A Message from the Director: Joining PROTECT 

card_carriers.jpgThe photos are a part of PROTECT history. 

In January of 2003, a group of our very first members met at a shopping mall in Asheville, North Carolina to have their portraits made holding their membership cards. They were proud to be “card-carrying members” of PROTECT.

If you were a member then, you sure knew it. Your laminated card arrived in the mail, displaying your name, your ID number and your membership expiration date. We were doing it “old school,” pre-Internet. 

Then, almost overnight, it seemed the world changed. The idea of asking total strangers to believe in you enough to send $35 and join–a painfully gradual approach we called the “NRA model”–was looking more archaic by the day, as groups like Move On amassed millions of “members” overnight, online. Joining was typically as easy as giving your email address. When the group needed financial help, they had plenty of affiliated people to ask. We didn’t, though we were diligently using scarce resources to laminate wallet cards.

In 2011, we made major changes to our bylaws. One change: joining PROTECT* would no longer cost money, it would require “action.” (We had not yet worked out how we’d define and measure this.)  

Over the years I’ve asked many people their opinions about how PROTECT membership should work. Some hold that membership "should mean something," and that if someone isn’t willing to invest the equivalent of dinner and a movie to support our desperately under-funded work, they should not be counted among the ranks of those who are. Better to have 5,000 real members than 500,000 people who click your “like” button.

Others adopt the more Twitter-era, moveon.org approach: allow people to affiliate themselves with you in whatever way they will, then increase their commitment over time. Don't worry about what to call them.

Here’s what I believe: whatever the threshold of membership, it should be crystal clear how to join PROTECT, and you should always know if you're a member. And yes, it should mean something.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that it is not realistic to measure the “actions” of others on behalf of children, unless you are prepared to count click-throughs or online petition-signing as action. That just isn’t the kind of organization we are or ever will be. We might be destined to grow slowly–or to stand up against the world with a band of thousands, not millions. But my heart is with all those like Carol E., who lived very frugally, but in our leanest days sent handmade earrings for us to sell, because she knew we were struggling. 

That doesn't mean we'll necessarily go back to laminating cards. However, in early 2015, the board of the National Association to Protect Children will meet and revisit our bylaws on membership. It's long overdue. 

For now, if you want to know you are counted among our numbers, there’s one surefire way to do that: donate today to either of our two organizations–any amount you can afford or feel moved to give. If you're not ready for that yet, by all means sign up for email updates (top of every page), and we'll bring you along over time.

Donate Now and Join

––Grier Weeks

* In 2011, we also moved our membership from our lobby to our charity organization. I refer to both as "PROTECT" here