education, put a goal in place to update the process of applying for membership status," Grassroots president Rich Hill told SNEWS this week. "We're not changing the requirements or metrics needed to become a member. But from now on, the process will be much easier."
The new onboarding process handles membership verification through Grassroots' main office on a rolling basis, rather than at board meetings, as in years past.
"Going to the board [to verify members] used to be a super slow process," said Hill. "Over the past few years, the board has been deliberate about putting in place strict metrics required for membership so that new requests can be handled by the office, which works much faster."
Hill joked that in recent years, the path to membership with Grassroots has been "somewhat mystical" and convoluted. Board meetings would occasionally devolve into what he called "new member exhaustion" after hours of vetting applicants.
No more, he said. "As an organization, we want to get to the size where our advocacy power is on par with anyone in the industry. Smoothing out the member onboarding process will help with that goal."
The ultimate plan, Hill said, is to widen Grassroots' reach until 100 percent of attendees at the Grassroots Connect show—cancelled this year due to the pandemic—are Grassroots members. Last year's attendance was made up of 65 percent members and 35 percent non-members.
Until that goal is reached, Grassroots plans to continue refining processes that make onboarding and serving members as scalable as possible. "We seem to have crossed some invisible threshold in terms of size," Hill said of the recent additions. "This latest round of additions is getting a lot of attention, but we can feel it inside the organization, too. Everyone is hopeful that we'll speed up even more."
The new Grassroots members include D.D. Bullwinkel’s of Brevard, North Carolina; Earth’s Edge of Grand Haven, Michigan; Gear for Adventure of Hamburg, New York; Great Miami Outfitters of Centerville, Ohio; High Mountain Sports of Oakland, Maryland; Nugget Alaskan Outfitter of Juneau, Alaska; Pine Needle Mountaineering & Pine Needle Dry Goods of Durango, Colorado; Rutabaga Paddlesports of Madison, Wisconsin; Walkabout Paddle & Apparel of Eagle River, Wisconsin; and Wanderlust Outfitters of St. Joseph, Michigan.