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November 16th, 2017

WOW! If you attended the Annual Convention in October, chances are you are like me and finding that even tho a month has passed, you find yourself still trying to make heads and tails of everything that happened! It has been a crazy few months for me, and perhaps sometime in the near future I can find the time to sit down and breathe, and reflect on everything that has happened.
A few weeks ago I accomplished one of my lifetime goals by taking to the TED stage. In a previous post I answered a lot of the questions about what that experience was like, and hopefully you have had a chance to read it.  (You can find it here: After TED Interview) The folks taking care of the video editing for the event are putting the final touches on all of the speakers videos, and the video should be available in the next week or so.
When I was introduced on stage I was introduced with my title as AKA President, and since then, there has been a significant amount of email to my inbox from people that were either in the audience or watching the livestream. These are people that are wanting to know more about kites, more about programs and educational opportunities, more about what they can do to help spread the love and joy of kite flying. There has also been a few wanting to know how they can contribute! The fact that I was able to use my position to help bring attention to our incredible community and our passion for this ‘silly little kids toy’, is only a small part of me thanking all of you for being so supportive and inspirational over the years.
Let’s take a minute and discuss this community of ours, and by that I mean lets discuss our organization. If you were not at the convention, you may not have heard the good news. At the annual business meeting there was some REALLY good numbers presented regarding the health of our organization. For years the board has heard from the members that the two big concerns are 1. Membership #’s 2. Budget/financial well-being.  These are two really big problems to tackle and it almost seemed that any significant change would not be plausible in one year.  But, I am happy to say, I was wrong to think that. In no small part this is thanks to the Executive Director and Kiting  Editor Daniel Prentice, and the actions of the Board of Directors. In one year we have changed the financial future of the AKA. There is still room for improvement and growth, but we can now take a deep breath and focus on the next steps.  It is almost easy to take this for granted, and for us to march on without fully reflecting on this, but, I highly encourage you to look and see if you come up with the same conclusions.
Now, membership numbers. This is a really big issue, and like the saying goes the best way to eat an elephant is one little bite at a time. So we have to look at what bites we can handle, and what bites are the easiest instead of feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem. Over the past years there was a lot of work done to understand what it was that our members wanted from the organization. That information is invaluable and will help us as we go forward. Where we have been lacking in our research has been in understanding non-members values and how the economy around us has changed. Why are people simply not joining member organizations anymore? What can we do to fix that? Do we just do more of the same and use the same model, or do we go a completely different path and try new things?
In a way, we are in good company with fellow member based non-profits. It is the big question that ALL member based organizations are having to answer as they are seeing their numbers drop. The good news is with that many leaders, decision-makers, and influencers all focusing on this one question, there is a significant amount of research being made readily available for everyone to use. (and for free!!) Nearly every waking minute I have I am dedicating myself to understanding that problem. That research is with me as I run on the treadmill at the gym before work, it is with me as I sit at the coffee shop waiting for my drink, it is with me in my podcasts and audiobooks as I commute to work, it is with me as I listen to members and their concerns. In my small part I am trying to take a little bite of that elephant every chance I get so that I can distill what I have learned and bring it to the leadership of the organization.
There are so many great minds and hearts that are stepping up to volunteer this year, and whether they recognize it or not, they are also taking a ‘bite’ as well.  Each little bit is helping to make us stronger, better, and more valuable to those outside of our regular circles.  Funnily enough, with this ‘silly little kids toy’ being the focus of our passion, it is very easy to tap into the new value system.  People outside of our regular circles connect with it and sympathize with it, and they want to be a part of it!
Right now, I am wondering what questions or thoughts started popping up in your head with that last sentence.  Are you perhaps wondering how you might be able to ‘take a bite’? The easiest, best, fastest,  and simplest way is to share your passion. Do so not just in person but also online! At the TED talk I tugged on the heartstrings of the 500 people in the audience by sharing my passion. I also know that I touched about 10,000 people in the livestream of the talk as well; and the projections are set to be higher when it is published online. Think about that, ten minutes of me standing on stage and flying a kite will reach tens of thousands of people, and will continue to do so as time goes on. There was nothing particularly extraordinary about it, there are certainly better kite fliers out there, and people that are more knowledgeable about the technical aspects of kites. The people I connected with were open and wanted the connection, and they are open and waiting to make that connection with you.
When you take a video of you flying your favorite kite, or a photo of you handing off a kite to someone, and you go online and share that, yes a few hundred of your friends and family will see it. What you might not know is that your friend loved that photo and shared it with their friends, and they shared it, and on and on. Your photo or video is now spreading like a super beneficial virus. People that had NO IDEA that there were people this passionate about a ‘silly little kids toy’ are now part of over 13 million people that are seeing a flock of octopus flying in the sky.  Not everything will go viral, and creating viral content is not a good goal for creating content, but, think of what kind of change you can have you influence just ten people around you, let alone a hundred?
While we are talking about sharing our passion, I have to touch on that fun 80’s power word ‘Networking’. Almost daily the AKA inbox receives a request to be put in contact with a member or a club. Some of these are from fellow members, some are from other organizations looking to host an event. We don’t want to share your personal information, however, the more you fill in on your profile really helps the leadership of the AKA to reach out to you and make those connections for those that are interested.  This also goes for finding out more about what is going on in the organization. Feel like you are missing out on news or haven’t heard from us in awhile? Check your profile settings in the members only section. You might be surprised to discover that you don’t have an email entered, or there is a typo in your address.
Alright you fun and awesome kitefolk, it is time for me to sign off. Remember that We Fly Higher Together, and I look forward to seeing you on the kitefield!
Nic O’Neill
President – American Kitefliers Association