Member Survey Responses Make A Difference

Op-Ed by VLCT Executive Director, Ted Brady

We received nearly 400 responses to the 2022 VLCT Annual Member Survey, which we conducted in mid-October. This feedback is invaluable in helping us understand the needs of VLCT’s 389 municipal members. Thank you to the individuals who participated, and congratulations to Ferrisburgh Highway Foreman John Bull on winning a new iPad for completing the survey.  
I’m frequently asked to opine on the state of Vermont cities, towns, and villages. I usually respond by saying “Vermont municipalities are consumed by the same struggles Vermont families, businesses, and organizations face: housing, money, and people.” Our survey confirmed my assumptions. First: housing affordability and accessibility remain the top challenges in most of our communities. Second: the rising cost of goods and services – and the inability to secure them – is putting untenable financial stress on our members. And third: attracting, retaining, and training volunteers and staff is nearly impossible in some parts of the state.  

Starting in 2023, all our webinars will be offered to members of VLCT’s Property and Casualty Intermunicipal Fund (PACIF) for no more than $10, a nearly 80 percent reduction in some registration costs.

The survey also revealed that more than 90 percent of the people who responded consider VLCT to be providing a good value. About 80 percent are keeping in touch with us through our expanded digital communication channels (especially the biweekly emailed VLCT News and monthly VLCT Journal). And more than half of the respondents use VLCT services at least somewhat frequently.  

So what do we do with this survey information? We compare it to our benchmark survey from last year, identify trends where we can improve, and reflect on the many comments we read, to consider whether they are one-offs or a weakness we need to address. After looking back at last year’s as well as this year’s results, we’re making some changes. 
Because of your input, VLCT is preparing for the upcoming legislative biennium by putting together bold proposals to enable municipalities to play a larger role in housing development. Your municipal association will also propose a new revenue sharing program to help local governments meet their increasingly expensive obligations. And we’ll propose a comprehensive package of reforms to make it easier to recruit and retain municipal law enforcement officers.  
Many members expressed displeasure as to why they needed to pay for online training. Starting in 2023, all our webinars will be offered to members of VLCT’s Property and Casualty Intermunicipal Fund (PACIF) for no more than $10, a nearly 80 percent reduction in some registration costs. Nearly every city and town in Vermont is a PACIF member.  
We also heard that our website has become difficult to search. In 2023, we will launch a refreshed website and a new association management system that will make it easier for members to find information, resources, archived training materials, and on-demand videos.  
Before we bid farewell to 2022, VLCT will respond to the number one requested service expansion mentioned in our survey two years in a row – grant research and writing – with the launch of the Federal Funding Assistance Program. This program will help members by culling the huge volume of funding opportunities, leaving only the ones that are most practical and applicable for Vermont local governments; providing one-on-one technical assistance for project development; identifying potential funding sources; and connecting members with resources to help them apply for and manage federal grants. Even better, the Vermont Legislature is funding the launch of the program with a one-time appropriation, allowing us to demonstrate the value of the program without relying on member dues for two years. 
Finally, one of the last questions we ask on our annual survey is what type of training our members are looking for. This year, the number one request was leadership and management training. We’re developing our 2023 workshop and training schedule as you read this – and we’re committed to building the trainings you want and need into our lineup.  
VLCT’s five-year strategic plan, “A Plan to Support Vibrant Local Government,” has as its cornerstone goal to “grow a sustainable and relevant member-focused organization.” Our annual member survey is how we turn those words into actions. This annual dialogue is invaluable in making sure you, your municipality, and the taxpayers who entrust you get your money’s worth. 
As always, thank you for your input. 

Authored By
Ted Brady
Executive Director, Vermont League of Cities & Towns