A Message from James Thomashower, AGO Executive Director on the 2016 AGO Membership Directory

On February 1, Harris Connect, the authorized publisher for the 2016 AGO Membership Directory, began to receive telephone calls from AGO members verifying members’ information for the publication and offering the Directory for advance sale. Based on the experience of more than 2,000 calls received to date, here are some key facts you need to know about the project.

  1. Harris Connect sent all members a postcard and an email over my signature inviting members to call in to verify the information to be published in the Directory. The number provided will connect each member with an operator in a call center. The operator is an employee of Harris Connect. The operator is not a member of the AGO staff and does not work at AGO Headquarters.
  2. The purpose of your call is twofold: First, to verify the information that you wish to have published in the Directory. Second, to offer you the opportunity to purchase the Directory in any of six different formats. The six formats are as follows:

    Product Price Shipping & Handling Total
    Regional CD-ROM $24.99 $9.95 $34.94
    Softbound Album $79.99 $19.95 $99.94
    CD-ROM $99.99 $11.95 $111.94
    Collector's Album $99.99 $19.95 $119.94
    Softbound Album & CD Package $99.99 $19.95 $119.94
    Collector's Album & CD Package $119.99 $19.95 $139.94

  3. We have provided the Harris operators with information from our database for all of our members so that the Membership Directory will have a baseline of accurate information. This information will be used only to create the Membership Directory. The information provided and the Directory itself will be available only to AGO members, no one else. It will not be provided to telemarketers.
  4. Harris is continuously training their operators to ensure that they understand the work of AGO members, but some operators are inexperienced and unfamiliar with the world of church music. Their training is ongoing. Please be patient with the operators.
  5. During the course of your conversation with a Harris Connect operator, you may be invited to purchase one or more magazine subscriptions. If you do not wish to purchase any magazines, simply but firmly decline the offer.
  6. While we hope you will agree to have your full contact information published in the Directory, you are under no obligation to do so. You may include as little or as much information as you desire, from no listing at all to full contact information. You may also add a photo with a caption, an essay of up to 300 words, or even a link to a performance or promotional video of yourself.

Some people have pointedly asked why we are undertaking this project at this time. Here are ten reasons. The Directory:

  1. Facilitates networking among members
  2. Gives members a handy, portable reference tool that enables them to find contact information for any other member
  3. Three distinct sections in the book provide three different ways to locate members: Biographical (alphabetical by last name); Geographical (State and City); Certification (AGO Certification(s) earned)
  4. Provides members with an opportunity to include a personal color photo of their choice and a caption or essay of up to 300 words. Essay may include links to websites or videos
  5. Provides essential information about the AGO, including our current Mission and Bylaws
  6. Creates a permanent, historical record of the Guild’s membership in 2016
  7. AGO National Committee on Membership Development and Support, Finance and Development Committee, and National Council have approved the publication
  8. Directory is available only to AGO members who wish to own it; no one else
  9. Information published in the Directory is protected by U.S. Copyright Laws from unauthorized reproduction or commercial use
  10. The publisher, Harris Connect, bears all costs and risks; the AGO earns non-dues revenue from the publication and related sales

James Thomashower’s TAO column on the National Membership Directory

Comments

  1. George Bozeman says:

    Please tell this Harris outfit to stop calling me and my church, particular the latter. I don’t know and don’t care whether my info is correct or up to date.

    • Bill Valentine says:

      George,

      Harris Direct was notified to remove you from their call list. Please let me know if you continue to get calls.

      Bill Valentine

  2. Craig Datz says:

    I just called them not because I wanted to but because they have been repeatedly calling my home and even my church sounding like they desperately needed to speak to me. As if it’s an emergency – there’s no reason to get the church staff worried.

    All of my information is already up to date and I don’t feel like I have to “confirm” my mailing address, email address, and phone number. Both my local chapter and national have all of this. She tried to get me to tell her the names of my spouse and children – that’s not relevant and none of anyone’s business. After I said “no, thanks” to the increasingly harsh sales pitches she became curt and short with me. This could have been done by email – the only reason to have to talk on the phone is to endure a sales pitch.

    As a fundraiser, publishing a directory is hopelessly out of date and annoying to all of us who have to spend time on the phone with pushy salespeople. This reminded me of the frequent “Who’s Who” scams we used to get for ourselves and our kids while they where in school. They’ll use any excuse to print your child’s name in some sort of handsome, leather-bound book and then hit up parents, grandparents, and relatives to buy copies.

    If the AGO wants to be relevant in the 21st century they need to stop this insanity. Organization directories now live online – we can’t turn back the clock. If a member doesn’t use the Internet and wants a printed copy, then just run it off at Staples or Kinko’s or Sir Speedy and charge a nominal printing fee. If 500 people bought the book then they paid a huge, unnecessary premium – money for the actual printing, money for the AGO donation, and money to the sales pitch company for what I assume are commissions. Let’s cut out the middlemen and just let AGO staff print it.

    If you think about it, if AGO wants to peddle products to earn commissions, then they should unleash the salespeople for the life insurance and affinity credit card and other dubious benefits. That should work out very well – give out all members’ phone numbers to insurance salespeople and instruct them to call all of us. I’m sure we’ll all be captivated by the pitch and insure ourselves to the hilt.

    Sarcasm doesn’t become a professional musician so I apologize but that phone call REALLY annoyed me.

  3. David Minton says:

    I’m sure there are members who are interested in such a publication. I am not. After contacting and saying I’m NOT INTERESTED, I still get reply cards from the publisher, and I get at least one, sometimes two, and occasionally THREE phone calls EACH DAY from this group. Social media (at least in my area) is really blowing up about this, and it’s not very positive. Also, it’s nearly Holy Week, a church musician’s BUSIEST time of year. I’m not even remotely interested in some caller’s sales pitch right now. The AGO can and should do better.

    • James Thomashower says:

      David, thank you for your comments. Your points are well taken. I have specifically requested that Harris discontinue making calls to members during Holy Week. If the postcards keep coming, please just ignore them and discard them.

      The directory project is polarizing. While approximately 2,000 people have ordered the directory and are eager to receive their copies, many other members understandably view the calls from the Harris operators as an annoyance and a distraction. Accordingly, I have specifically asked the folks at Harris to stop calling you, and I trust you will not hear from them again.

  4. Could you ask Harris Connect to tone the volume down a bit with not taking no to mean I do not want to buy the membership directory. I tried to be polite to the numerous ways/suggestions to get me to buy, but he (R.S.) would not take no for an answer. I finally had to hang up. For the benefit of other members can HC be told that No means No. Thanks.

    • Bill Valentine says:

      Tom,

      Thank you for your comment. That should not have happened and we have relayed your concern to our contact at Harris Connect.

  5. Stan Kartchner says:

    An online, secure directory should already be available to paid Guild members free of charge. This effort involving a third-party aggregator appears to be primarily a money-making effort at the expense of Guild members.

    • James Thomashower says:

      Thank you for your comment. An online, secure directory is currently available through ONCARD to paid Guild members free of charge. To access it, please log in to ONCARD and click on “Find a Guild Member” from the Main Menu.

      Participation in the print version of the Directory is completely optional. It is worth noting, however, that more than 500 members ordered a copy in the first seven days of its availability, which suggests that there is significant interest in it.

      James E. Thomashower
      Executive Director
      American Guild of Organists

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